How To Brew Coffee
If you want pricey convenience as in pod coffee like Keurig you are on the wrong web site. We know that few people are as fussy as we are about making coffee. In your kitchen, is coffee brewing about possibility and fun, or problem and inconvenience? Buy quality beer from a craft brewery or buy quality wine from an estate winery: then you open the bottle and drink it. But when you buy quality coffee beans from a small roaster then you have to brew the coffee yourself. The difference in the quality of the coffee from the way it is brewed goes from ho-hum to fantastic.
Essential to that fantastic cup of coffee are freshly roasted coffee beans, a coffee grinder and scales that weigh in grams. We want you to use our freshly roasted quality single-sourced beans. We put the roasting date on every bag and jar. We believe after 1 month roasted coffee is past its best before date. And freshly ground coffee is stale after 20 minutes. So, buy coffee as fresh as possible (that is usually near the roasting source), and grind it just before you brew it.
There are two types of coffee grinders, blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders start as low in price as $20 or $25 Canadian. Whirling blades blast the beans around in the grinding chamber so 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 conical burr grinder makes even grinds. There are two grinding cones and one sits inside the other. The fineness of the grind is determined by how closely the two cones nestle together. Good entry level burr grinders, for example Bodum or Capresso, 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.
use cotton cloth filters, stainless steel filters and hemp filters
paper filters because paper screens out oils and flavours that
the quality of the coffee. Regardless of coffee making method, figure
ratio of coffee to water you use to suit your taste. Too much water and
coffee is weak or watery. Too much coffee and the coffee is like mud.
We use kitchen scales to weigh the number of grams of coffee. Again,
regardless of your coffee-making method, figure
long the coffee and hot water are mixed. There are many chemicals in
coffee beans. The first to dissolve are floral and fruity flavours.
caramel and chocolate like flavours. Lastly are bitter flavours. You
water through the coffee beans before the bitter chemicals dissolve.
Because of its popularity we will start with the automatic drip coffee maker. The kitchen section of any large department store or hardware store has many models and makes to choose from. The machine heats water and pours the heated water through the ground coffee that is in a filter-lined hopper. The water seeps through the coffee into a pot or carafe. The cone-type hoppers are preferable to the hoppers shaped like a margarine tub. Warming trays under the pot or carafe are a bad feature. Warming trays cook the coffee so that it is quickly stale and bitter. You cannot tell how hot the water is when it hits the coffee and you cannot tell how evenly and thoroughly the water showers over the ground beans.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America, that has as its members roasters, baristas, and cafes concerned with high-end coffee, recommends two brands of automatic drip coffee makers that heat water to the correct temperature for brewing and stream the water evenly over ground coffee: Bonavita (German made) and Technivorm (Dutch made). Both makes are expensive but both make quality coffee. You will likely have to go to a specialty coffee shop or a specialty shop on line to buy either of these. Our automatic drip pot is a Bonavita which is less money than the Technivorn. We have experienced coffee prepared by both machines and the coffee is good. But we are on our second Bonavita having burned one out! These expensive machines are engineered to get it right with the time the coffee and water are mixed, with the temperature of the water, and with the even distribution of the water. Too little time and you miss out on flavours that failed to dissolve into the coffee. Too much time and bitterness dissolves into the coffee.
We use a stainless steel screen filter as the metal filter lets through oils and flavours the paper filters filter out. We do have to clean the steel filter: it used to be so neat and convenient to lift out the paper filter and put filter and wet grounds in the compost. However, our experience is that using the steel filter seemed inconvenient and messy at the start, but we got more efficient and less bothered by it before long.
We have heard people who graduated from an automatic drip coffee maker to 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 the coffee and water. The most common make of French Press or plunger pot is Bodum and the most common size is 34 ounces or one litre.
To make a litre pot, boil a kettle and after it has boiled let the kettle sit for a couple of minutes. You want to use water just a little lower in temperature than boiling. 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. Then stir to mix coffee and water. Avoid using a metal spoon to stir especially in a glass coffee maker. 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. 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! In clean up use the spatula to clean the spent grounds into the compost before rinsing and washing the French Press.
