Do You Really Know How To Brew Coffee?
Coffee is a beverage composed of two ingredients. Coffee and water. With such a basic recipe, it would seem that a good cup of joe should be easy to make. Yet many want more than just a cup of coffee and are ever searching for the best way to brew coffee.
Coffee beans come in two varieties, arabica and robusta. The best is arabica, which produces a flavorful brew. The method and location of cultivation influences the flavor. Robusta beans produce a bitter, almost undrinkable cup of coffee. If drank enough, robusta beans will be tolerated if the coffee is made weaker. Over time, consumers became accustomed to a weak arabica-robusta brew. Naturally, robusta beans are cheaper, so when companies want to lower production costs, they mix robusta with arabica beans.
Public domain photograph of roasted coffee beans by Mark Sweep.
Arabica beans produce the best cup of coffee. Two tablespoons of ground coffee for six ounces of two hundred degree water is the normal starting point. This provides a strong enough brew that allows the flavor to come through. More or less coffee grounds make the drink stronger or weaker.
Grinding the Beans
The experts that search for the ultimate cup of coffee feel that the beans should be ground precisely. They should be ground to a consistant texture. To achieve this, they use a burr grinder that grinds the beans to a consistant ground. Rotary blade grinders are the most commonly used, and do an acceptable job for most people. A fine grind may make coffee taste bitter, if it's flat, it may be too course. A course grind is used for the French Press brewing method, a fine grind for Turkish coffee and Espresso. A medium grind is good for most methods.
For coffee beans to make a beverage, they have to be roasted. Roasting gives them the dark brown color. The length of roasting time influences the taste. The longer time makes them darker brown and gives them a more robust flavor. A French Roast is an example of a bean with the longer roasting process. It is often mistaken for strength, but these are brewed with the same mixture as other roasts. The longer roasting time changes the flavor whic gives the beans a pronounced and destinstive flavor.
Age of Beans
Coffee purists in search of the best brew feel coffee produces the best flavor if brewed as soon as possible after roasting. Some people roast their own beans to achieve these results. Finding a supplier, or brand that provides a cup of joe the individual is satisified with is all that is needed. For normal everyday use, a quality bean is usually satisfactory.
Water also influences taste. If water has an unpleasant taste, it can be filtered, or use bottled water.
Water, Grind and Coffee Ratio
For normal brewing methods, a medium grind is preferred. Use one to two tablespoons of ground coffee with six ounces of water. This is a starting point to make one cup of coffee and can be increased or decreased for individual taste.
For years in the middle of the twentieth century, the percolator was a preferred method to brew coffee. For the time, it was quick and easy. The percolator forced boiled water through a tube and onto the coffee grounds. This brewing method ran the coffee over the grounds several times. Coffee made by this method was often bitter and was often brewed weak to reduce the bitterness. When drip coffeemakers became popular, percolators lost popularity.
Drip coffeemakers heat the water, and drips through grounds and into the pot. This doesn’t recycle the water through the grounds again like a percolator. This method is the easiest, and most common, way to make a good cup a coffee. It is probably the best choice for the average person.
The French Press, or press pot is one of the favorite brewing methods among purists. This method uses course grounds. The French press enhances the best qualities of the grounds. It also produces some sludge. The French press is made in several sizes that looks like a glass coffee mug. It has a screen piston that fits on top of the pot. This process uses coarsely ground coffee. Put the grounds in the pot and pour in 200 degree water. After 4 minutes press the plunger down to force the grounds to the bottom. Adjust the time to suit taste.
Vacuum pots were popular from early to the middle of the twentieth century. The design features two sections, made of glass, pyrex or plastic. Water in the lower chamber heats up and the pressure forces the hot water through a tube into the upper chamber, which contains the coffee grounds. When all the water is gone from the lower chamber, remove the heat. As the coffee cools, the filtered coffee drips into the lower chamber. The vacuum pot is making a come back as the best way to brew coffee.
Espresso makers are manufactured in a variety of sizes and configurations. They all force hot water through finely ground beans to extract the beverage. Since the method for making coffee varies, each machine has instructions for making espresso.
An Ibrik is used to brew Turkish coffee with grounds the consistency of talcum powder. It is the earliest method of making coffee. Sugar and coffee are put into the pot with cold water. It his heated and brought to a boil three times. Pour into a cup while holding the foam back, then spoon some foam into the cups. This method makes a tasty drink with some sludge.