Brew Coffee Like the Pros
Edited by Jasmin, Eng, Alma
Coffee has been popular since the dawn of time. Seriously. I mean, do you really think our distant ancestors created the wheel without their morning jolt of caffeine first? OK, maybe what we know as coffee today doesn't reach that far back in history, but it's been around for quite some time. Good coffee, though, coffee that does more than wake you up, coffee that can vary in taste from blueberries to butter, is a much more recent phenomenon. It's not that these magical little beans, which are actually the seeds of fruit, haven't always been capable of producing such deliciousness; it's that coffee experts have only begun to explore their true potential within the last few decades.
Most independently run cafés are brimming with Baristas, eager to share their knowledge with even the most novice of coffee enthusiasts. And as pleasant as the café experience can be from time to time, knowing the tools and tricks of the trade, so you can always make first-rate coffee at home, is even better. From an outsider's perspective, making a clean, vibrant cup may seem overly complex, but with the following tips under your belt, the process will go from intimidating to inviting.
- 1Grinders. The most crucial tool for crafting world-class coffee. If you've been buying your beans pre-ground, I urge you to reconsider this life choice. Though there may be some convenience to purchasing ground coffee, the relatively small amount of time you save, is nowhere near equal to the value and taste you ultimately sacrifice. Once the coffee is grounded and exposed to oxygen, its flavor, freshness, and overall quality quickly degrades. Grinding on demand not only delivers a better tasting cup, it keeps your beans fresher for longer. When you really boil it down, coffee has two fundamental requirements: water and ground beans. These two vital ingredients work together to create an extraction, and the goal for a great cup is to always make that extraction as perfect as possible. Clean, filtered water is important, but even more essential is a quality burr grinder. To make coffee like the pros, this is an item you just can't compromise on. There's a grinder for every lifestyle and budget, too. Hand grinders do require a little extra muscle but, as the name suggests, they offer a hands-on experience, and are perfect for those who love the ritualistic nature of crafting coffee. Their compact design makes them easy on counter space and perfect for travel, not to mention they're the most inexpensive choice. If you're really ready to up your game, though, electric is the way to go. They're a bit of an investment, but the café quality results are worth the extra cash. A higher bean capacity and quicker grind times make them ideal for serving guests or busy mornings. Barista Pick: For hand grinders check out the options from Porlex or Hario. For the best and widest selection of electric grinders check out Baratza.Advertisement
- 2Scales. For enhanced precision. You may be used to using a coffee scoop or just a regular old spoon to measure coffee, but there's a reason we don't see baristas using these in cafés. There are far too many variables at stake to make measuring by volume a reliable method. For example, whole beans come in varying sizes, which means a scoop of Central American coffee is never going to be equal to a scoop of African coffee. Without knowing if you're using the correct ratio of coffee to water, you can never guarantee the strength of your cup will be right for your preferences. For repeatable, consistent results, you need a scale that can weigh your beans by the gram. If you're already equipped with a counter top kitchen scale, you're set! However, there's no need to invest in anything so heavy duty if you don't. Digital pocket scales are more than suitable and they're super easy to travel with. Barista Pick: For something simple and steadfast check out this pocket scale. For something a little fancier check out the line from Acaia.Advertisement
- 3Kettles. For stable brew temperatures.This might be the one tool you can cut corners with; it depends on just how professional you want your in-home coffee setup to be. Knowing the exact temperature of your water is definitely worthwhile, but a quality grinder and scale should be your top priorities. If you're not ready to invest in a kettle that can set various temperatures, be sure to use water that is just about to reach its boiling point. Alternatively, let the water boil and then allow it a minute or so to cool off.Beyond temperature, a particular type of kettle known as the gooseneck can offer better precision with pouring. This is another technique for ensuring all coffee grounds are evenly saturated throughout the entire brewing process. This may actually be the more important aspect of owning a kettle, and these non-electric versions are a much cheaper investment. Barista Pick For both basic pouring devices and options that allow you to set specific temperatures, check out the line from Bonavita.
- 1Drip. Also known as the pour over method, manual drip brewing involves pouring water over a coffee bed, and allowing gravity to pull it through a paper or metal filter and into a vessel. It produces a clean cup with distinct flavors, a high acidity, and light mouthfeel. The most common manual brewers for drip coffee are the V60 and Chemex. We'll be taking a closer look at the recipe for a one-cup Chemex, but the information is easily transferrable for use in a V60.Advertisement
- If using a temp-setting kettle, set it to 202 degrees Fahrenheit.