The AeroPress was invented by a clever American inventor whose wife wanted a coffee maker for making one mug of coffee. The AeroPress, great for making one mug, is a collection of plastic parts that look complicated but are not. And the price is modest.
Start by boiling a kettle of water: not a large 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 to medium or a little coarser or a little finer. 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 cap. The filter fits perfectly and wet the filter to get rid of any paper taste. We use a stainless steel filter made for AeroPress and like it better! Screw the cap on the chamber. Add the ground coffee to the chamber and place it on top of your mug. The AeroPress comes with a convenient funnel that makes filling the chamber neat. Once the water boils let it sit for at least a couple of minutes; boiling water or near boiling water is too hot. Add the hot water to the chamber. For us we add water to come between the 2 and 3 cup marks on the chamber. Now count to ten seconds (one thousand, two thousand,.... etc.) then stir for ten seconds using the plastic stir stick that comes with the 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: great coffee.
Clean up is easy. Unscrew the cap and then hold the chamber and 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 it over again. There will be no coffee grounds left to clean up. Rinse the equipment and you are ready to make another mug of coffee.
We purchased a stainless steel filter for our AreoPress and that improves the coffee. The steel filter is easy to wipe clean even with our fingers.
Do not store the plunger in the chamber unless it is all the way in with the rubber part out the bottom. You do not want the chamber to squeeze the plunger so that it no longer works.
The advertising that came with our Aeropress suggests that it makes espresso: it does not. You can make good espresso at home with a dedicated home espresso machine. Espresso making requires finely ground coffee and a machine that forces water through the coffee at high pressure. The AeroPress is a good coffee maker; but it is not an espresso machine. Even modest espresso machines are costly compared to the Aeropress.
Pour over coffee is the low tech high snob appeal method of making coffee. Pour over is our default coffee making method. If you remember the old Melitta coffee makers with a cone-shaped filter perched on top you already have the idea.
What pour over coffee allows you to do is control the wetting of the ground coffee, a huge advantage over the automatic drip coffee makers. You also need a pour-over kettle with a long narrow spout. The pour over coffee maker is all glass with a container for the coffee topped with a glass funnel, all one unit. The neck of the coffee maker between the funnel and the coffee holder is circled with material to hold on to so it is not too hot on your fingers for pouring into mugs. Our main pour-over coffee maker is a Bodum that comes with its own stainless steel filter. Yeah! We also use pourovers that sit on a mug: a Hario V60 Dripper filter holder (we prefer the clear plastic) and a cotton or hemp filter. Cotton and hemp filters let the flavours through but not the grounds.
We boil our electric kettle and then transfer the boiled water to the pour over kettle. This action cools the water to the right temperature needed. While the water is boiling we grind the coffee beans. The grind will likely be just finer or coarser than medium. Experiment to see what works for you. For the one mug system we use 31 grams. For the Bodum one litre pot we use 71 grams. Again experiment to see what works for you.
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, when 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. Let the water flow through, the dripping will slow down, and then pour again, from the centre spiralling out to the perimeter. This operation will need to be done twice, maybe three times. The whole pour-over operation will take approximately three minutes plus or minus a few seconds.You end up with superb coffee. The manual control of wetting the ground coffee is superior to the best of automatic drip pots. You can get filter holders that use paper filters: more neat than cotton or stainless steel filters. But again we prefer hemp, cotton and metal filters that do not filter out oils and flavours. We end up emptying the filters into the compost usually assisted by a rubber pot scraper. Over time hemp and cloth filters will stain (not a problem) and acquire a smell (this is a problem). When the weave of the cloth becomes clogged with oils and coffee grounds, that is also a problem. Simply put, the hemp and cloth filter(s) in a pot 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 sweet again. Rinse and the filters are as good as new.
The cost of the equipment is modest!
