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The Definitive Guide to Home Brewing Coffee

The Definitive Guide to Home Brewing CoffeePhoto From Canva

Originally Posted On: The Definitive Guide to Home Brewed Coffee (relaxandbrewcoffee.com)

 

Are you a Keurig user? Maybe you don’t use a Keurig, but some other single-cup, inexpensive automatic coffee brewer?

If you have a coffee machine that uses pods, you may think that this is a perfect way for you to get that great taste at home with the highest levels of convenience.

Well, the sacrifices may outweigh the convenience.

Brewing your coffee with fresh beans, and the right measurements isn’t as hard as it looks. It’s convenient and the taste can’t be beat.

It’s also an excellent way for you to have better-tasting coffee while saving a small fortune. After all, when companies sell pods, you’re not just paying for the coffee. Most of your money is going towards the patented plastic pod. You’re also paying for the foil lids, the brand itself, and the machine’s capabilities in general.

For this reason, when you invest in coffee that’s ground or even whole beans- you’re getting way more for your money. You’re getting a much larger quantity of higher quality beans.

Manually Home-Brewed Coffee Gives More Control and a Superior Drink

It is a widely accepted fact that manual brewing allows you to maintain a higher level of control when it comes to your brew, and it also gives you a superior cup of coffee. Some people find it fun and fascinating to have a more hands-on approach to the brewing process, as it’s so much more interesting and tactile than hitting the “brew” button on their machine.

The trend of increased home-brewing has also brought about many gadgets and options. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are some of the best ways you can brew your coffee at home.

The Coffee Cone or Manual Dripper: Making a Pour-Over

One of the simplest, fastest, and oldest ways to brew coffee would be for you to use the manual drip method to create a pour-over. This typically involves you using a paper filter and a coffee cone.

While there are metal mesh filters (typically made of gold mesh), paper filters are still more common. Hot water is poured right over the grounds, which reside in the paper filter. Gravity pulls the water through, and it is infused with flavor by the grounds.

Cones (drippers) are made of plastic, stainless steel, glass, or ceramic and you can choose based on your preference. Certain materials – like ceramic – retain heat extremely well, but are also more brittle.

The shape of your cone will ultimately influence the flavors too. Some of the most popular brands out there include Kalita Wave, Hario V60, Melitta and my current favorite – Fellow’s Stagg models.

  • Recommended Grind: Medium / Medium-Fine
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Between 15:1 and 20:1
    • Note: This is preference, and roast-based – it is also impacted by whether or not you add sugar and dairy products vs drinking black coffee. With the inclusion of sweeteners, staffing on the denser end of the scale (15:1) is recommended.
  • Brewing Time: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Flavour: Smooth and Rounded
  • Body: Clean, crisp, light
Chemex, A pour-over alternative to the coffee cone

The Chemex truly is a beautifully designed, elegant flask and was invented in 1941. It uses Chemex filter paper that is around 30% heavier when compared to others on the market. Hot water is poured over the grounds into the paper filter, with the coffee dripping into the flask’s bottom—this doubles-up as a carafe. This is similar to a pour-over made with a coffee dripper, but the thicker paper, the shape and the all-in-one nature of the device.

  • Recommended Grind: Medium / Medium-Course
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Between 15:1 and 20:1
    • Note: This is preference, and roast-based – it is also impacted by whether or not you add sugar and dairy products vs drinking black coffee. With the inclusion of sweeteners, staffing on the denser end of the scale (15:1) is recommended.
  • Brewing Time: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Flavor: Refined and Balanced
  • Body: Clean, crisp, light
The French Press or Coffee Plunger

Attilio Calimani first patented the French Press, or coffee press, in 1929, and it remains a popular brew method today. French Press is considered by many to be the easiest, best approach if you want to brew consistently bold coffee.

A French press excels at extracting the deepest flavors from your grounds as the water and grounds are fully immersed together – and then the most flavorful coffee is squeezed from the web grounds at the end of extraction.

You simply put ground coffee in your press pot to soak, steep, and strain.

The essential oils, antioxidants, and caffeine will be diffused and preserved, giving you the purest flavor possible. It is especially suited to those who want a more luxurious, full-bodied coffee-tasting experience. A common brand for home French Press devices is Bodum.

