Anyone can brew coffee. But what does it take to brew a GREAT cup of coffee? If you’ve wondered why your coffee doesn’t taste as good at home, it comes down to a few simple elements with your preferred brew method.
In this article we’re going to discuss what it takes to brew a great cup of coffee. Whether you’re using your drip brewer, AeroPress, or espresso machine, the science is all the same.
There are 4 things that matter when it comes to brewing great coffee consistently:
- Brew Time
- Coffee to Water Ratio
Brewing coffee is the process of extracting coffee solubles from ground coffee into water through your brewing method.
Finer coffee grinds (smaller particles) allow more surface area for water to contact, and therefore extract more.
Coarse coffee grind (larger particles) does not allow water to come in contact with as much coffee, and therefore extracts less.
If you’re brewing in your drip coffee maker and your coffee grounds are too coarse, the water won’t have the time to extract the proper amount of coffee. It will just run right through! Leaving you with bland, brown, water. Now if you take that same brew method, but grind the coffee too fine, you get the opposite effect. The water doesn’t pass through fast enough, over extracting the coffee, and leaving you with a cup so bitter that it could grow hair on your chest.
So, before purchasing that bag of pre-ground coffee, or grinding whole beans, check to see what works best for your brewer!
When it comes to water, the two important things are temperature and water quality. Coffee extraction takes place more quickly as water temperature increases. If your water is too hot, it can kill some of the flavors you’re looking forward to tasting. On the other hand, if it’s too cold it’ll be under-extracted, giving you a tepid, weak, cup of coffee.
Water quality is important since, well, coffee is 99% water. Both water hardness and pH will significantly affect the flavors of your coffee. Water that’s too hard will kill the acidity and can make for a flat, dull cup of coffee. While too low of pH will yield an unpleasant acidity, and too high of pH will yield a bitter result. And if you’re using a coffee maker or espresso machine, hard water or water with too low of a pH will cause scaling.
To keep it simple, if you have good tasting water, chances are you're going to be able to brew a good cup of coffee. If you aren't sure, brewing with bottled water is a great option as well.
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of grind, we’re going to discuss time manipulation.
Well, sort of.
There are a few things that you can do to manipulate your brew time: The amount of water you use, the amount of coffee, and your grind size.
So, you’ve perfected the grind. It’s exactly where it’s supposed to be. Excited, you brew your coffee, ready to taste the results. It’s watery. Almost no flavor. You know it’s not the grind. You’ve used the freshest coffee–it’s your favorite. But now, it tastes awful. You drink it anyway because of the hard work and care you put into making it.
Don’t give up!
A good sign you need to make an adjustment is if your coffee is brewing too quickly or too slowly. Again, we’re talking about extraction. In talking about grind size, we discussed that too coarse means your brew was under extracted, and too fine means an over extracted cup. The same concept applies with the amount of water used. If you have too little water, your brew will finish too soon and you will end up with a bitter flavor. If you use too much water, you get a bland cup that will be little more than flavored water. Having the right grind and the correct amount of water will make you feel like a sophisticated barista in no time!
One of the most common questions we get from customers is, “How much ground coffee am I supposed to use in my coffee maker?” Here at Mighty Missouri we recommend 60 grams of coffee to every 1000 grams of water. Many coffee recipes will suggest something like 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water. While this isn’t the most accurate way to measure coffee, and if buying a scale and pulling it out every time you brew is not efficient for you, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the tablespoons to ounces method! 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water is a great starting point. You are more than welcome to tweak the recipe to suit your palate. All that matters is that you’re enjoying the coffee you made!
Using these techniques will vastly improve the flavor of your coffee at home! Now, Pick your favorite coffee, grind for your favorite brew method, and enjoy!