Coffee Brewing Tips
"I know how to brew coffee. Its easy, I've been doing it for years!" you might say. Well, yes and no. The truth is Baristas and coffee professionals are constantly tweaking this and that in the brewing process to improve the flavor of our favorite beverage. You don't need a food science degree, however, to get a great brew from quality coffee beans. If you are able to control these three areas, your brewing process will avoid the most common pitfalls and result in good to excellent results.
Amount of coffee. Start with the correct amount of coffee. The most common brewing mistake we see is not using enough coffee. Sometimes this is also combined with coffee ground too fine for the brewing method. The result is a brew that is weak and over extracted, or harsh.
Water. We're talking about water quality and water temperature. If the water tastes good when you drink it, you can probably brew good coffee with it. We'll set aside the topic of espresso for now. The water should be as close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit as possible. Coffee is surprisingly sensitive to the temperature of the brewing water. Too hot and the result is a harsh, over-extracted cup. Too low and flat, underdeveloped flavors will result. Most coffee makers handle this automatically and you don't need to worry. Some less expensive makers struggle to get up to the correct temperature. If you are using a manual brewing method like Chemex, pour-over or French Press, a good technique is to use a long stemmed thermometer. Many people would rather not fuss with such things, so here is a good work around: Boil the water, let it cool for one to two minutes, and brew from there. If you live at an altitude above 4000 feet, go ahead and brew with water just off a boil.
The grind. This is the easiest variable to control. It's also the easiest to get wrong. Grind as close to brewing as possible. Tip: look at coffee ground at the grocery store using the bulk grinders. Take a close look at the grind and rub it between your fingers. This can really help in calibrating your brain as to the correct particle size for different brew methods. The common blade type grinders can be a little tricky to obtain a decent grind. For drip methods try grinding for 7 or 8 seconds. You might see a few larger chunks floating around but the grinds will unlikely be pulverized into dust. For French Press brewing, use a burr grinder or grind at the store using the "coarse" setting.
How do I brew? Start with the following guidelines:
12 oz single cup pourover: 28 grams (4.5 TBS), drip grind. Spend 2-3 minutes pouring the water through.
34 oz (1L) French Press: 55 grams (10 TBS), coarse grind. Steep 4-5 minutes before pressing.
51 oz (1.5L) French Press: 77 grams (15 TBS), coarse grind. Steep 4-5 minutes before pressing.
30 oz Chemex: 50 grams (9 TBS), drip grind. Spend about 3 minutes pouring the water through.
"Whoa!" you say. "That's way too much coffee!" Try these amounts combined with the correct grind for the brew method you are using. You can always adjust up or down from there.