Home Coffee Brewing Guide PART TWO

In Part One of our Coffee Brewing Guide we mentioned current ways of brewing and why they are not, in our opinion, the best way to get a really tasty cup of joe. Whilst that’s all fair and good, it’s not helping you make a decent cup. We don’t want to be “that guy” who dismisses other ideas without actually coming up with any of his or her own…. soooooo…. what should you be doing to get the best cup of coffee at home??

Before we can actually get to the point of advising on equipment to buy, it’s important to understand a few basics principles of coffee that apply to all brewing methods. These principles, when applied, not only lead to a good cup of coffee once, but to consistently good coffee on a daily basis.


1) Coffee is like baking - you need a recipe.

Sounds weird right? Wrong. Anyone who bakes knows that you can’t “wing it” as much as you can in comparison to more savoury food. Too much of one ingredient and too little of another or seconds in the oven longer than necessary can lead to disaster at worst or inconsistency at best. This is because baking relies on very complex chemical reactions and the only way to control them is to weigh, measure & time.

Coffee is no different. The amount of complex chemical reactions that occur at every stage of the coffee supply chain is huge, from harvesting and drying of coffee cherries through to roasting, grinding and the brewing and extraction of flavour at the end stage.

2) Recipe Part 1 - GOOD WATER

If you wouldn’t drink the water, don’t make coffee from it! This is as basic as it gets. Whilst water chemistry in brewing coffee at the cafe level can get very complex (hard water vs soft water, pH balance of the water, etc) when brewing coffee at home all you need to remember is either use filtered water (think a Britta filter jug or equivalent) or use bottled water. You might think it’s extreme, but it only takes a little effort and the effects it can have on the flavour of your coffee can be big. It’s the old adage - crap in crap out.

filtered water.jpg

3) Recipe Part 2 - WATER/COFFEE RATIO

When people make coffee inconsistently at home, it tends to be the result of random proportions of water to coffee. Very rarely do people think of how much coffee should be added to the water to formulate the strength of their coffee. It tends to be “chuck a few tablespoons of ground coffee in to the French Press and hope for the best”! This is is very hit or miss and whilst you might get lucky one day and hit the flavour jack pot, it very rarely becomes consistently delicious. One day it may be weak the next too strong…

How do we fix this? Weigh your coffee and weigh your water! Again, it only takes a cheap set of kitchen scales and a few seconds, but makes a HUGE difference. What is the magic ratio? Well, luckily enough there is a ratio that works with most coffees and that fits with most palates. It’s 1:16. ie one part coffee to 16 parts water. For example, if you were making a french press for 4 people, I would suggest 78 grams of coffee mixed with 1.25 litres of water. Simple!


4) Recipe Part 3 - BREW TIME & GRIND LEVEL

So, you’ve got your water filtered, you’ve weighed your coffee and your water. Surely that’s enough. Not quite! You’ve got to add the water to the coffee for the right brew time and the coffee itself has to be ground to the right level of coarseness for that brew method! This results in the optimal coffee extraction level.

Coffee that is over extracted (brew time too long and/or coffee coarseness too fine) results in a bitter flavour that no one likes. Coffee that is under extracted (brew time too short and/or coffee consistent too coarse) results in a sour flavour that no one will like. This is a delicate balance that requires a little playing around with. To help get it right, we’ve included a little guidance below:

a) Grind Level

For grind level we recommend the following; French Press needs a coarse grind (think coarse sea salt), Filter Coffee needs a medium grind (think Saxa salt) and Espresso requires a fine grind (a fine powdery consistency).

b) Brew Time

For brew times we recommend the following; French Press needs roughly 4 minutes, Filter Coffee roughly 3 1/2 minutes and Espresso brewing requires a time of roughly 25-35 seconds.

Hopefully this helps demystify the rather complex art of coffee brewing. If you’ve any questions, please fire them off to info@thecounterdeli.com or call us on 074 9120075.

Next up in PART THREE - Inexpensive home brewing devices!!…

Richard Finney