Brewing the Perfect Cup
Boardwalk Beans wants your coffee to be perfect. We take care in bringing you outstanding beans and while we truly wish we could also make you a great cup at your home or office, we realize that the next best thing is to pass our knowledge onto our customers.
Regardless of your favorite brewing method, here are some basic principles to keep in mind:
Natural spring and filtered water make great coffee. We try to avoid making coffee with chemically treated water. If your water tastes bad, your coffee will probably taste bad too. Heat cold water to a gradual temperature of between 196 and 205 degrees fahrenheit (91 to 96 degrees celsius), or just prior to the water boiling.
Boardwalk Beans recommends using a burr mill grinder that uses gears to pulverize beans, rather than using steel blades that cut. The reasons we like burr mill grinders are that coffee is more evenly ground and they will not burn beans, which can happen fairly easily with the heat caused by the friction from blade grinders. Since burr mill grinders can come at a considerably greater cost than steel blade grinders, if you are using a blade grinder, use it in pulses until you reach your desired level, so as not to burn the beans and introducing undesirable flavors.
The consistency, whether more coarsely or finely ground, will depend upon your preferred brewing method.
Use one (1) to two (2) tablespoons (14-28g) of coffee for every six (6) ounces or 177ml of water.
French press coffee is simply the best tasting coffee because the oils are transferred to the cup, rather than being filtered. A cup of French press coffee should be full of a flavor that is deep and round. Since it’s not filtered, sediment may form in the bottom of the cup if grounds are too fine or if coffee is left to brew for too long a time.
There can be a downside to brewing coffee this way. If high cholesterol is a concern, French press coffee can actually increase LDL levels, the kind that causes health problems. The oil responsible is called cafestol. It gets removed when using paper filters, but levels remain quite high with French press and Turkish coffee, or coffee that is boiled in a pot. For people who like a similar taste to French press but prefer having the oils filtered, a vacuum brewing system that uses filters may be more ideal.
Grind coffee to a coarse consistency and empty into the bottom of the press. Pour hot water over the grounds to your desired level and stir very gently. Pull the plunger, extending it fully and place onto the lid of the press. Push the knob of the plunger down, so that the screen and plates meet the top of the grounds with the idea to keep the grounds slightly below the waterline, so that they adequately brew into delicious coffee. Let brew for 2-4 minutes, depending upon desired strength. Always be sure to thoroughly wash all the parts of your press so that old oils do not ruin the flavor of future cups.
We began using pour-over and never stopped. While technically, French press is also a “pour-over” type of system, the difference is in the filter and shape. What we love are portability and efficiency that make for a darn good cup of coffee. A pour-over is a cone that typically sits atop a coffee cup, though some, like the Chemex, incorporate both a carafe and brewing system in one. The pioneer of the pour-over was Melitta at the turn of the 20th Century with the idea that a conical shape adds to the quality of the brew, based upon how the grounds circulate.
The cone is great when you only need to make one cup, though in our house, we have a larger Chemex as well as several Melitta cones to accommodate our needs. While not as environmentally efficient as a French press because filters are used, there are no messy grounds to clean and cafestrol is mostly eliminated, though again, the taste of coffee is different when it’s filtered.
Grind coffee beans to a medium grind. Place the filter into the cone and add desired amount of coffee. Dampen the grounds by lightly pouring hot water over, allowing them to “bloom”. You may also visually see a fizzing or bubbling effect. This is carbon dioxide being released. Pour water over, in a circular fashion, so as to be sure the grounds are being wet evenly. The foam that appears on top within the pour-over is called the crema and is a light brown, or caramel color. Repeat until the coffee reaches your needed level.
Automatic Drip Coffeemakers
Automatic drip machines are the most common method for brewing coffee in the U.S. This system’s method makes brewing coffee easy. Water is heated from a reservoir and then the machine delivers the water over the grounds. The brewed coffee drips into a waiting carafe.
The negative of automatic drip machines is that cheaper models do not heat the water hot enough so extraction is often mediocre and undependable. Another issue is that if the machine has a warming plate and the carafe is left on the warming plate too long, the coffee will burn. To alleviate this issue, machines with insulated carafes are preferred to those with warming plates.
True espresso forces water through densely packed, very finely ground coffee at about 9 atmospheres of pressure, or an equivalent of about 132 pounds of pressure per square inch. Unlike most brewing systems, espresso only takes about 30 seconds to brew and should have almost a syrupy consistency. Unlike the cone pour-over where the crema is confined within the filter, the frothy crema sits atop the espresso. Generally, because espresso beans are roasted to a very dark level, it actually contains less caffeine than other coffee. People prefer making coffee drinks with espresso since the flavor-filled oils are so densely concentrated and won’t be lost by adding milk and other additives.
Percolators and Moka Pots
Percolators and stove top espresso makers, also known as “moka pots” are a nice alternative to making a strong cup of coffee, though this isn’t really the preferred method of brewing. With the percolator, a large bottom chamber contains water and is heated. The heated water rises with added pressure through a hollow, stainless tube that pours the hot water over the grounds. It would fine if it stopped there; however percolators keep using and reusing the water. So what happens is that even after the coffee is brewed, it continues brewing and circulating through the grounds. Two things happen: first, coffee burns because it continues to be heated and second, spent coffee grounds continue to be brewed. While the aroma of a percolator is wonderful and the cup is full-bodied, unless it’s consumed fairly quickly, it’s also likely to be burnt and bitter.
Moka pots, or stove top espresso makers work a bit differently, but with the same, basic vacuum pressure used to pump water from one chamber into another. The bottom is filled to the water line with water, a funnel that hold the grounds sits atop, and then a top pot is screwed on. The water heats, moves up the tube, and then makes its way into the top chamber. It stops brewing when the top chamber is full. The result makes a cleaner, stronger cup than a typical percolator that can be used similarly to espresso, but which lacks the true espresso feel and body.
For a percolator, use a medium to coarse grind, but for the moka pot, use a fine to medium grind.
Turkish Coffee Makers (Ibriks)
The Ibrik is filled with water (approximately two-thirds) and very finely powdered coffee (use one tablespoon per three ounces of water) is added. Regular coffee grinders do not work well in achieving the type of super fine grind needed. The water should come nearly to a boil, but if your coffee boils rather than foams, you may have used too little coffee or over-heated the water. When the foam rises, remove the pot from the heat long enough for the foam to settle. The grounds should rest in the cup before drinking.
General Coffee Tips
Use clean, cold water.
Too little coffee at too fine a grind will result in bitter coffee.
Remember, the longer it takes to brew coffee, the higher the extraction will be.
Cone filters take longer to brew than baskets, which is preferred for good tasting coffee.
Don’t allow brewed coffee to sit for too long a time. If it must sit, be sure it is off the heat.