How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

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How to Brew the Perfect Cup of CoffeeWhat Factors Affect Brewing?

The Freshness of the Coffee

The roasted coffee bean is perishable so make sure you love your beans! Coffee flavours are composed of gases, liquids and solids. These flavour components rapidly dissipate or become stale leaving the coffee with no aroma or flavour. Buy small amounts of beans often! Always store fresh in an airtight container in a cool, dark spot. Only grind when you have to, same goes for beans. (Fresh beans will keep their qualities for several weeks if stored properly while ground coffee will go stale in a matter of days!)

The Water

Coffee is 99% water! The quality of the water will greatly affect the flavour of the coffee. So make sure you use fresh, preferably filtered water. Always start with cold water, preheated water will adversely affect the flavour of your coffee.

The Grind

Using the correct grind is essential! How long the water stays in contact with the coffee depends on the grind and this will vary according to the method of brewing that you are using. Too coarse results in under extraction and too fine results in over extraction! Having your own grinder at home is a great idea and means you can grind your beans each time you brew.

The Quantity of Coffee

The Golden Rule here is 30 grams of coffee to 200mls of water, regardless of the method of brewing.

Clean equipment!

Whatever method of brewing you use, make sure everything is clean!

Different Methods of BrewingBewing Method Ibrik Filter Pulverised / Turkish Fine The finest of all, soft and fine as white flour Slightly grainy powder Grind Characteristic

Bewing Method



Pump Espresso Espresso Fine Stovetop Plunger Fine to Medium Medium

Powder with the consistency of salt Powder with the consistency of sand Like cornmeal

The Middle Eastern IbrikAn entertaining and different way to brew coffee! It produces a syrupy and thick brew and is best suited for dark roast coffees. Try a blend of a winy coffee like Kenya, with some Sumatran and a good dark French or Italian roast. The grind should be very fine.

Brewing Turkish CoffeeMeasure 2 level to rounded teaspoons of coffee per demitasse or short black cup, into the Ibrik. Add Sugar: Half a teaspoon for light, 1 level teaspoon for sweet, 1.5 teaspoons for heavy sweet. Measure in the water, never filling the ibrik more than half full. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the coffee to the boil. As soon as the foam fills the flare at the top of the pot, remove from the heat source. Immediately and carefully, to avoid settling the foam, pour into cups. Fill each cup halfway first, then return and add some foam.

Brew Tips: Bring just to a simmering boil. (Twice for Turkish, Three times for Greek) Only fill the Ibrik to half its capacity to allow for foam Use 2 teaspoons of coffee per demitasse If serving sweet use one teaspoon of sugar per teaspoon of coffee

Drip Filter or Filter MachineUsing finely ground coffee the drip or filter coffee is a great way to experience any origin, blend or roast. Simple to make, the quality of the coffee is consistent with a light bodied clear coffee free from oils and sediment.

Brewing Filter Coffee:Measure 30g of coffee per cup to be brewed and place in filter. Measure 200mL of cold water per cup into water reservoir. With the brew interrupt feature in a closed position turn the machine on. Leave for 60 seconds, then release the brew interrupt switch, to

allow coffee to pass through. When brewing is complete, swirl the pot to stir coffee, then serve.

Brew Tips:Use the brew interrupt feature to moisten, stir and steep the grounds for about 60 seconds before completing the cycle.

Swirl the pot before pouring the first cup Keep the coffee warm in a thermal carafe

Stovetop EspressoStovetops will deliver excellent espresso style coffee in the same way as a commercial machine, by infusing the coffee under pressure through the filters up into the serving bowl. Using a medium to fine grind they are best suited for blends such as the Columbus or richer bodied coffee.

Brewing Espresso Coffee:Fill water reservoir with cold water to just below the pressure release valve. Place the coffee holder into position above the water reservoir. Fill the coffee holder with loosely packed fresh grounds. Screw on the brewed coffee reservoir. Place stovetop on medium heated element. When brewing is complete remove from element and serve immediately.

Brew Tips: Don't over fill the grounds chamber Remove from heat when brewing has finished

Plunger Pot or French PressThe Plunger Pot produces a very rich bodied coffee resulting from the high ratio of coffee to water, the steeping time (or the time which the coffee comes into contact with the water) and the application of pressure. A quick and convenient way to brew coffee, ideal when combined with milk. Coffee should be coarsely ground and best suited for full-bodied coffees.

