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How to Brew Great Tasting Coffee

Posted by Joe on 7/30/2018 to How To...
The Golden Cup of Coffee

Brewing great coffee is not difficult.
There are some basic guidelines to follow that will help you achieve success every time.

Keep in mind that "great tasting" coffee is subjective and therefore "Personal."
If your coffee tastes good to you, then it is good!

Here are some guidelines to help you get started.

Simple Guidelines

  1. Start with your favorite fresh roasted coffee, like the custom roasted coffee at Storehouse Coffee
  2. Pre-warm your cup or carafe by filling with hot water
    • A cold cup or carafe can "steal" heat from your coffee
  3. Place 2 rounded tablespoons of ground coffee (11-14 grams) for every 6-8 ounces of water into your coffee filter
    • Gently tap your filter basket to even out the coffee grounds in the filter
  4. Always use fresh, cold water
    • The water should be heated to between 195-205° F
    • Use filtered or spring water if your tap water has an unpleasant odor or taste (like chlorine)
    • Never use Distilled water
  5. Let the Brewing begin!

Evaluate the Results of Your Brew

Now that you have a baseline for comparison, take a sip of coffee.
How does it taste?

Just Right?

  • Welcome to your Golden Cup of Coffee!

Bitter, Sharp, Overpowering?

    The Problem(s) - Over Extraction or brewing the coffee too long
  • Too much coffee for the amount of water
  • The coffee is ground too Fine
  • Water is too hot, burning the beans
  • Coffee is too old or stale
    The Remedies
  • Cut back on the amount of ground coffee you are using
  • Use a Courser grind of coffee
  • Do not use boiling water. Water boils at 212° F, which is too hot and will burn the coffee. Remember 195-205° F is the range
  • Use only fresh roasted coffee, it is worth it
    • While it may seem expensive to pay $16-$17 for a pound quality coffee, it really isn't when you realize that breaks down to only 40¢ - 45¢ per cup!

Sour, Flat, Grassy?

    The Problem(s) - Under Extraction or brewing the coffee too fast
  • Not enough coffee for the amount of water
  • The coffee is ground too Coarsely
  • Water is too cold, can't extract the flavor
    The Remedies
  • Add More ground coffee to the brew
  • Use a Finer grind of coffee
  • Use water that reaches 195-205° F. If the water is not hot enough, it will not extract the flavor from the ground coffee

The Journey to Your Golden Cup of Coffee

For those interested, let's go into a bit more detail...

Using the simple methods I have outlined above, you can establish a baseline for comparison.
This is important because you need to know where you started, in order to properly compare it to what you have changed (more coffee, less coffee, finer grind, coarser grind, etc.)

Remember, what is important is to find the right combination of elements that will result in a great Cup of Joe for you!

So get started, establish that baseline, and experiment!

Extraction

Extraction is the process where hot water is poured over ground coffee and good, soluble parts of the coffee are pulled out of the ground coffee and dissolved.

Over Extraction

Over extraction occurs when the coffee is brewed too long.
The brewing process has taken all of the "good" flavor solubles out of the coffee grinds, yet continues to try to extract more where none are present.
Result = Bitter Coffee

Under Extraction

Under extraction occurs when the brewing process is too short.
The brewing process has not taken enough of the "good" flavor solubles out of the coffee grinds.
Result = Sour, Weak Coffee

The Water

Brewed coffee is about 98% water, so pay attention to this detail.
Always use good, clean water. If you have hard or soft water, high chlorine water, etc., these traits will be evident in your coffee.
If your water has these undesirable traits, then use bottled or Spring water. Alternately, place a carbon filter on your water supply line.

Distilled water is not recommended.
In order to properly extract the good solubles out of the coffee, the water needs to have a "carrier" in the form of particulates. Water will naturally have particles even though you cannot see them.
The distillation process removes all particulates from the water, leaving no "carrier" for the coffee solubles. Using distilled water will result in a flat, unfavorable cup of coffee.

In the end, always use the freshest and cleanest water you can (but not distilled).

