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Coffee Brewing Basics

By June 5, 2015 Coffee No Comments

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OK so you’ve bought some quality, freshly roasted beans from the local coffee shop down the street. Now what?

Although there are many different brewing methods, we’ve outlined some basic principles the home brewer should always follow. These are super easy steps that will significantly help turn your cup of sad brown water into black gold.

Think of brewing like a science experiment. You need to control all your variables. For brewing, your experiment variables are the solute (coffee grinds), solvent (water), time, and equipment (brewing gear).

BOOM. Consider these, and you’re already three steps ahead of the game.
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GRINDS:

First and foremost, no matter how expensive your coffee is, if its pre-ground its just not going to taste as good. Trust us, even buying the cheapest grinder and having poorly ground beans is better than the pre-ground stuff.

Why you ask? A bunch of reasons, but two main ones are oxygen and carbon dioxide. About 15 minutes after coffee is ground, it oxidizes (binds with O2) and loses a bulk of that dreamy aroma. Also, once you grind coffee a large portion of its CO2 is released. You need this CO2 to get the bean’s essential oils into your coffee. Stick with grinding right before brewing, and you avoid all these problems.

For grinding your beans, you have many different options. We’ll post an in-depth guide to grinders soon, in the meantime, here’s a quick overview.

You can choose a burr grinder or a blade grinder. Blade grinders are like blenders in that they chop up the beans.The problem with a blade grinder is it grinds inconsistently, leaving you with large chunks (boulders), and dust. They also whip and burn beans, changing the flavor. This is still better than pre-ground coffee! You can grab one of these suckers for under $20.

Burr grinders crush your beans between two sharp, gear-like burrs. If you’re wondering, a burr is an abrasive, metal disc. But, you can also use Urban Dictionary’s definition:

Coined by Gucci Mane, referring to how icy his chains are.

“Damn it’s cold in here! Hella burr.”

“That new Gucci goes hard mayne, Burr.”

Because one burr is rotating and the other is stationary, you can adjust the spacing between the two, to grind to a specific particle size.  The grind size will also be more uniform.

Burr grinders can get expensive (ranging $50-$1,000) but if you’re going to spend your money on anything, it should be the grinder. Usually we recommend just going for the burr grinder, as you can still purchase a manual burr grinder for $25.

 

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WATER:

Use clean water, obviously. (We hope we don’t actually need to tell you that). Keep your water between 195-205 degrees fahrenheit. Your water to coffee ratio will depend on your taste, however a good place to start is 60 grams/1 liter of water.

TIME:

Regardless of your method, always keep track of your brew time. How long are you letting your coffee bloom? (Wetting your grinds and leaving them to breathe and let out CO2). How slow are you pouring your water? How long are you steeping your grinds?

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BREWING GEAR:

Filter

You can filter your coffee in a lot of ways. However, the most basic choices are between paper and metal filters, and full immersion versus drip. Paper versus metal often falls on the user’s taste preferences. Paper filters tend to absorb coffee oil, whereas metal filters do not. Coffee oils will usually result in a bigger, bolder flavor.

A full immersion brew is basically a coffee pool party. You are letting the grinds hang out in water for a few minutes. This is exactly the same process as steeping tea. Conversely, the drip method slowly runs water through grinds, letting coffee drip through the filter.

The Chemex, for example, is a pour over drip coffee usually with a paper filter. Whereas the French press is a full immersion brewer with a metal filter. And of course, the Duo Coffee Steeper is a dual metal filtration, full immersion brewer.

Gram Scale

You want a scale so you can play with the ratio of coffee to water to find the best taste! Like we said, this is similar to a chemistry experiment. You want each brew to be repeatable. Keep track of your variables people!

We hope this gives you a solid start. Remember, think of brewing like a science experiment. Keep track of your variables so you can tailor each cup to your liking.

And if one day you become a world-class brewer…we’d like some credit. 

Cheers,
The Fellow Team

About Molly

Coffee experimenter extraordinare.