Make Great Coffee at Home
Posted on August 10 2021,
Over the years, the most frequent question customers ask me is how to brew great coffee at home! Brewing great coffee at home doesn't have to be hit or miss, but can be dialed-in by looking at the "Big Six" that affect your morning cuppa.
Number 1 - extraction
Making great coffee at home is all about simple science. If you want your coffee to taste good every morning, you need to focus on the fundamentals of time, water temperature, and of course, freshly roasted coffee.
Extraction is the process of drawing out the flavors from the coffee grounds. An analogy that I frequently use to explain the process of extraction is bone broth! Growing up, I remember my grandmother making broth by boiling bones in hot water.
Sounds simple? At first glance, yes. However, there needs to be the right balance of water, time, and bones to create/extract a flavor. The same is true for coffee. If there is not enough contact time with the ground coffee, it becomes "under-extracted." "Over-extracted" is the opposite: water being in contact with the coffee too long.
So, how do I hit the sweet spot? Let's look at the role of time next.
Number 2 - time
The amount of time coffee grounds are in contact with the water directly impacts the flavor. You will generally want your manual brewing coffee times to end around 3 mins and result in 350 ml. of brewed coffee. Controlling your brew time with a home machine is more challenging, unless you can reduce the amount of water that flows through the brew basket.
One way to affect the time and contact is by the grind size of the coffee. I won't go into too much detail, but the finer the grind, the longer it takes the water to flow through the filter. The coarser the grind, the faster the water can flow through the filter. We will talk more about that in a minute.
Number 3 - water
98% of your coffee is water, so make sure it doesn't have unwanted odors or flavors, like chlorine. On the other hand, distilled water that lacks minerals will also affect the taste of your coffee.
One way to figure out your water's impact on your coffee is to brew the same coffee using tap water, filtered water, and bottled water. Repeat the process using different waters, until you find one that suits your taste.
Number 4 - temperature
The temperature of your water also affects the brewing process. Too cool, and it doesn't extract all the complex flavors. Too hot, and it will extract bitter flavors into your morning cuppa. The ideal temperature is 200°F - 205°F.
Water temperature is the first thing I look at when a wholesale customer calls and says something is wrong with the coffee. More times than not, it is a problem with the water temperature. That is is why I have an instant-read thermometer. I recommend that you check your home unit to make sure that it is keeping your water hot through the brew cycle.
Number 5 - grind size
I could write a book on grind size. As I mentioned earlier, the finer the grind, the more time it takes for the water to flow through the brew filter. The coarser the grind, the faster the water flows through the brew filter.
What is the solution? Pair the grind with the brew method!
Number 6 - Coffee ratios
The ratio of bean to water determines flavor and strength. Before I go much farther, I strongly suggest that the best investment for brewing great coffee at home is a scale.
I always start with a 1:15 ratio. I weigh out the volume of water and then divide it by 15. Here is an example: 350 ml. ÷ 15 = 23.3 grams of coffee. I like starting at 15, because this gives me some room to change the ratio to adjust the flavor. If my coffee is too strong, I will use a 17 to 1 ratio: 350 ml. ÷ 17 = 20 grams of coffee.
Since taste is subjective, what I like, you may not. Like the water test I mentioned earlier, I would make several cups at different ratios to find out what you prefer for flavor and strength.
Conclusion: Making great coffee at home is simple science and consistency. If you work through the "Big Six", I am confident that you too, will wake up to a great cup!
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