ORGULLO LATINOReading time: 7 minutes
There have been so many articles written about how to brew the best cup of coffee and some people even write whole books about the subject. When you think of a morning ritual that seems so simple having books dedicated to it, you know it's serious business. Who has time to read that?! Not you, because you’re here with me, and I‘m here to help you along your coffee-loving journey.
There are three major variables to brewing great coffee. Understanding and controlling these variables will change your coffee drinking journey forever.
“Give someone a great cup of coffee and you caffeinate them for a day. Teach them to make a great cup of coffee you caffeinate them for a lifetime” - Me, just now, with help of Lao Tzu
The Basics of Coffee Brewing
Brewing great coffee is all about understanding the importance of each part of the process. Brewing is the act of combining hot water and ground coffee to extract flavor. You get the simple explanation, but how you choose to control and combine hot water and ground coffee will determine the deliciousness of that cup.
- Water: Quality and Temperature
- Dose: Ratio of Coffee and Water to use
- Grind Size: Contact Time of Water and Coffee
In order to brew delicious coffee you need a clean source of water, adequate water temperature, enough water, enough coffee, ground for the brewing device of choice, and enough time for the water to pass through the coffee.
Controlling the Variables
Water Quality: A cup of coffee’s makeup is more than 97% water so water is pretty important. You need clean filtered water to get the best results. Water that is clear and free of odors is a good starting point, but using different clean water types can give your varying final results. Tap water, filtered tap water, reverse osmosis filtered water, bottled water will provide a different experience. Find the best one for you and stick to it.
Personally, I use reverse osmosis water. In some cases I have used spring water, but I like to stick to the same one because spring water will vary in the minerals present which will impact the final cup.
Water Temperature: Water boils at 212 degrees fahrenheit. To get great results and pull out the flavors we want from a great cup of coffee we need to have a water temperature that allows for good extraction. Best results are seen with water temperatures ranging from 195°F to 205°F.
Most coffee brewers have boilers that fall in range between 190°F - 200°F. If your device has the ability to control temperature then you need to know that hotter water will extract more flavors than lower temperature water. People who manually brew coffee, like pour-over methods, will often change the water temperature on temperature controlling kettles to yield different results.
Dose: The Ratio of Coffee and Water
Coffee is an art as much as it is a science, and slight variations in the ratio of coffee to water can drastically alter the flavor and strength of the brew. Measuring the amount of coffee and water used when brewing is a fundamental practice that can greatly influence the quality of the final cup. Precision in these measurements is crucial to achieving consistency in each brew. By measuring both coffee and water carefully, you can fine-tune your brews to suit taste preferences, ensuring a cup that is neither too weak (super diluted) nor too overpowering (extra dark water). For the best coffee experience I recommend using a scale with the ability to weigh in grams. This attention to detail allows for a more enjoyable and satisfying coffee experience, as it guarantees that each cup will deliver the desired flavor profile, whether it's a bold and robust feel from Café Cubano, a mild and nutty balance of a Mayan Blend, or a sweet and fruit forward cup of Colombia Santa María. If you want a more simple but repeatable approach use a consistent measuring tool, like a spoon or scoop, but please note the amount of coffee that can fit in a scoop will vary based on roast level (but that’s another article for later, stay tuned).
For those in the coffee industry, precise measurements are vital to delivering a consistent product to customers, maintaining brand reputation, and ensuring customer loyalty. In short, measuring the amount of coffee and water used in brewing coffee is not just a matter of precision and quality; it's a commitment to achieving a consistent and delightful coffee experience. Treat yo self!
The Role of Grind Size
The size of coffee grounds is a crucial factor that can significantly impact the quality and flavor of your coffee brewing. Different brewing methods require varying grind sizes to extract the best flavors from the coffee beans. For instance, a coarse grind is ideal for methods that require more time like French press brewing, where the coffee grounds steep in hot water. In contrast, a fine grind suits espresso machines, where high pressure is used to extract flavors in a short amount of time (21-34 seconds).
Grind size also has a significant impact on the brew time. A coarser grind requires a longer brewing time to fully extract flavors like when making a french press which takes about 4-5 minutes. On the opposite side, a pressurized brew of an espresso uses a finer grind and is as quick as 21-34 seconds. Adjusting your grind size allows you to fine-tune your coffee's flavor, ensuring that each cup is a delightful and harmonious experience for your taste buds. In the world of coffee, it's the grind size that can transform a mere beverage into a sensory masterpiece. Whether you're aiming for a bold and robust brew or a delicate and nuanced cup, understanding and adjusting your grind size is key to achieving your desired coffee flavor profile.
Drip Brewing with Finely Ground Coffee
The influence of grind size and brew time on the flavor of drip-brewed coffee is significant, with different grind sizes yielding distinct results. When brewing drip coffee, fine grounds can easily clog the filter, causing slow drainage and potential overflow issues in your drip machine. This can be frustrating and may lead to messy cleanup. Using a very fine grind when brewing drip coffee is often a mistake as it can result in an overly bitter brew, difficulties in extraction control, clogging, and undesirable sediment in your cup.
Drip Brewing with Coarsely Ground Coffee
Choosing a coarse grind for brewing drip coffee can lead to several unfavorable outcomes. Large grind particles typically result in an under-extraction of coffee, in other words WEAK. The coarser grounds don't allow for sufficient contact time with hot water, leading to a cup that looks like dirty water. The coffee may even taste sour or watery due to the inadequate extraction of flavors.
Drip Brewing with the Appropriate Grind Size
There's a sweet spot in the midst of the extremes above – the medium (drip) grind. It offers a balance between flavor and brew time that's often considered the “just right” Goldilocks choice for drip coffee brewing. With medium size grinds, you get a brew that is neither too quick nor too sluggish, striking a harmonious balance in flavor extraction. This grind size tends to produce a cup of coffee that is balanced with a satisfying taste, making it an excellent choice for everyday enjoyment.
Put it all together and what do you get?!
In the quest to brew coffee as good as your favorite coffee shop, remember that the journey lies in understanding and mastering the basics of coffee brewing. While there's a wealth of advice out there, controlling three key variables will undoubtedly transform your coffee journey forever: water quality and temperature, the ratio of coffee to water, and grind size. These variables may seem simple, but they hold the power to elevate your morning cup from mundane to magnificent.
When it comes to water, opt for a clean and consistent source that suits your taste. Be mindful of water temperature, aiming for the sweet spot between 195°F to 205°F to extract the flavors you desire. The key to dose is precision – whether you're using a scale or a consistent measuring tool, maintaining a steady ratio of coffee to water is essential. Finally, grind size is the final note in this coffee symphony, with medium grind emerging as the Goldilocks choice for drip coffee brewing, offering a harmonious balance of flavor and brew time.
In the quest for coffee excellence, remember that consistency and practice are key. Finding the right balance among the variables you learned today will ensure that your coffee brewing journey is as satisfying as your local coffee shop's brew. Cheers to perfecting your morning ritual, one well-brewed cup at a time!
This article is both factual and an opinion piece by Eduardo Choza
Director of Coffee at Mayorga Coffee