The "do's" of brewing
Brewing coffee does not have to be complicated. In fact, if you talk to the most expert of experts in the world of coffee, you will find that the simplest methods of brewing are actually the ones that true coffee geeks prefer. (Side note: part of the process of quality control that all specialty coffee - including what we sell at Equator - must go through includes "cupping", which means adding water to coffee grounds in a small cup and slurping the coffee once it's been extracted without even removing the grounds. More on that later...) The more a person knows about coffee and the better the quality of the coffee being brewed, the less complicated the brewing process becomes. That being said, there are some key factors or "rules" to any method of brewing that will make a world of difference to the final cup of coffee.
In our series of blogs on proper brewing techniques, we'll begin with the basics: some simple do's (or don'ts depending on how you look at it) that if followed, have the power to transform your morning coffee experience at home.
1. FRESHNESS: The first step to having a delicious cup of coffee is to purchase freshly roasted coffee. So, if you have Equator Coffee (which is roasted fresh every week), you are on the right track. Coffee is more like fresh fruits and veggies than other grocery shelf items. Buying it once a week (or once every two weeks max) is ideal. You will notice the difference!
2. GRIND: Investing in a home coffee grinder goes a long way. The minute coffee is ground, it starts losing aroma and with it, flavour. Buy your coffee in whole bean if you can, and grind it at home.
- Burr vs. Blade: Burr grinders have two rotating metal discs with “teeth” that grind together at a specified distance depending on the coarseness of the grind. This is the type of grinder a café or production facility would have. Home burr grinders that are decent-enough quality for a decent-enough price are difficult to find. We do sell (and recommend) the Cuisinart Programmable Burr Grinder which, at $114, is a great deal. Blade grinders are a less expensive method. Typically, two blades spin around effectively chopping the beans. It works, but does not give the same consistency that you might like particularly if you're trying to achieve something specific like a coarse grind for French Press coffee or a very fine grind for espresso.
3. WATER TO COFFEE RATIO: Getting the right proportions is important and easy. The best way is with a small kitchen scale, in which case, the ratio of 7-9 grams of coffee per 8 ounce cup is ideal. Typically, you use a slightly higher weight for darker coffees. Failing that, you can go by the old rule of 1 tablespoon per 4 ounces of water…but it really is worth it to get a scale. There are guidelines associated with each method of brewing, but once you give it a try, you can tweak it according to your favoured strength!
4. WATER QUALITY: Depending on where you live, the water that comes from your faucet may be drastically altering what your coffee tastes like! In general, city water will be fine (though a water filter like Brita certainly wouldn't hurt to get rid of the chlorine). In more rural areas where water has been softened or where homes use well systems, the natural minerals can change the taste of coffee and cause deposits on brewing equipment. If you can get hold of a softener, great! If not, just be aware that this may be one of the reasons your coffee tastes different than at the local cafe (where softeners are used) and why you should keep an eye on your equipment and clean it regularly.
5. TIME: Extraction (when the flavours, colour, and caffeine come out of the coffee and into the water) occurs as soon as just-boiled water meets the coffee grounds. The amount of time that coffee is given to be extracted is actually very important. Under-extracted coffee tastes weak and bland. Over-extracted coffee tastes bitter and dirty. That is why it is important to measure the time that the coffee and water are in contact with one another. In an espresso or Aeropress, the extraction is short and concentrated (20-25 seconds). In a French Press, it is longer (4 minutes). Auto-drip is trickier since the machine is programmed to extract in a certain time but ideally from the time the brew basket is full (i.e. all the coffee grounds are in contact with water) to the time it empties should be around 3 minutes.
Thankfully, the simple methods that allow coffee to shine (if it's good and fresh) also happen to be some of the most inexpensive methods to invest in. Stay tuned for more helpful hints on the different methods that we at Equator recommend to make the best and most satisfying cup of coffee!