This post is the continuation of the Making Better Coffee at Home – Part 1. The first part covered the importance of getting fresh coffee, ways of keeping it fresh, burr grinders and uniform grind, and matching the grind size to brewing time.
Six: Use the correct amount of coffee.
The principles of brewing better coffee at home (and everywhere else) are timeless: use good water, make it hot (fresh off the boil), observe correct proportions of coffee to water, set the brewing time to avoid under/over-extraction.
The correct ratio of coffee to water is 1:16 by weight and it is always the same, whether you are using a French Press or a drip brewer. Measuring it by volume is not precise due to different densities of various coffees. Therefore, you have to use a scale to get the proportions right, but you need to do it only once. Once you determine the right amount of coffee for your brewer, you can use scoops to measure.
Seven: Choose the brewing method.
There is a bewildering multitude of coffee brewing methods. From cowboy coffee to French Press, to drip brewer, to AeroPress, to vacuum pot, to Turkish coffee (ibrik), to Espresso – they all produce surprisingly satisfying coffee – if you know what you are doing.
To make your decision simple, chose one of the two popular methods:
- If you like strong and full of sediment, look no further than the French Press. It is the strongest coffee this side of Espresso. It has many pros and very few cons.
- I personally like clear coffee with as little sediment as possible, so the drip method is preferable. I use simple drip funnels, shown in the pic.
Eight: Find the coffee you like.
There’s no generic coffee, there are many varieties of coffee. If you already know what kind of coffee you like, you are ahead of the game. If you haven’t yet decided what you like, try and experiment with various kinds.
Coffee varieties differ in several attributes, as shown in the example coffee rating chart. To make it simple, we consider here only three attributes: aroma, acidity, and body. Acidity means the coffee feels fresh to the palate. Coffee with low acidity feels “mellow”. Body is often described as heavy, substantial, strong cup. Decide what you like – and drink it!
You may even decide that one variety is a better coffee for breakfast and another one for after dinner.
Nine: Dark or light roast?
The last factor that determines the taste of coffee is the roast. It is simply the degree to which coffee beans are roasted, and can range from light to dark. Light roasts highlight bean acidity (and flavor), dark roasts emphasize body, medium roasts balance the two.
So finally, here are all the variables together:
- coffee variety (aka origin)
- roast (light to dark)
- grind (coarse to fine)
- brewing time (fast to slow)
Keep in mind that the factors depend on each other and must match. Let’s use Espresso as an example. The roast is very dark, the grind is super-fine, extraction is fast (and under pressure). In these conditions, you wouldn’t use Arabica coffee, which strong on aroma and acidity, as these attributes would be lost in roasting (acidity could turn into bitterness). Rather, you would use mild Robusta coffee with great body and heavy kick.
Ten: Better coffee at home don’ts
Knowing what to avoid is as important as what to do, so here is a short list:
- Don’t over extract your coffee by brewing it for too long or too hot. Or by leaving it in the pot on a hot plate.
- Don’t ever change the correct ratio of coffee to water (1:16). If you like your coffee strong, fine-tune the brewing time instead. If you like your coffee weak, brew it in the right proportions and then dilute it with hot water.
- Don’t be impressed with coffee machines that bristle with blinking lights and computerized controls like the Starship Enterprise. They do not produce better coffee. In contrast, simple methods give the best results.
- Don’t automatically assume the dark roast is superior coffee. Very often it is not.
At this point, you may be thinking: “Whoa, weren’t the tips supposed to be simple? The last few tips were anything but simple!”. You are right. It’s the fundamentals of brewing better coffee at home that are simple, but all their combinations are not. However, where is the rush? You have all the time you want to explore the world of coffee. My journey of discovery has been long and pleasant and so can be yours. Happy discovering!
As always, if you have an opinion, share it with me in comments.