  • Recommended Grind: Course
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Between 15:1 and 20:1
    • Note: This is preference, and roast-based. With the inclusion of sweeteners, staffing on the denser end of the scale (15:1) is recommended. We tend to have a lower water-to-coffee ratio with our French Press brews to really elevate the flavors.
  • Brewing Time: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Flavor: Robust and bold with subtle nuances
  • Body: Full, cloudy
The AeroPress – New(est) Kid on the Block

The AeroPress is a relatively new device and launched in 2005.

It’s made out of plastic and comes in three different parts. You have a filter, which sits in a coffee basket in the brew chamber. The grounds sit in the brew chamber – the same place where you add the water – and are fully immersed. This process steeps the coffee similar to a French Press.

When you are ready to extract the coffee, press the plunger down, and it forces it through the filter and into the cup – the forceful extraction method can produce extremely flavorful coffee.

  • Recommended Grind: Fine / Medium-Fine
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Between 15:1 and 20:1
    • Note: This is preference, and roast-based. With the inclusion of sweeteners, staffing on the denser end of the scale (15:1) is recommended. We lean towards a higher ratio with the AeroPress as too much coffee (or too fine a grind) can lead to adventures while straining.
  • Brewing Time: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Flavor: Sweet, almost espresso-style
  • Body: Full, Dense

Late in a mug pictured from above

Moka Pot – a popular percolator design and stovetop coffee maker

Stovetop coffee and espresso makers use steam from the boiled water. This passes through the lower section before it penetrates the middle area grounds—the brewed coffee transitions to the highest chamber.

A well-designed stovetop coffee maker will produce a better cup of coffee due to the controlled pressure. While these coffee makers tend to be relatively inexpensive, focusing on quality and sturdy design while picking them out makes a big difference for a small price bump. Some of the top brands include Kabalo, Pedrini, and Bialetti.

  • Recommended Grind: Medium / Course
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Between 15:1 and 20:1
    • Note: This is preference, and roast-based. With the inclusion of sweeteners, staffing on the denser end of the scale (15:1) is recommended. We lean towards a higher ratio with percolators given the coarseness of the grind, and the output.
  • Brewing Time: 3 – 5 Minutes
  • Flavor: Strong, Espresso-Style. Can be bitter at times
  • Body: Full, Dense
Vacuum – Siphon

The siphon is a fancy and flashy way for you to make a fresh brew. It can be a fantastic way for you to make coffee while impressing your friends at the same time. The main thing you need to know about this method is that it can be somewhat of a fussy process and is almost always the most time-consuming of the methods mentioned here.

Loeff of Berlin invented the siphon in the 1830s, and it has been popular in certain circles ever since. With a siphon, you put the coffee grounds in the higher vessel, and vapor pressure then forces the hot water up, immersing the grounds. When you remove heat, gravity then pushes the coffee through the filter to the vessel’s bottom.

  • Recommended Grind: Medium
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Between 15:1 and 20:1
    • Note: This is preference, and roast-based. With the inclusion of sweeteners, staffing on the denser end of the scale (15:1) is recommended. We lean towards a higher ratio with percolators given the coarseness of the grind, and the output.
  • Brewing Time: 6 Minutes
  • Flavour: Mellow and Delicate
Automatic Drip Coffee Machine – The reliable device on many countertops

If you want to make your brewing experience much more straightforward, it is more than possible to use a coffee machine. These machines run the gamut of price and quality. There is the $15.99 generic black, plastic machine that many American college students have in their dorm room and machines such as the Moccamaster Technivorm that can exceed $400.

As you can imagine, the experience is not consistent across all coffee machines.

Surprisingly, higher price tags are not typically associated with fancy technology features such as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, or automatic timers. The higher price tags focus on the brewing process – consistent heat and water distribution. For those extra dollars, you get a better cup of coffee, not another smart home addition.

The automatic drip coffee machine is effectively making you a pour-over, but controlling the process for you.

After hitting “Go”, the machine heats the water and gradually drips it through the granules into a carafe.

This is the easiest way for you to brew coffee, as the only thing you have to do is turn it on and then come back for it in 5-7 minutes.

You can even program the machine to turn on at certain times of the day so that you can come down to a freshly brewed cup of java first thing in the morning.

Further adding to the convenience, some come with a built-in grinder option. We highly recommend only going this route if the grinder is a burr grinder.

These machines are otherwise known as bean-to-cup machines. Take a look at #11 in our list of Home-Brewed Benefits to see what machine I use at home, and why.