Brewing Plunger Coffee:Heat plunger pot by rinsing with hot water. Measure 30g of coffee per cup into plunger pot. Measure 200ml of hot water, just below boiling, (Boiling water may scold your coffee!) into plunger pot. Stir. Fit filter onto pot. Wrap plunger with cloth, to maintain heat. Leave to steep for 3 minutes. Slowing press down knob. Remove cloth and serve.

Brew Tips:

Rinse the container with hot water before brewing Wrap a cloth around the pot during steeping to prevent heat loss

Esspresso MachinesThe espresso machine extracts the maximum amount of flavour out of the coffee bean by forcing water through the finely ground coffee at great pressure. The full extraction is best suited to blends or full-bodied coffees.

Brew Tips: Start with fresh water! All equipment must be clean All ingredients must be fresh The espresso machine, handle and cup should be hot before

beginning to brew

Never under fill the filter basket. Follow the correct procedure,

according to the manual for your machine

1 The basics 1.1 Overall factors 1.2 Temperature 1.3 Water quality 1.4 How much ground coffee should I use? 1.5 How do I keep coffee hot? 1.6 Coffee cups 1.6.1 Are paper cups more environmentally friendly than foam? 1.7 Why is coffee bitter? 1.8 What if my coffee is too strong or too weak?

1.1 Overall factorsCoffee quality depends on a combination of factors. Fresh beans, measured by both how long it's been since the beans were roasted and the time elapsed since grinding the beans, are imperative. High quality beans (measured by the specific crop, processing, handling, etc.) are, obviously, desirable, but the highest quality beans are all but useless if stale. Clean good-tasting water must be used, and the coffee must be brewed with clean equipment at the proper temperature for the proper amount of time. Simply buying top-quality beans is no guarantee of great coffee; if those beans are stale, the water quality poor, the brewing temperature low, or your equipment dirty, you will have wasted money on those expensive beans. Lesser quality yet freshly roasted beans, ground before use, will almost certainly be superior to a higher quality sample that is stale.

With all brewing methods, the goal is to balance strength and yield. These two elements are distinct but often confused. As noted in the section on water quality, brewed coffee is over 98 percent water; this is a measure of its strength--i.e., how much extracted coffee there is as a ratio to water. Not counting espresso or Turkish coffee, this mainly refers to the concentration of solubles; with espresso, that can be broadened to include emulsified oils (Turkish coffee often has a significant component of suspended solids). If your ratios fall outside of the proper range, the coffee is perceived as too weak or too strong. Most commonly this is a function of the quantity of ground coffee used for any given volume of water. However, the quality of solubles that are extracted determine another factor, the yield. If too little is extracted from the ground coffee (because the grounds are too coarse or the water contact time is too short), then the coffee will miss essential taste components. If too much is extracted (the coffee was ground too finely or the contact time is too long), then the brew will be bitter. Rather than being a measure of the total quantity of solubles extracted, yield is a measure of the desirable range of extracted solubles. To put it grossly, if you mix hot water and coarsely ground coffee in a one to one ratio and allow it to extract for thirty seconds, you will have a cup with a very strong grassy taste. A lot was extracted just because of the sheer quantity of coffee, but not enough of the desirable components. Similarly, if you add a tablespoon of finely ground coffee to a quart of hot water and let it steep for ten minutes, you will have a weak yet bitter brew.

1.2 TemperatureFor coffee brewing, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) prescribes a water temperature of 92 - 96 degrees C (195 - 205 degrees F); see The Basics of Brewing Coffee by SCAA Executive Director Ted Lingle. Avoid boiling then cooling the water to the proper range, or at least letting it boil for more than a few moments; boiling hot water rapidly loses dissolved air and will taste flat. If the water is too cool, the brew will be sour and underextracted. The temperature range during brewing should not vary by more then a few degrees, or extraction will not be optimal. Temperature loss often occurs as a result of heat absorption by the equipment itself (for example, if an espresso machine's portafilter is not kept warm between shots by storage in the machine) or into the atmosphere (as in a uninsulated glass French press during the approximately four minute steeping period). Pre-warming the equipment or insulating it, respectively, will solve these problems.

