How To Brew Coffee
If you want the pricey convenience of pod coffee, you are on the wrong website. If you want a really good cup of coffee rather than a quick and easy one, read on.
Essential to brewing that fantastic cup of coffee are:
Also useful, is an electric gooseneck kettle which controls the hottest temperature of the water from 190 degrees fahrenheit to 212 degrees. Using water that is lower than the boiling point improves coffee brewing. Water that is too hot can make coffee bitter.
Freshly roasted beans
We want you to use our freshly roasted, quality single sourced beans. Look for the roasting date on the bag. We believe after one month roasted coffee is past its best before date. And ground coffee is stale in twenty minutes. So buy fresh coffee and grind it just before you brew it. In other words, treat it like produce: buy it fresh, in smaller quantities and consume it at its peak of freshness.
There are two types of coffee grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders start as low as $20 Canadian. Whirling blades blast the beans around in the grind chamber so that the ground coffee is a mixture of fine and coarse and everything in between. The grind certainly averages finer by grinding longer. Using a blade grinder is light years in quality ahead of buying ground coffee that is already stale. There is no way to avoid ground coffee being stale no matter how it is packaged and sealed up.
A burr grinder makes even grinds. There are two grinding cones and one fits inside the other. The fineness of the grind is determined by how closely the two cones nestle together. Entry level burr grinders start at $125 to $150 Canadian. The roast can be adjusted from fine to coarse with all the particles of coffee being the same size. Our bias is that the extra cost of a burr grinder is worth it. The burrs do need periodic cleaning.
Here we might add: We use cotton cloth, hemp, stainless steel, and natural paper filters. All work well. Run hot water through paper filters to ger rid of the paper taste before using.
Kitchen scales that weigh in grams
Regardless of coffee brewing method, figure out the ratio of coffee to water to suit your taste. Too much water and your cup of coffee is weak or watery. Too much ground coffee and your cup of coffee is like mud. We use kitchen scales to measure the number of grams of coffee. There are many chemicals in roasted coffee beans. The first to dissolve are floral and fruity flavours. Then come caramel, nutty, and chocolate flavours. Lastly are bitter flavours. You want the water through the coffee before the bitter chemicals dissolve.
We will look at these coffee brewers/makers:
The Specialty Coffee Association that has as its members roasters, baristas and cafes – all of whom are concerned with producing excellent coffee, recommends a small number of automatic drip coffee machines that heat water to the correct brewing temperature and stream the water evenly over ground coffee. These recommended machines are not likely in your nearest hardware store and are not likely cheap. But if you value quality coffee, they are worth it. Go to www.sca.coffee for more information.
We have heard people who graduate from an automatic drip coffee maker to a French Press rave about how great French Press coffee is. And they are right! The French Press does not have a paper filter removing flavours and does not have an inadequate system of mixing coffee and water. The most common size of French Press is 34 ounces or one litre.
To make a litre pot, boil a kettle and let it sit to cool slightly. Better still, use a gooseneck kettle that heats to the correct temperature. At first use eight tablespoons of coarse coffee and weigh in grams. With experience, adjust the weight (not amount) of coffee and the coarseness of the grind to your taste. Pour the water evenly over the coffee and then stir the mix of coffee and water. Avoid using a metal spoon to stir especially in a glass French Press. We use a small silicone spatula to stir. The spatula comes in handy later to clean out the spent grounds. Cover the brew with the plunger to hold in the heat and let it steep for four minutes. Then press the plunger steadily and slowly to the bottom, pour and enjoy your coffee. The flavours and oils dissolve in the water and the steel screen of the plunger does not remove them.The French Press is messy! For clean up, use the spatula to clean out the spent grounds into the compost before rinsing and washing the press pot.
The AeroPress was designed by an American whose wife wanted a coffee brewer for one mug of coffee. The AeroPress is a collection of plastic parts that looks complicated to use, but isn’t. And the price is modest.
Start by boiling a kettle of water - only a small amount of water is needed. You are making just one mug. Use the scoop that comes with the AeroPress to measure out two scoops of coffee and grind the coffee medium. With experience you will know the weight of the coffee you need and the grind level that works best for you. The grind you prefer will be determined by how difficult the coffee is to plunge. Place a filter (the AeroPress comes with 350 paper filters) into the cup. Wet the filter to get rid of any paper taste. We now use a stainless steel filter made for AeroPress. Screw the cap on the chamber. Add the ground coffee to the chamber and place it on top of the mug. AeroPress comes with a convenient funnel that makes filling the chamber neat. Once the water boils let it sit a couple of minutes to cool. Or use a gooseneck kettle that controls water temperature. We add water to come between the 2 and 3 cup marks on the chamber. Wait ten seconds, and then stir for ten seconds using the plastic stir stick that comes with AeroPress. Finally plunge slowly for ten seconds. There will be a strong coffee mix in the mug. Add hot water to the mug to thin the coffee mix to your liking and enjoy your great coffee.
Clean up is easy. Unscrew the cap and hold the plunger over the compost. Push the plunger in all the way. A neat hockey puck of packed grounds will fall into the compost. You can even peel away the paper filter to use again. There will be no coffee grounds left to clean up. Rinse the equipment and you are ready to make another mug of coffee.
Pour-over coffee is the low tech, high snob appeal method of brewing coffee and our default coffee brewing method.
Pour-over allows you to control the wetting of the ground coffee. A pour-over kettle with a long spout is helpful. The gooseneck kettle with temperature control is perfect. We use pour-over cones that sit on a mug like Hario V60 Dripper filter holders (these are easy to buy online). Filters can be natural paper, cotton, hemp and stainless steel.