  • Recommended Grind: Medium / Course
  • Water to Coffee Ratio: Roughly 2 tbs per 6oz of water
  • Brewing Time: 5-7 Minutes – carafe size dependent
  • Flavour: Widely varies based on machine
How to Make a Coffee with Gourmet Beans

Now that you have a good idea of your coffee brewing options, you may have even chosen a method that works for you, but there is more to making a great cup of coffee than simply selecting your method. You still need to make sure that you are getting the most out of your bean’s flavor at the end of the day. If you want to find out more, then simply keep reading.

Latte in a cup from above

Buy High-Quality Beans – Look for Specialty Grade or Higher

If you go to a Gourmet restaurant, you will often see that they use the finest ingredients to ensure good meals. Good can be subjective, as everyone’s tastes and preferences do differ however – coffee is graded in ways that allows you to find quality if you know what to look for.

Coffee beans graded at the Specialty level still include a wide range, but start to ensure you’re getting a better cup. Take a look at this wonderful illustration shared by Hans Tietema of Kaldi Coffee. You’ll see great explanations of how coffee levels differ.

At Relax and Brew, we have focused primarily on single-origin coffees for a number of reasons. We believe that the cost-to-quality ratio is wonderful. These beans are traceable to specific regions in the world and typically grown on smaller farms where the producers are able to receive a higher wage in return for superior coffee.

The single-origin designation can be applied inconsistently but does generally guarantee you’re receiving coffee that grades out in the Specialty Coffee range – and will be seriously good.

Now that you’ve spent time finding the perfect beans, make sure they’re packaged correctly to preserve that quality.

Airtight Packaging with Gas Relief

Sounds crazy that coffee needs to be packaged in a unique way relative to other food products, but it’s true.

Airtight coffee bean packets often come with a one-way valve on the front. The moment the beans come out of the roaster, they begin a process called degassing. This works on a curve – initially, it is necessary for coffee to achieve its peak flavor, but waiting too long causes degradation.

Why does this happen? Well, it all comes down to air exposure and gasses released. Don’t buy beans from self-serve bins, regardless of how nice it looks. Buy your coffee in airtight bags and look out for ones that have small, one-way valves.

When beans come out of the roaster, they essentially “gas off.” If you put your beans into a bag and then seal it completely, the bag would build up with gas, and it would either tear or explode. Quality coffee suppliers always put their beans in bags that have a one-way valve for this very reason. The valve ensures that gasses from inside the bag are allowed out and don’t intermingle with outside air.

When you open the bag, put your beans into an airtight container, and then grind what you will use each time. Sure, it’s easier and faster to grind a couple of day’s worth at a time, but the downside to doing this is that your beans will lose flavor in a very short space of time. As soon as coffee beans come into contact with air, the oils begin to lose their volatility, and they then start to evaporate. The oils contain a lot of flavors.

Choosing the Right Coffee Grinder

You must buy a grinder that allows you to vary the grind’s overall coarseness. A grinder that gives you the chance to do this will help you control the flavor, and it is a critical factor in the taste you’ll get out of your grinds.

Burr grinders – most typically conical burr grinders – actually crush the beans, allowing for the mix of oils and release of aromas. Blade grinders are more suited for grinding / chopping spices and should generally be avoided.

A rough guide is as follows:

  • Coarse Grind – This coffee is large and most suited to French presses or even percolators.
  • Medium Grind – A good, all-round grind, most suited to drip-type brewers.
  • Fine Grind – A grind most suited to espressos.
Use High-Quality Water

This may sound strange; after all, it’s just coffee, right? But you have to remember that coffee is 98% water. Inadequate water can ultimately lead to a bad cup. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on beans or how much you learn about the art of making coffee because if you’re using bad water, you won’t ever get a good result out of your beans. If you know that you have good tap water, this can be a starting point. Many modern automatic drip machines have built-in charcoal filters that will aid in the process.

If you have poor tap water, using filtered water or a device like the Peak water filter is highly recommended.

Coffee Grind to Water Ratio

The approximate rule is to use roughly two tablespoons of coffee for every 6oz of water you use. One important note – 6oz of water will give you one cup, but not a full mug. If you plan on making a mug, this tends to be 8oz or more, so you’ll need around three tablespoons of coffee.

If you are in doubt, then always add a little more coffee. The main reason coffee ends up tasting like disappointment is that you simply use too little coffee, resulting in a weak, bland taste.

