Making Great Coffee

Making Great Coffee 
Recipes (start with recommended amounts and adjust later to your personal taste)

Hot coffee
Ingredients

  • 28 grams (~4 Tbsp beans) fresh ground coffee (slightly more coarse than standard drip). Alter for strength.
  • ½ liter of filtered water
  • Servings: Two 8 ounce cups

Steps

  • Bloom: Wet grinds with hot water (195-205 degrees: about 20-30 seconds off boil). Let sit for 30-60 seconds.
  • Final Brewing: Slowly pour remaining hot water over grinds alternating between circular and criss crossing pattern to fully cover and agitate grinds.
Cold brew
Ingredients

  • 56 grams (½ cup) ground coffee. Alter for strength.
  • 1 liter of filtered water
  • Servings: Two 16 ounce cups

Steps

  • Add water and coffee to container.
  • Chill 12 to 24 hours in refrigerator.
  • Filter through pour-over filter into another container.
  • Keep chilled until ready to serve.
  • Consume within a week.

Controlling flavor
Quality: Bean quality is one of the first things to consider. Local roasters will likely use good quality beans. Makers of mass produced, store bought products will likely not. Learn more about Arabica varieties, bean origin (It’s much like picking wine), and processing
Freshness: Coffee loses its freshness quickly. Whole beans are freshest 3-7 days after roasting. Look for beans with a roasted date (not a “best used by date”) to determine freshness (Local roasters will roast often and include a roast date). Ground coffee starts to lose flavor as quick as 15 minutes after grinding (So grind just before brewing). Consume coffee just after brewing (Don’t let it sit on a burner).
Body: Coffee body can be characterized in mouth-feel. One the brewer controls is how many "fines" (coffee grind particles) end up in the cup. A clean cup has very little or no fines. This is common in brew methods that use paper filters. Coffee with more more fines isn't really a good thing. Too much can make coffee gritty and bitter. Metal mesh filters (especially French Press brewing) can sometimes produce more fines. A good burr grinder can improve grind size consistency and reduce the amount of fines. Bearing support on rotating burr shaft to prevent wobble. Metal cutting blades for burrs they actually slice the beans (These are typically seen in premium burr grinders).
Roast levels: Lighter roasts will have more of the flavor of the origin (e.g.: citrus, sweet and tart). Darker roasts have a roasted flavor and mute some of the origin flavor (This can also cover up some quality and freshness issues). Medium roasts can have a little of both citrus and roast flavors with some caramel notes. Interesting note is that lighter roasts have more caffeine content (Roasting infographic link).
Strength: Strength is simply how much coffee soluble ends up in your cup of coffee relative to the amount of water.
Extraction: Coffee beans contain a pulp structure and three primary soluble components: sour, sweet, and bitter. Each component dissolves at a different rate. The sour components dissolve the fastest and the bitter components the slowest. So if you brew too fast, you will have a sour coffee. If you brew too slowly, you will have bitter coffee. Sounds simple, but it’s actually complex (read next section). 
Five ways to control strength and extraction (some points written in the context of brewing hot coffee using pour-over method): 

  1. Water to coffee ratio: The “Golden Rule” ratio of coffee to water is 18 to 1 by weight. Using more or less coffee will yield stronger or weaker coffee. There is also a slight impact on extraction. Increasing the water to coffee ratio increases extraction.
  2. Temperature: Water temperature has a significant impact on extraction. Too hot, and you will have bitter coffee. Not hot enough and you can have sour and weak coffee. Water temperature should be around 195-205 degrees (closer to 205 is better). This is easily controlled by boiling water, removing from heat, and then waiting about 20-30 seconds before using. Starting with cold, refrigerated beans can influence the brewing process. Store at room temperature in an airtight container away from light.
  3. Grind size: Grind size impacts how much surface area is exposed to the brewing process. Finer grinds give more surface area and can yield stronger coffee. Brew time and grind size are also tightly related. Coarse grinds will allow water to flow through quickly (possibly too quickly). If the grind size is too small, you can clog a pour-over filter and brew too slowly (Grind size infographic).
  4. Time: The best way to control brew time with a pour-over method is through blooming. Blooming is pre-softening the grinds with some hot water and letting the grinds warm up. The longer the bloom time, the softer the solubles and greater the extraction. If waiting a while, make sure to reheat water for the remaining brew process.
  5. Agitation: Regarding the pour-over brew method, agitation has a minor impact. It has greater impact in full immersion brewing.

Notes on hot versus cold brew methods: 

  • Cold brew coffee is more forgiving on quality and freshness because cold coffee on the palate mutes some flavors. However, avoid flavored coffees or budget brand, mass produced varieties. A bag of pre-ground Starbucks can work well.
  • The bitter compounds are not soluble in cold brew, so there is less chance of over-extraction.
  • Avoid dark roasts for cold brew. Ash is formed in the roasting process that can come out in the brewing process over time (doesn't happen with hot coffee). Use light or medium roasts.

Recommended gear: Coffee grinder, pour-over dripper, pour-over kettle, and digital scale with timer.
 

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