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What Is Agitation and How Can It Make Our Coffee Taste Better?

By May 3, 2019 May 8th, 2019 Coffee
What Is Agitation And How Can It Make Our Coffee Taste Better

Agitation is defined as the action of briskly stirring or disturbing something, especially a liquid. An old can of paint, cake batter, and you guessed it, coffee, all benefit from the act of agitation. When we are brewing our coffee in the morning, it may seem counterintuitive to move, touch, or adjust the brewer of choice in any way, but by doing so we can use that agitation to help ensure that all of the ground coffee is exposed to water evenly. Ultimately, this provides a more even exposure of the ground coffee to water with the result being an overall higher extraction and ideally, a more balanced brew.

There are two ways that I have found are most effective to agitate the coffee slurry during brewing. First, gently stirring the slurry soon after a pulse pour with a spoon, or lifting the dripper or brewer and using a gentle 360° swirl. If you are brewing a “shot” with our AeroPress® Coffee Maker attachment Prismo, the stirrer that comes with the AeroPress works great. Since less water is used to brew a Prismo “shot,” there is more room to stir quite aggressively to achieve full saturation of the ground coffee. Swirling and stirring are both effective methods, and I recommend trying both to see which one you prefer. The goal with both of these methods is to expose all of the ground coffee to water as evenly as possible.

Adding agitation to coffee brewingSince Coffee is an organic substance, it changes as it ages from the date of roast. Can we get a similar extraction from a coffee that is three weeks off roast that we did when the coffee was eight days out of the roaster? Most likely not, but we can shoot for getting the most out of what is left. I have found that the same coffee at different ages off roast will taste better with different extraction percentages. Adding agitation between pours will help to more fully extract the compounds we have left in an aging coffee. Try adding agitation between each pour to get a full extraction if it seems your coffee isn’t tasting as good as it did when you first opened the bag.

Carbon dioxide also plays a role in our agitation choices. As you know because most likely, a “bloom” is part of your pour-over brewing ritual, roasted coffee contains CO2 and other gases. These gases are released much more readily when we grind the beans. Also, most electric burr grinders create at least a small amount of static charge when grinding coffee. Those gases, as well as any static from grinding, can cause parts of the ground coffee to become hydrophobic, or in other words, the coffee repels or fails to mix with water. We want to make sure that these pockets of the coffee bed that are more resistant to water get saturated as well. This is where the agitation really helps us achieve a full extraction.

Consistency is also key when determining how much additional agitation may help with getting an ideal brew. Are you doing five pulse pours total? Try lifting and swirling the dripper or stirring the coffee slurry after the bloom, after the third pour, and after the final pour. If you want more extraction, add a stir or swirl after the second pour. Want less extraction? Try only agitating the bloom and final pour. Allowing for room to move in either direction will help to narrow down which brew tastes best with given coffee and give you a consistent method and recipe to start with on any new coffee.

Ready to add agitation to your pour-over routine. Below is my favorite recipe using Fellow’s Stagg [X] Pour-Over Dripper to brew a 10-ounce cup of coffee:

Stagg [X] Pour-Over Dripper With Agitation

20 grams medium to fine ground coffee
340 grams of 205°F water
1:17 ratio

Benefits of agitating coffee bed during pour-over brewing1. Pre-wet entire paper filter with a pour-over kettle such as our Stagg EKG.

2. Dump out rinse water from brewing vessel.

3. Add ground coffee into the Stagg [X] Dripper, then gently lift and shake the dripper to level the coffee bed.

4. Start with the bloom. Add 60 grams of water to the coffee bed.

5. Lift the dripper and swirl gently a few times in a clockwise direction.

6. Add a second pour of 100 grams reaching a total weight of 160 grams.

7. Add a third pour of 60 grams reaching a total weight of 220 grams.

8. Lift the dripper and swirl gently in a counterclockwise direction.

9. Add a fourth pour of 60 grams reaching a total weight of 280 grams.

10. Add a fifth pour of 30 grams reaching a total weight of 310 grams.

11. Lift the dripper and swirl gently in a clockwise direction.

12. Add a sixth and final pour of 30 grams reaching a total weight of 340 grams.

*Total brew time should be between 3:00-3:30 minutes.

Give our agitated Stagg [X] Dripper recipe a try and report back. Do you have a favorite method of agitation we didn’t touch on? Drop us a line on Instagram. We love talking shop almost as much as we love drinking coffee!

Johnny Randolph

About Johnny Randolph

Johnny Randolph is a coffee educator here at Fellow. He’s been working in the Bay Area coffee industry for nine years, including top-notch coffee roasteries such as Sightglass, Intelligentsia, and Verve. When he isn’t swimming in coffee, he likes to swim in the ocean, surf, and skateboard.

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