Wish you could make a great cup of coffee at home? Take a read at the four main elements to a tasty cup: grind consistency, time paired with grind size, the coffee to water ratio, and temperature.
Grind Consistency (extraction matters)
Not to be confused with grind size, we want all coffee bean particles to be as consistent as possible so they extract at the same rate.
An ode to Extraction:
This is the process of removing the flavors from the coffee beans with water. When you first introduce water to the coffee, you get juicy acidic notes, then comes the sweet, tasty notes (the good stuff), then the bitter flavor.
The perfect cup is a fine balance of the correct amount of time as well as the most consistent grind possible. If you under extract you get acidic, tangy and grassy notes. If you over extract, you get get bitter, astringent and dry notes. The middle is where the sweet goodness is.
Your grinder is what matters here! Blade grinders whack the beans, giving you all different sizes of particles, which will then extract at different rates. This gives a mix of under, perfect, and over extracted flavor notes (acidic, sweet, bitter) all in one cup...no good. Burr grinders crush the beans to smaller bits. The beans move through the V-shaped column, passing through the bottom only if they are a consistent size. You can adjust the grind size to fit with your brew method (chemex, french press, etc.)
Time and Grind Size
Grind size refers to how large or small you crush your beans. This depends on your brew method of choice (we will have more posts on this to come)! Espresso is made with the finest grind size, there is much surface area here so you only extract (or have the beans and water touching) for 30 seconds or less. Notice this when you watch a shot being pulled the next time you order a latte. Contrasted with cold brew, which is made with the coarsest grind size, and extracts for over 12 hours. For most people brewing at home this time should be around the 4 minute range. As always, experimentation is needed to get it perfect.
The Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) did some blind taste testing to figure out what ratio of coffee to water (how strong or weak your cup is) is preferred by people in different regions. They found Europeans preferred 1 part coffee to 20 parts water, Scandinavians preferred 1 part coffee to 14 parts water, and North Americans preferred 1 part coffee to 17 parts water.
For those of us living in the U.S. you can do a bit of math to get the correct ratio. If you’re wanting 24 ounces of coffee to consume, divide 24 by 17 to give you the correct amount of coffee, 1.4 ounces!
The ideal water temperature is somewhere between 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit. An easy way to predict this for those without a thermometer laying around their kitchen, is to bring your water to boiling (212 degrees), and let it sit for 1-2 minutes before pouring it over your coffee beans.
Wait, there’s more!
A few other things to yield the perfect cup:
- Make sure your beans are high quality and freshly roasted
- Know your brew method technique (how to use a chemex, french press, etc.)
- Use a good filter (we use Coffee Sock in the shop) and pre-rinse it
- Pre-heat your brewing vessel before beginning