Five tips for brewing great coffee
I never knew the world of coffee was so vast and intricate. The numerous regions the coffee plant can grow, the types of plants out there, different roasting techniques and ways of brewing coffee all blew my mind. I knew I found something special when I began learning of all the facets that make up the coffee ecosystem. And the coolest part about all of this coffee craziness was, it was accessible and I could make it my own.
Something we hear from customers a lot at our shop is: “Wow, that looks like a science experiment or something.” In a way, yes, it is a science, and we do a fair amount of experiments with different recipes to get the coffee to taste just the way we like it. We do our best to share our knowledge of coffee with our customers so they can take it home and conduct their own coffee experiments, exploring this amazing commodity.
Over the years, we’ve learned a few tips that can help set propel your home-brewing skills to the next level. These 5 tips are consistent with all methods of brewing coffee. Any way you slice it, all five will play an important role in how your finished cup will turn out. Making an effort in each of these five areas will undoubtedly improve your home-brewing experience.
The first tip is to have a nice, consistent grind. Having an even grind will help ensure all the flavors in each piece of ground coffee are extracted equally and at the same time. This will provide a nice balance of flavor in your final brew. If the grind is not consistent, you could end up with a bitter, undesirable cup. Smaller pieces can extract all of their good flavor before the bigger pieces ever have a chance. So, we have a few recommendations. Espresso is going to have a super fine grind, like powder almost. A standard pour-over will use a medium-fine grind, while a normal drip coffee maker will use a good medium grind. Chemex will use more of a medium-coarse grind, and a French Press will be the most coarse. If you’re thinking cold brew, that’ll be coarse also. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have about your current grinder setup and give you some recommendations for ones we dig if you’re interested. Shoot us an email!
Temperature is also important. Some coffees are more fragile, while others require more heat to extract the sweetness. If you know you have a consistent grind, yet you’re still getting some sour notes or bitterness, it could be your water temperature. A good temperature range for coffee brewing is between 195°F – 205°F. Typically, but not exclusively, a hotter temperature is good for lighter roasted coffees, while a cooler temperature is beneficial for pulling flavors from coffees that have been roasted longer. Also, knowing whether your coffee is a washed or natural processed coffee will determine the appropriate brew temperature. Naturals tend to be more delicate, requiring a cooler temperature; while washed coffees are more dense, requiring a hotter temperature. Don’t worry. We’ll dive deeper into how different coffees are processed in a separate blog post.
Now for the recipe; or coffee/water ratio. This is important because this will determine how intense, balanced, or flat your coffee’s overall flavor will be. A good starting point is one part coffee to fifteen parts water, or a 1:15 ratio. In our experience, this ratio has provided a consistently balanced cup. Based on personal preference, you can adjust this recipe. The best unit of measurement to use in making coffee is the gram(g) or milliliter(mL). Don’t be afraid to up your home-brewing game by getting a nice scale too. It’ll be well worth it. We’ve got a few in our online store!
THE COFFEE TO WATER RATIO IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT WILL DETERMINE HOW INTENSE, BALANCED, OR FLAT YOUR COFFEE’S OVERALL FLAVOR WILL BE.
Time is also an important factor to take into account when brewing at home. Based on your overall volume, you will want to have a particular brew time, which is the total contact time of your water with your coffee. A good starting point is two and a half minutes for your first 8oz serving. A good rule of thumb is to add 30-45 seconds to that brew time for each additional 4oz serving on top of that. A good example would be: If you’re brewing a 16oz serving, you’ll push for 3 ½ to 4 minutes. To help adjust your brew time, adjust your grind setting. A finer grind will yield a longer brew time and a coarser grind will yield a shorter brew time.
Finally, the most important factor in brewing coffee at home is to have fun. Enjoy the process! If you’re not having a good time, take a small step back and try to simplify your process. At the end of the day, playing a part in the journey of coffee and sharing it with the people around you should be an enlightening and exciting experience.
If you’re interested in learning more, we offer an ICR University class on home brewing a few times to year. Grab a ticket here!