Use boiled water that has been allowed to cool slightly or a gooseneck kettle with temperature control. While the water is heating, grind the coffee beans a little coarser or finer than medium: whatever works best for you. Experiment with the weight in grams of coffee beans to suit your taste.
The pour-over kettle gives you control of the stream of water. We start pouring from the centre of the coffee in a circle to the outside for 15 seconds, just covering the coffee and then stop. The coffee will swell up forming what is called a “bloom”. The wet coffee gives off carbon dioxide. After the coffee has bloomed, approximately 30 seconds, and the coffee dripping has slowed down, start pouring water on the ground coffee. The delay after the blooming means the water going in is not competing with the carbon dioxide coming out. Start pouring in the centre of the bloom in concentric circles spiralling to the outside of the coffee bloom. Water flows through and dripping slows down. The whole pour-over operation takes approximately three minutes.
You end up with superb coffee. The manual control wetting the ground beans is superior to automatic drip pots. The natural paper filters and their coffee grounds can be neatly dumped in your compost. Hemp, cotton, and steel filters will have to be cleaned over the compost assisted by a rubber pot scrapper. Over time the cloth filters will clog. Simply put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them and add a pinch of OxyClean. Boil for seven to ten minutes. Not all the stain goes away but the filters are good as new.
The cost of equipment is modest!
Siphon coffee brewing makes excellent coffee. The method dates from the mid-1800’s, invented in France and now popular in Sweden and in Japan where coffee quality matters.
Our siphon coffee brewer is a Yama 8 cup Stove Top Coffee Maker. It comes with a cloth filter and one replacement filter. We purchased a stainless steel filter that we use because we got tired of cleaning the cloth filter. The coffee brewer is interesting and a good way to entertain guests.
Boil water first to save time or use a gooseneck kettle that controls temperature. The ground coffee (a little finer than medium for the cloth filter and a little coarser than medium for the metal filter) is added to the top beaker with the filter hooked in place. Place the hot water in the lower beaker and secure the top beaker to the lower beaker. We use a gas range that works better than electric. If you use an electric element, make sure you use a wire trivet between the coffee brewer and the element. Place the brewer on the range at low heat. Once the water has moved up to the upper beaker give the water/coffee mixture a good stir and hold it on low heat for approximately a minute. Then remove the brewer from the heat and wait while the brewed coffee descends back to the lower beaker. You need a siphon coffee brewer at hand for these instructions to make sense.
Once brewed the top brewer can be removed and the spent grounds emptied into the compost. The cloth filter can be thoroughly rinsed and then placed in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover it and a pinch of OxiClean. Bring the water to a boil and then turn it off. Rinse the filter well and it will not carry over any stale flavours into the next pot of coffee. The metal filter needs only to be taken apart and thoroughly rinsed.
There are many sizes of siphon coffee brewers from various manufacturers. Some use a built-in alcohol burner (slowest method) or a butane burner (fastest method). Then there are the stove top brewers. Because the method is slow, and because we are concerned with breakage of glass parts, and because clean up takes time, our siphon pot is not our regular brewing method. There are many “how to” instructions to be found online with variations in methods. Find out what works for you. When all is said and done, this siphon method is entertaining to watch and the resulting brewed coffee is superb.
One needs to be serious to brew espresso at home. There are many good home espresso machines; but they are not cheap! One can spend thousands of dollars on a home espresso machine. Even the tampers for tamping the coffee are expensive. An even fine grind of coffee is needed so an inexpensive blade grinder will not likely do the job. As well, you will likely want a knock box with a tamping mat to facilitate clean up. If you are going to lay out the money, be serious. Our bias is for a semi-automatic espresso machine: automatic machines are expensive and may not allow the user enough latitude to adjust espresso shots.
Another reason for being serious is the home espresso maker needs some barista skills and knowledge. We like to order espresso at cafés and we have had good (and occasionally great) espresso and also really poor espresso. Too often the person “pulling the shots” does not know what he or she is doing. We scratch the latter coffee café off our list.
Espresso is a method of brewing coffee, not a coffee itself – a common misconception. You can brew espresso from any coffee using the correct grind and settings for your espresso machine. When you are pleased with the resulting espresso, you’ve arrived!
Of course we recommend our espresso blend, Rideau Bold, that has a mellow base coffee and another coffee to add brightness. We blend and roast the coffee only after it is ordered. Most espresso blends have been on store shelves since nobody knows when.
Heat the machine up long before using it; heat the espresso cups often on top of the machine; and heat the filter and filter holder before using them. The liquid “shot” should flow smoothly but not gush nor be a slow dibble. With our machine, if the flow is under twenty seconds or over thirty seconds, we adjust the coarseness or fineness of the grind, or the amount of coffee used, or the strength of the tamping and perhaps all three. Figure out what works with your machine. We told you some barista knowledge and skills are needed! Your reward is a pungent shot of espresso.
An espresso machine comes with a steam wand for frothing milk. There are hundreds of recipes for espresso and frothed milk (cappuccinos and lattes), sometimes with added chocolate or other flavours or alcoholic beverages. We have a bias for using creamed liqueurs with espresso and frothed milk. There are lots of espresso recipes in books and online. The instructions that come with your espresso machine matter as do regular cleaning and descaling.
Finally, we recommend Kenneth David’s book Espresso Ultimate Coffee that provides history and understanding, and the website www.home-barista.com that is rich in information.