Shelby Merrithew - Nov 1, 2020
Beginner's Brew Guide
Let us introduce you to the foundations of basic coffee brewing. Knowing the correct grind size, proportions, and water temperature is key to any coffee recipe and brew method. All coffee brewing follows the same basic extraction process. Understanding how extraction works will help make any brewing method so much more easier. We've created this guide with extraction in mind by narrowing it down to 7 fundamentals.
Seven Fundamentals of Brewing
1. Use clean, fresh water.
Coffee is 98% water, it’s important to have the best water possible when preparing it to acquire proper extraction. Filtering your water will further reduce impurities and improve the overall flavor. At Smile Tiger we use Reverse Osmosis to filter our water and then blend a very small controlled amount of minerals to back into the water.
2. Use the correct water temperature.
For brewing coffee, the proper water temperature is between 195-205°F (90-96°C). If the water is too hot, it can burn the coffee; the results can be bitter and over-extracted. On the other hand, if the water is under the ideal temperature, the result can be under-extracted, displaying sour, thin, and a watery consistency in the cup. It is best to use a temperature controlled kettle, however if you don’t have one at home, proper temperature can be achieved by letting the water rest for a moment after coming to full boil. When in doubt, use a thermometer.
3. Pre-heat your brewing equipment & rinse filter.
Pouring hot water into your brewing vessel will help maintain consistent temperatures throughout your brew. This is also the best time to rinse your brewing filter to get rid of any paper flavours from your cup.
4. Measure your coffee and water every time.
One way to ensure consistent brewing results is to measure your coffee and water using a scale. The water-to-coffee ratio should be between 15:1 and 18:1 depending on desired brew strength. (Translation: 15 grams of water per 1 gram of coffee)
5. Grind fresh coffee every time.
Once coffee has been roasted, it becomes sensitive to light, heat, air, and moisture. It’s best to keep coffee in whole-bean form in an air-tight, light-fast container to ensure freshness until you're ready to brew.
Grind only the amount of coffee that you need each time, and make sure to have the proper grind setting for the method of brewing. If the coffee is ground too fine, the results will be bitter and over-extracted. If the coffee is ground too coarse, the results will be watery and under-extracted.
6. Time your brew.
The amount of time that coffee grounds are in contact with water, as well as the amount of agitation given to the coffee while it blooms, are important factors in brewing. Manual brewing methods require simultaneous focus on time, flow rate of the water, and the amount of agitation (or stirring) during the brewing process.
The key is to select a recipe and be consistent. For example, try to finish pouring the water for a manual drip in a given amount of time. Or keep track of the contact time and brew cycle when using a French press. Try stirring the coffee and water the same way during the brewing process. Also, use the same amount of water each time for pre-infusion.
7. Brew the amount you plan to drink.
Let's not waste coffee! You deserve to drink good coffee, and reheated coffee is not good coffee! Neither is hot coffee that has gone cold. The longer that coffee sits, the more acrid and unpleasant flavor compounds will come forward in the cup. To fully appreciate the quality of your hard work, drink your coffee within 20 minutes of brewing. We recommend brewing only 250-300ml for a single cup.
In addition to the seven fundamentals of brewing, there is also the matter of pre-infusion, often referred to as a "bloom." Pre-infusion has a big impact on the flavor your final cup, giving you more control over the extraction process and overall clarity.
A FEW TIPS TO START. In general, pre-infusion should last between 30 seconds and 1 minute. The amount of water added should be about double the mass of the coffee you plan to brew..
EXTRACTION AND BREWING. In simple terms, extraction is the process of pulling flavor out of your coffee beans. There are hundreds of soluble compounds in every single coffee bean. As your coffee comes into contact with hot water, those compounds are extracted from the non-soluble grounds. The resulting cup is around 98.8% water and 1.2% coffee flavor particles.
There are several factors that will affect the extraction: coffee/water ratio, grind particle size, contact time, coffee bed depth, amount of turbulence and water temperature. Understanding how each of these factors is interrelated to the final product can help troubleshoot and fine tune the brewing process.