Brewing Basics

It’s Monday morning…

You know the drill, you stumble out of bed way too early for a Monday morning. You wrap yourself in your robe, slap on your slippers, and wander to your kitchen. Three scoops of whatever coffee is out on the counter, press the button, and voila! Now, you’re really awake. The smell of the coffee brewing travels up your nose and turns on a switch in your brain.
You drink the coffee, with a lot of milk, and a lot of sugar, cause, let’s face it, by itself it’s not as good as the coffee at the local shop that you can proudly drink black as night.
But why? Why does your coffee at home not taste as great as the coffee in the shop? It’s because they’re trained for months to learn how to brew the perfect cup? Right? Well… sort of.
Baristas are trained for months, and the training is truly ongoing for the length of the career. I’ve been working in the coffee industry for years, and I am always in pursuit of brewing the perfect cup.

But what if you could make better coffee at home?

What if you could start your day every day with a delicious cup of coffee? You totally can, and we’re here to help!
First, (shameless plug), we will be hosting workshops that teach you how to brew on specific equipment, so be sure to stop by one of those. But right now, I want to talk to you about the very basics of brewing so you can make improvements for Monday’s cup of coffee!
There are five basic elements of brewing:
1. Coffee to Water Ratio
2. Grind Setting
3. Time
4. Temperature
5. Turbulence
Let’s break it down, shall we?

Coffee:Water Ratio

So, first, the ratio. The Coffee to Water Ratio is the most essential element of brewing. Ideally, you are aiming for a ratio that is between 1:15 to 1:18. Why? Well, if you have too much coffee, say a 1:14 or a 1:12 ratio, you will end up with coffee that is under extracted, but strong, resulting in a very strong, sour or even salty taste. If you go the opposite way and add too much water, a 1:20 or 1:23 ratio, for example, your coffee will be bitter and weak. Do either of those sound like something you want?
No? Me either. Stick with the ratio.
Determining your ratio is actually really easy. Let’s say you are brewing for a 12 oz cup. Well, that’s roughly 340 g of water (thanks google!). So pick your ratio, I usually go with about 1:18 and divide by that second number.
So for a 12oz cup o’ Joe, I need approximately 19g of coffee! Take some time to experiment with your ratios. While a 1:18 ratio works for me, you might prefer 1:15, or you might find that different ratios work better for different coffees. Experiment! It can be really fun!

Grind Setting & Time

The next two factors are extremely, extremely tied together. Grind Setting- how coarse or fine you want your coffee ground, and Time- the entire length of the brewing process.
If you’ve ever come into the store and asked us to grind coffee, we have asked you what kind of machine you use to brew. This is not to inconvenience, or to judge you. We do this to make sure you get the best tasting cup of coffee.
The general rule of thumb is this: The longer your brew time, the coarser you want the grind to be.
Again, this comes down to extraction. You want the grind size and time to be balanced correctly to ensure even extraction, and that perfect spot between over and under extracted that we call “perfect extraction.”
This is a delicate balance, and again, it might require some experimentation to get right, but when you find that balance, you’ll know.

Temperature and Turbulence

The good news is, this requires little experimentation. These are hard and fast rules that you should follow for any brew method.

Temperature: Except for cold brew you want to brew with water that is between 195 and 205 degrees. This ensures that the water is hot enough to brew the coffee in a reasonable amount of time (unlike cold brew) but also is not so hot that it scalds that grounds.
Turbulence: This is how you pour your water to ensure even extraction. If you’re doing a pour over, this means that you pour in a circular motion. If you’re using a full-immersion method, then you MUST stir your grounds. I repeat: you MUST stir your grounds.

Easy enough right?

Well, yes and no. Find the exact right balance between the first three variables could require a lot of experimentation. But once you find it, you’ll have the best tasting cup of coffee of your life, right in your own living room.

Interested in coming to one of our Better Brewing at Home Workshops? Click here for tickets for the May event, and follow our Instagram @Black_River_Roasters for information on the next one!

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