- On a medium-fine setting, grind 19 grams of coffee.
- Pre-heat the Chemex and, if using, the paper filter with warm water. This will help maintain a consistent temperature throughout the extraction process and help to remove any residual paper taste.
- Add coffee grinds to the filter and gently shake to even out the bed.
- Pour enough water to just cover the grounds; usually around 2 to 3 times the weight of your grinds. In this case about 38-57 grams.
- Stir thoroughly to ensure all grinds are evenly saturated.
- In 30-second intervals, pour 50-100 grams of water until you hit 323g. Be sure to monitor the water level, ensuring it stays at relatively the same height throughout the process. Pour in a circular motion, from the outside moving in, so the grinds aren't overly disrupted.
- Depending on the type of bean and strength of your cup, the coffee should fall through within 3-5 minutes.
- 2Immersion. Allowing the coffee to sit in water for a set period of time and then straining is immersion brewing. Commonly done in a French Press, this method produces a heavy body, with a bit less flavor clarity than drip but a much lower acidity. Here's a recipe for a 500ml French Press. If you have a larger brewer check the Pro Tip section below for how to determine your specific coffee to water ratio.
- If using a temp-setting kettle, set it to 202 degrees Fahrenheit.
- On a medium setting, grind 30 grams of coffee.
- Pre-heat your brewer with warm water.
- Add coffee and enough water to cover the grounds.
- Start a timer for 4 minutes and stir the coffee thoroughly to ensure all grinds are evenly saturated.
- Evenly pour the remainder of the required 510g of water over the grinds.
- Place the lid on and push the filter slightly, just until the grinds are gathered near the top.
- Once the timer ends gently press the filter down, decant, and enjoy!
- 3Espresso. First things first, espresso is not a type of bean. In fact, it's a brewing method that uses pressure to push water through very finely ground coffee. A shot of 'spro boasts a stronger taste and mouthfeel than any other brew method can produce. This is because it's so highly concentrated, with the coffee to water ratio being nearly 1:1. The high concentration means there's less room for error, making it the brew method with the most variables to contest with. Baristas go through a lot of training to pull the perfect shot, but don't let that dissuade you. With a bit of practice and the guidance provided here, you too can make delicious espresso; but it's going to take a bit of financial investment. Sure, you could settle for a stove top brewer, but they're finicky and produce fairly mediocre results at best. If you're serious about espresso, you need a good quality machine. Barista Pick: Economy: Breville Barista Express. Mid-range: Breville dual-boiler. Show Stopper: La Marzoco Linea Mini. Here's a basic method to follow once you're all set up.
- On a very fine setting, grind 18-19 grams of coffee.
- Place grinds into the portafilter and firmly tap both sides to ensure an even distribution. Apply firm pressure with your tamper to eliminate air pockets.
- Rinse your group head.
- Insert portafilter, place cup under the spouts, and start brewing.
- It should take between 28-32 seconds to produce 32-40 grams of liquid espresso.
Quick Troubleshooting Tips
As mentioned, there are a ton of factors to making a great shot. Let's go over some quick troubleshooting tips, to use after you've followed the steps above.
- 1You'll need a finer grind if the shot runs too quickly or it has a sour taste.
- 1While it may be hard to wait for, try drinking drip coffee when it's had a chance to cool down a bit; the flavors will be far more prominent.
- 2If your pour over brews too quickly, pour some of your already extracted coffee back through the grinds.
- 3You can freeze your whole bean coffee to preserve its freshness, but don't let it thaw before grinding.
- 4For a fuller flavor, use more coffee and less water.
- 5When purchasing whole beans, look for a roast date that's no more than 2 weeks prior to your date of purchase. If the beans were roasted within a few days of your purchase, they'll be perfect for drip or immersion methods, while the slightly more aged beans will be better for espresso.
- 6When using the pour over method, the more coffee you brew, the coarser the grind setting needs to be. This is because a higher quantity of grinds will slow down the rate at which the water can flow through. A coarser setting allows for the proper flow-rate, so your coffee isn't bitter from over-extraction.
- 7The general rule of thumb for brewing drip coffee is to use the following ratio: 1 gram of coffee per 17 grams of water.