Whether you brew your morning joe with a 6 cup Mr. Coffee drip brewer or a 6 cup Chemex you have surely noticed that the same coffees can taste different from cup to cup. Why is that? There are many variables that can affect the taste of your coffee. Seemingly small changes in these variables can dramatically change your final product. Below, we have outlined some of these variables and provided some tips on how to brew a better cup.
The Bean: The first and most important variable in making a cup of coffee is the bean that you use. You want to be sure to use fresh coffee that has been roasted in the past two weeks. After two weeks coffee begins to stale and will lose its flavor quickly. Coffee that is older than one month from roast date will be significantly compromised and lacking in its flavor and integrity.
The Grind: Coffee is best when ground right before brewing, for that reason we recommend always buying whole bean. Getting a decent burr grinder such as a Baratza Virtuoso is an excellent investment that will lead to better coffee. That being said, the particulate size of the grounds plays a major role in the resulting cup. The finer the grind, the more difficult it is for water to pass through the coffee and the coarser the grind the easier it is for water to pass through. If your cup has a bitter taste the coffee is likely over extracted. In that case your grind is probably too fine and the water is in contact with the grounds for too long. Try a little coarser grind and see if that helps. If your coffee tastes flat, it is probably under extracted. In that case, try a little finer grind to result in a more bold flavor.
The Amount of Coffee Used: When you visit your favorite coffee shop and your cup has that strong bold flavor you love, it is because they have dialed in the perfect amount for your cup size. A common mistake for people brewing at home is that they do not use enough coffee. If your coffee lacks that bold punch, try adding a little more to your brewer. A good rule of thumb for a bold coffee is one tablespoon for every six ounces of water.
Water Temperature: Coffee is meant to be brewed at between 195 and 205 degrees. Many people who do pour-overs make the mistake of not using water that is hot enough. Be sure to check your water temp to ensure the proper extraction.
Clean Equipment: Brewing coffee releases oils and leaves behind residue. Be sure to thoroughly clean your equipment after every use to avoid bitterness from previous brews.
Follow these few tips and you will be drinking café like coffee at home in no time. Enjoy and never stop perfecting the trade and chasing that perfect cup!