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An updated Coffee Brew Guide

March 1, 2011

I just shared a cup of El Salvador La Montana with Kaelin that he brewed at Detour Roasters Cafe and we, as usual, discussed the success (or lack thereof) of the brew. I didn’t think much about it until I came here and noticed a few people looking at the post I did from a year and a half ago  about brewing coffee in a french press. Since that post I’ve been lucky enough to learn a few more things about brewing coffee from Kaelin and Detour so I thought I would share them here.

I won’t call it essential, because it isn’t, but a scale makes things SO much easier and more consistent when brewing coffee. Weighing not only the amount of coffee you use but also the amount of water will help you brew great juice and conjure those sometimes ghostly tasting notes in your cup. Try and find one that measures to 0.1g .

Using your scale it is simple to know how much coffee and water to use. Just apply a ratio of 60g of coffee to 1000g of water (or 1 litre). A half pot would be 30g of coffee and 500g of water. One 10oz cup (I’ve learned) is about 18g of coffee and 300g of water.
You can apply this ratio to almost any brew method (espresso and aeropress don’t work).

One piece of equipment that IS nearly essential is a good burr grinder (yes, technically you can make coffee without it but chances are it won’t be very good coffee). Hario sells two very good hand grinders and Baratza sells a line of great home grinders that range from $100 – $500.
I say it is nearly essential because the GRIND is so critical. Tiny adjustments in the grind are detectable in the cup. Too coarse and you will have a weak, astringent cup. Too fine and it will be bitter and muddy. And the range from too fine to too coarse is surprisingly small. It usually takes a few tries to nail down a good grind setting for a new brew method which supplies a balanced, sweet, clean cup. It is also the most difficult thing to convey in a brew guide like this. Every grinder (even in the same line of grinders) is different and will have its own setting for a brewer. I can only give guidelines relative to each other.

Enough preemptive babble, the brews!


I will put this in here only because I think this is how coffee tastes best. Most people do not want to drink coffee at home like this, however this is how we evaluate coffee. It is the most consistent brew method I know.
Use a french press grind and add coffee into a small bowl (around 5 ounces) or even glass and add 195-200F water to it. (Measure how much water fits in your bowl and apply the 0.06 ratio to find the amount of coffee to use. )
Wait 4 mins, take a spoon and push the crust around with your head inches off the top. This is breaking the crust and will release the aroma of the coffee. A light brown “crema” will form on top of the coffee. Remove this with a spoon, it doesn’t taste good! Simply let it cool a little, take your spoon and slurp away. Try the coffee at different temperatures as it cools, many coffees don’t reveal themselves until they are cooler.

Here is a much more detailed guide to cupping if you’re interested. Cupping is great to do with some friends also interested in coffee.
(The guide continues from the small menu on the right)

Hario V60:

My day-to-day brewer, a great way to whip up one cup at a time. I’m not going into detail about how to brew properly with it. People seem to be very opinionated about it, and in the end there are many ways to get a good cup. Here are two great tutorials: 1 and 2.
Keep in mind that you can adjust your brew time depending on how much water you’re adding. For example, adding very small increments of water often will have a longer brew time compared to adding lots of water less frequently with the same grind setting.
I use a grind that is very slightly finer than what most will grind for “paper cone”, or a regular drip method. It’s usually about 40% on a scale of espresso to french press.

French Press:

Still a great brew method, in my opinion! Coffee tastes best when it is cupped and when I do a french press I try to recreate a cupping as closely as possible.

1. Start kettle
2. Weigh out your coffee, grind* it fresh
3. Put coffee into french press, add water at 195-200F (about 30 seconds off boil for a kettle with minimal insulation) and set timer for 4mins. Leave the lid off.
4. When your timer goes off, stir the crust down into the coffee slowly and for 3 or 4 seconds. Wait another minute and then plunge the lid slowly.
5. Enjoy!

*  If you’ve ever cupped coffee then you have the proper grind setting already. If not, look for a grind that is a fair bit coarser than the a regular “paper cone” filter grind. If you have a local Starbucks with a calibrated Ditting then ask for around 8. The Ditting recommends 10 but that is too coarse and inconsistent. It is important that the ground coffee is as consistent as possible.
Finding the grind is the tricky part!

There are many more ways to brew up a great cup at home but these seem to be the most common. Search the web for tutorials, people love to write about this stuff.

Happy Caffeinating

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