The Coffee

Always, always use fresh coffee.
Coffee, just like any food item, can go stale over time.
To have the best cup of coffee possible, choose your favorite coffee from Storehouse Coffee and you will know you are getting coffee that has been Custom Roasted to your preference and roasted for you the day it is shipped!
Also remember that while it may seem expensive to pay $16-$17 for a pound quality coffee, it really isn't when you realize that breaks down to only 40¢ - 45¢ per cup! Well worth it when compared to the cost of a retail priced cup of coffee.

Your fresh roasted coffee will be negatively affected by oxygen, light, and moisture.
Therefore, I recommend that you store your coffee in an air-tight container and place it in a dark, dry cabinet or drawer at room temperature.

Another thing to consider is that Whole Bean coffee will stay fresh much longer than ground coffee, so it may be worth considering the purchase of a good Burr Coffee Grinder. This way you are only grinding just enough coffee for what you will brew.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend you only purchase enough coffee to last you 3-4 weeks.
Depending on the sensitivity of your palate, you may start to notice a drop in freshness after 3-4 weeks.

The Grind

Always choose the right grind for your brewing method.
Different brewing methods require different grind types. While brewing methods are truly a matter of personal preference, choosing the right grind to match is a must.

The basic rule of thumb is to use a finer grind for faster brewing methods.
For example: if you are brewing your coffee using a French Press, which will take several minutes to brew, you would want to use a very coarse grind.
On the other hand, if you are brewing espresso, which will extract in seconds, then you would want to use a fine grind.

You can always refer to our  Coffee Grinding Guide  to help you select the right grind type for your brewing method.

The Ratio

Choosing the correct proportion of coffee to water is a critical step in developing your perfect brewed coffee.
Using a coffee scoop (equal to 2 tablespoons) or an actual tablespoon to measure your coffee is fine, but realize that you are then measuring by volume.
Different types of coffee, different roast levels, and different grinds will all offset the accuracy of this method.
In order to be as consistent an accurate as possible, you should weigh your coffee for brewing.

A simple kitchen scale will do the job, but preferably one that weighs in grams, as grams will be more accurate than ounces.

I recommend starting with 11-14 grams (approximately 2 tablespoons) of coffee for every 6-8 ounces of water to obtain the optimum extraction of your coffee.

As an example:
If you are brewing a pot of five 8 ounce cups, you will need about 40-42 ounces of water.
If we start in the middle with 12 grams per cup, you would need to weigh out 60 grams or about 2.107 ounces of coffee.
As you can see, grams are much easier to work with.

By using a scale, you would weigh out 60 grams of whole bean coffee, then simply grind and brew. Easy!

The Temperature

The ideal temperature for the optimum extraction of coffee during the brewing cycle is 195°-205° F.
If the temperature is too low, the result will be weak, under extracted coffee.
If the temperature is too high, the result will be a bitter and possibly scalded tasting cup of coffee.

If you are using an automatic drip coffee maker which is several years old, I would recommend testing your water temperature by brewing a pot of water only.

Using a simple kitchen thermometer, hold it under the water while brewing.
If the temp is below 195°, you should consider buying a new coffee maker.

You can also test the temp in the carafe, which is known as the "holding" temperature.
The holding temperature should, ideally, be 195°. If it is lower, again, you should consider buying a new coffee maker.

Why does this happen? Well, it is a problem that is mostly particular to automatic drip brewers. Most mid to low end coffee makers use aluminum parts and heating elements that are typically under-powered.
They will work fine in the beginning, but over time, they simply wear out and/or cannot maintain a constant temperature.
Higher-end brewers will use copper and more powerful boilers, which tend to last much longer.

It's cost versus longevity, but in the end, if the water is not getting up to the proper temperature and staying there during the brewing process, it is time for a change!

Holding

Continuous heating of brewed coffee will burn off oxygen and cause water to evaporate, essentially cooking your coffee.
The result of this will be an extreme loss of flavor, and a stale, burned taste.
To help prevent this from happening, never leave your coffee on a heating element for more than 20-25 minutes.

The ideal method for holding your coffee is in some sort of insulated thermal container that will maintain the temperature.
Because the temperature is maintained and there is no continued heating, your coffee can stay "just brewed" fresh for 45 minutes or more (depending upon the quality of the container).

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