Before I forget, let me make clear that the siphon coffee brewing method makes excellent coffee. The method which dates from the mid eighteen hundreds, invented in France, is now popular in Sweden (serious coffee drinkers) and in Japan where quality coffee matters.
Our siphon coffee brewer is a Yama Siphon (Japanese company) 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. Unlike paper filters the cloth filters let oils and flavours through. Even with the steel filter we get a clean cup without grounds. We just got tired of cleaning the cloth filter. We use this coffee brewer when we want to entertain guests. It takes time and clean up takes time; but, the method is entertaining.
I boil the water first in an electric kettle to save time. 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 onto the bottom beaker. We have a gas range which works better than electric. If you use an electric element make sure you use the wire trivet between the coffee maker and the element. Place the coffee brewer on the range at low heat. Once the water has moved up to the upper beaker give the coffee/water 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 the coffee brewer at hand for these instructions to make sense.
Once brewed the top beaker 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 then turn it off. Rinse the filter well and it will not carry over any stale flavours into the next pot of coffee brewed. 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 (fasted method). Then there are the stove top brewers. Because the method is slow, and because we are concerned with breakage of the glass parts, and because clean up takes time our siphon brewer is not our regular brewing method. There are many “how to” instructions to be found on line with variations in methods. Find out what works for you. When all is said and done the resulting brewed coffee is superb!
One needs to be serious if one wants 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. And one needs an even fine grind of coffee: an inexpensive grinder likely will not do the job. And by the way you will likely want a knock box with a tamping mat to facilitate cleaning up after each pull of espresso. If you are going to lay out the money you need to be serious. Our bias is for semi-automatic espresso machines: the automatic machines do not allow the user enough latitude to adjust espresso shots and most automatic machines are expensive.
The other reason for being serious is the home espresso maker needs some barista skills and knowledge. Our late afternoon visits to coffee cafes have meant by times ordering espresso. We have had good espresso and we have had really poor espresso. Too often the person "pulling the shots" does not know what he or she is doing. Scratch that coffee cafe off our list.
We have two home espresso machines from the same manufacturer, one entry level and the other more expensive. Neither is the latest model. We are able to make good espresso with both machines: the expensive one (far from expensive as machines go!) makes better espresso than the entry level machine. Even though they are from the same manufacturer they require quite different grinds: one finer than the other.
Espresso is a method of making coffee: not a coffee in itself. You can make espresso from any coffee using the correct grind for your machine. When you are pleased with the resulting espresso then great!
We recommend a good espresso blend of coffee. Our espresso blend has a thick mellow base coffee and then another coffee to add some brightness. Of course we make two blends: Rideau Blend Smooth and Rideau Blend Bold. The blend must be freshly roasted. Do not depend on store bought blends where you have no idea when the coffee was roasted. Grind the coffee immediately before pulling the shot. We grind shots one at a time. Fresh really matters!
We make double espresso shots believing that home espresso machines are better making double shots than single. One double can arrive in two cups as two singles! 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 should flow smoothly but not gush nor be a slow dribble. If the flow from start to finish is under twenty seconds or over thirty seconds you need to adjust the coarseness or fineness of the grind, or the amount of coffee used, or the strength of the tamping and perhaps all three. We told you some barista knowledge and skills are needed!
If you like straight espresso you may also like single malt scotch, neat. Each in its own way is a small quantity of dramatic tasting liquid. Ask yourself the question, "Does the espresso I make at home have the bitterness, sweetness, thickness and brightness I want?". There is nothing "ho-hum" about espresso. Then there are hundreds of recipes for espresso and frothed milk (cappuccinos and lattes) sometimes with added chocolate and/or alcoholic beverages. Espresso machines come with steam wands that froth the milk. We have a bias for using creamed liqueurs with espresso and frothed milk. There are books of espresso recipes and lots of recipes on line.
You need to read thoroughly the instructions that come with your espresso machine. Regular cleaning and descaling are important. There are helpful web sites on line. We recommend www.home-barista.com that has more information than we could ever absorb. And we recommend Kenneth Davids book Espresso Ultimate Coffee that provides history, context and understanding.