Remember, coffee is 98–99% water. The water you use should taste great before running it through the coffee grounds where it collects oils, solubles, and flavor compounds. And temperature counts too! Your water should be between 195 and 205°F, since different temperatures pull out different flavor attributes of the coffee. Many home coffee makers like Mr. Coffee or Gevalia only heat the water to around 170°F, which emphasizes the sourness and bitterness of coffee without any of the balancing sweetness. So get your water to just under a boil for a more effectual cup.
This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of coffee brewing methods, which are proliferating at an alarming pace. Here are a few common ones with some notes on brewing. Coffeegeek.com and SweetMarias.com are two websites with outstanding tutorials on coffee brewing, and a simple Google search will reveal many more for you to experiment with.
- French Press. Ironically, invented by an Italian in 1929, the French Press (or press pot) has a simple design and is beloved around the world. For a basic recipe, add 41 g of coarsely ground coffee and 672 g of hot water (about 1.5 and 23 oz, respectively) to your pre-heated press. Stir thoroughly after 3 minutes to make sure the grounds are all saturated, and then plunge after another minute.
- Percolator. Many of us grew up with a percolator burping and humming on the back burner of the stove, and some of us have learned to love the thick, syrupy, bitter coffee that comes when already-steeped coffee is run through the grounds again and again until all possible flavor compounds (tasty and gross) have been absorbed into its ever-thickening body. This isn’t technically a good way to brew coffee, but if you love it, use it!
- Chemex. Known for its classic hourglass shape and its origin in a chemistry lab in 1941, the Chemex is an outstanding form of pour over for a meditative home extraction. The custom filters are thicker than many so they remove many of the coffee oils, lending a different taste to coffee. (Metal and cloth filters are also used with completely different results.)
- Pre-wet your filter to cut down on the ‘paper taste’ in the cup, then add 26 g (~1 oz) of very coarse coffee. Pour about 60 g (~2 oz) of hot water over the grounds to thoroughly wet them. Let them “bloom” for a few minutes before slowly adding the rest of the water, up to 450 g (~16 oz), with a total brew time of around 2.5 to 3 minutes.
- Instant. Just don’t.
- Pour Over Cone. The pour over cone comes in many shapes and sizes, from the Hario V60 to the Melitta brewers to the Kalita Wave. Using a basic ratio of 1:14–17 coffee:water, research each method online to discover how it should best be utilized and keep track of your results. Each has its own advantages and plenty of fans.
- Turkish Coffee. The ibrik or cezve is a beautiful, often ornate, brewer that can sit over a fire or on your stovetop and uses an incredibly fine coffee grind. There’s a great tutorial for brewing Turkish-style coffee on CoffeeGeek.com, and I highly recommend using whole cardamom. Serve your Turkish coffee in tiny demitasse cups, making sure each little cup receives a portion of the precious rusty red coffee oils. Oh, and don’t drink the slurry!
If the combination of extreme precision and total vagueness in this article has left you frustrated, welcome to the complex nature of brewing coffee. You’ll find that the more you experiment, the more variables you’ll discover and the better you’ll get. From water flow rate to grind setting, each aspect of brewing affects the end result. This can be annoying, and it can be exhilarating, because it means we all have the potential to create great coffee. The search for the perfect cup continues: welcome to the quest!
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