You’ll note that we included (the same) water-to-coffee ratio with each brewing method as there is a range. The perfect ratio depends on the beans, the roast, the brewing method and the water. If you started with an 18:1 ratio and work up and down from there, you can perfect your recipe.

Using a ratio, and not a specific recipe as a starting point allows you to scale up and down your needs depending on the size of your carafe. Getting very specific about your ratios requires a coffee scale so that you can use the exact same amount of grounds and water each time.

All About Water Temperature

Automatic machines will set the temperature for you and as noted above, the more expensive ones tend to do an outstanding job setting a temperature around 200℉ and keeping it there. A lower grade machine will likely have temperature variations over the course of brewing.

If you are using many of the manual approaches described above, you’re on your own to control the temperature.

Although this seems simple, it’s super important that you use water that is the right temperature. First of all, make sure that your water isn’t boiling. Your target is 200℉ +/- 5℉.

Similar to everything else here, exact temperature for extraction depends on the beans and roast. We recommend starting at that 200℉ mark, and adjusting up or down from there. This will give you the perfect temperature for making coffee.

Too hot – the coffee will end up tasting bitter. Too cool and you will have a relatively flavorless cup due to under extraction.

These are just a few of the fundamentals of making the ideal cup of coffee. There’s so much more for you to learn, but if you get these above steps right, you will be making a cup of coffee that is better than most.

Adding a Time Element to Your Brewing

If you want to make the ideal coffee, then you may want to time the brewing cycle. It’s all about extracting the perfect flavors.

Automatic brewers don’t give you control over the brewing time, but again, nicer ones do have a more consistent and uniform approach.

With other methods – French Press, manual pour-over, etc – experts tend to suggest different times. Ultimately, between 3 and 5 minutes is the ideal way to go. If you find that your coffee is brewing too fast, or too slow, you can adjust the coarseness of the grind. More coarse, and water will move through the coffee faster (in filtered methods) and fine grounds will slow down the process.

An important note about automatic drip brewers – they may start to take longer and longer to complete the brew over time. This is most often down to clogged tubes or even failing pumps. If the time has gotten noticeably longer, then you won’t be getting the best taste and you’re overdue to descale the machine. This is a process of running chemicals through the machine to help break up mineral deposits from the water.

If descaling doesn’t work, your machine is likely in need of replacement or repair as you could be looking at failing mechanics inside the machine.

Tasting Coffee – Do it like a Pro and Find Your Favorites

Now you know how to make the perfect brew, it’s time to make sure that your efforts pay off.

Have you ever wondered how, in wine tasting, people can pull strange scents and flavors out of a simple glass of Merlot?

Well, believe it or not, this all comes down to having a good palette and knowing how to expose your taste buds to all the flavors of the glass. Often, you need to learn how to tune-in to certain flavors so you can distinguish them from others. If you want to learn how to taste coffee like a pro, we’ve included suggestions below and recommend you look at this flavor wheel that will help along the way.

Setting Up the Cupping Process

Cupping is the way that coffee professionals set up their tastings to both evaluate quality and ensure consistency in the tasting process. It is really another way of brewing coffee directly in the cup specifically for this purpose.

This video describes the setup process wonderfully and is a recommended watch:

Smelling the Coffee

First, smell the coffee. Get your dry grounds before water is added and put them in a small container. Then, strike the bowl onto a table, and bring your nose to the grounds to smell them. Banging the container on the table will float the air grounds for a second, allowing the aroma to release into the air and give you the maximum impact.

Most coffee beans come from South America, including Colombia and Brazil. Others come from Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, and more. South American coffee flavors tend to be creamier, sweeter, and chocolatey. African samples tend to be fruitier.

Next, we add the water.

The Pour

The purer your coffee is, the more room the coffee itself has to extract. Your water should be around 200 degrees F or just off-boil. Good coffee still tastes great, even when it has had a chance to cool down – in fact, tasting gets easier as the temperature drops.

Low quality coffee will taste noticeably worse as it cools, and this is where an inexperienced taster will see the obvious differences.

Breaking the Crust

We’re still talking about coffee, right?

Yes, when you are cupping, you brew directly in your coffee cup (or tasting bowl). The coffee will bloom and all your fresh coffee grounds will rise to the top. Breaking the crust will effectively stop the brewing process.