1.3 Water qualityCoffee is 98.5 to 99 percent water, so water quality will critically affect the resultant brew's taste. When making coffee, you should only use water that tastes good enough to drink straight. As a result, the best cups of coffee are made with filtered tap water or bottled water. Carafes or sink-based filters will likely perform better and have a lower per-gallon cost than the modest charcoal filters that some manufacturers include with their auto-drip machines. Do not mistake distilled water for filtered: the former is missing minerals that contribute to the water's taste and aid in extraction. When certifying a coffee brewer, the SCAA uses fresh cold water containing a formulation of between 50 to 100 parts per million dissolved minerals. The water should be fresh; it it has been sitting too long (or has been heated then cooled), it will be missing the dissolved air that is an important component of the water's taste.The water should also start cold: hot water has lost some of its dissolved air, and may have picked up minerals or solubles from your pipes.

Read Jim Schulman's The Insanely Long Water FAQ for much, much more information.

1.4 How much ground coffee should I use?A standard "cup" of coffee uses six ounces (177 ml) of water. The SCAA's standard measure of ground coffee for this quantity of wateer is 10 grams (+/- 1 gram) or slightly over a third of an ounce (or, simply, two tablespoons). Since the ground coffee will absorb water, you will be left with approximately five and one-third ounces of coffee. Unless stated otherwise, the preceding is the ratio used in the FAQ's descriptions. Most coffee scoops and water chambers will be calibrated to this standard, but that is not necessarily so; the country of manufacture may result in different calibrations, and some measures may simply be wrong. Accurate scales can help verify how much a particular scoop holds. In parts of the world where a coffee cup is defined as a different quantity, the coffee/water ratio remains the same (e.g., in Europe, 7 grams per 4.25 ounces). For larger quantities, use 3.75 ounces (+/- 0.5 ounce) of ground coffee per half-gallon water, or 2.25 gallons water per pound of coffee (for commercial, urn-style brewing devices), slightly less than the ratio for a single cup. For metric measures, use 55 grams (+/- 5 grams) per liter. For those who find that the two tablespoon/6 ounce ratio produced too strong a cup, simply reduce the quantity of coffee used until the desired strength is reached. Recommendations to grind more finely and thereby use less coffee are simply wrong. Grind fineness is related to steeping time; using less but finer coffee will make the resultant product bitter; using less coffee under these circumstances will make a weak, bitter cup.

1.5 How do I keep coffee hot?Optimally, brew a fresh batch whenever you want coffee. To keep coffee hot for shorter periods of time, or for travel, use a thermally insulated container; an enclosed container will reduce the loss of the aromatics that constitute an essential part of the overall flavor (but see here). Insulated containers with glass internals, though somewhat delicate, have the least effect upon the coffee taste, followed by good quality stainless steel. Coffee with significant residual sediment, such as coffee brewed in a French press, fares less well when kept hot for extended periods; the sediment continues to extract, making the coffee bitter. Optimal flavor is obtained by holding the coffee at high temperatures, at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Direct heate.g., via a warming plateshould not be applied to brewed coffee, at least not for more than few minutes; continued heating will make the coffee bitter. This issue is primarily a concern for autodrip coffee makers; choose a model that dispenses into an insulated carafe over one that uses a warming plate.

Reheating coffee in the microwave is controversial; the key issue may be the uneven heating microwaves are known for. There are those who theorize that parts of the coffee that overheat may taste unpleasant, thereby spoiling the cup as a whole.

1.6 Coffee cupsThe issue of the "right" coffee cup seems to have mainly anecdotal responses. In theory, the best containers are simply those that keep the coffee hot and do not add flavors of their own. Heavy, pre-warmed ceramic cups probably serve those criteria best. Insulated plastic and metal containers are commonly used for travel mugs, as they can be durable and relatively lightweight. Theoretically, they are inert (assuming stainless steel or a quality plastic), but some aficionados swear that they can detect off-flavors, thought this may merely be evidence of lower-quality material. Disposable cups are almost invariably made from paper or expanded polystyrene ("foam"), the latter often incorrectly referred to as Styrofoam (a trademark of Dow Chemical and a different product). There are instances where coffee tastings and sensory skill sessions have been ruined by a perceived "papery" aspe...