Using a flatter, wider spoon, break the bubbly crust on the top of the coffee. This releases a burst of aroma. When you push your spoon through the crust, put your face up to the coffee and inhale. The coffee grounds will mostly sink to the bottom at this point.

Having your coffee black is the best way for you to get the purest flavors so we won’t be adding anything additional to our cups. From here, you will need to let the coffee cool a bit so it doesn’t burn your tongue.

Tasting Your Cups

By this point, there’s a high chance that you are drooling from those generous coffee aromas. You should always skim the top with a spoon so that you can avoid any floating grinds that might have made their way into your coffee, and then you’re ready to drink.

Using that wide, flat spoon (remember to rinse it in water after cleaning your grounds) – take a spoonful of coffee. If you want to taste coffee truly, you need to slurp. This might sound a little embarrassing, but the louder you can go, the better.

Ideally, you need to coat your entire mouth, introducing oxygen to your sip. The addition of oxygen helps the coffee spread to the back of the tongue.

Aim to spray the back of your tongue with the mist. Hitting all areas of the tongue will help you identify some of the most complex aromas and flavors. Pretend to chew it if you can, as this will give you more time to determine the tasting notes.

Rinse that spoon, and move on to the next cup.

Ranking

It can be super fun for you to identify your coffee’s body, texture, acidity, and mouthfeel as you’re drinking. It’s also helpful to take note of the flavor and the aftertaste. Use the flavor wheel linked above to help yourself here.

When you are tasting coffee, try and make sure that you take note of it. Is it dark? Chocolatey? Light? Mellow? How about the acidity? Is it sharp?

As you begin to dive into flavor profiles, you’ll soon see that it is easier than ever for you to get the best result out of your coffee tasting experience and remember to reference the flavor wheel for help.

Why Single-Origin, Subscription Coffee is the way Forward

It’s been a challenging year. 2020 has thrown more at us than we ever thought was possible.

Many people have come to realize that it’s the little things that matter, such as enjoying a fresh brew with your family or running a long bath after a long day. Whatever can help slow down your mind and focus on enjoying the present moment.

Coffee might have been hard to get hold of due to the pandemic-related supply chain challenges. That’s why subscription coffee is such a worthwhile investment and why coffee subscription services are growing at such a fast rate.

Single-origin coffee delivered right to your door from Relax & Brew Coffee. We have everything from light roast to medium roast, dark roast, and espresso blends. Some of the coffees we stock are from BrazilColombiaHondurasMexicoNicaraguaTanzaniaPeru, and Guatemala.

Fully-stocked coffee drinker working at home

Why Brewing your Coffee is an Incredible Experience

Brewing your coffee at home is a fantastic sensory experience, mainly because it stimulates all five senses.

Smell

This one speaks for itself. Nothing compares to the smell of walking into a coffee shop, so why wouldn’t you want this in the comfort of your own home? Home-brewing fills the house with a wonderful aroma that lasts hours.

Sight

The coffee beans you buy can differ in terms of darkness. Some are waxy and dark; others are dry and pale. The appearance of coffee is something that can be appreciated throughout the brewing process as you notice the pour-overs thin, clear body contrasting against the cloudy, full body of a French Press.

The thrill of opening a new bag is unlike anything else as the visual experience mixes with the aromas.

Sound

The sound of the beans grinding, or them merely knocking against each other when you shake the bag to release the aroma. It’s therapeutic and just a small sample of what enjoyment is to come.

If you have difficulty staying in the present moment (as we do) focusing on the small sounds in the process – the dripping of the coffee into the carafe, the clanging of the beans in your container – can help to ground you.

Taste

Even when you are just drinking a cup of coffee as opposed to doing the formal tasting described above, picking out the individual flavors can help many people to relax. It’s about practicing mindfulness and remaining in the moment.

Touch

The feel of coffee beans is another experience in itself. You can feel the oils, the beans’ smoothness, and the crisp bag they came in. The feel of coffees on your tongue will differ as mouthfeel is an important component to roasting. The simple feeling of a warm mug in your hands can often relax and create a sense of comfort.

Still not convinced home-brewing is the go-to- option?

Brewing your coffee at home isn’t just tastier or cheaper than your standard drive-through cup. It will provide you with comfort and a grounding experience. It can be a way to share something with family or friends during happy moments.

It’s more than just a brew; it’s an experience.

Our coffee is picked, roasted, and ground with love and compassion. We’re here to make your experience everything it can be – from click to cup.

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