Friday, March 22, 2013

How To Brew Great Coffee At Home

Hi coffee drinkers. How's your coffee at home? Good? Fantastic! Don't Change anything!
We have customers here at the Roadrunner Cafe who complain about not making good coffee at home. I shouldn't share this with you because I don't want to lose you as a customer!! Actually I was going to write an article on this subject but found a good one in  the National Coffee Association, USA website. They omitted a few important things and were completely wrong once. It's posted below. My comments are added in brackets. It's a long article but worth the time if you want the best coffee you can make at home. I get a little wordy in my comments. It's the COFFEE!!  Will somebody please STOP him!

You can buy our always fresh roasted organic Veracruz coffee (from a secret farm in the hills. heh, heh,) right here in town from our restaurant or from Joe's Deli.

How to Brew Coffee

The Equipment

Make sure that your equipment is thoroughly cleaned after each use by rinsing it with clear, hot water and drying it with an absorbent towel. Check that no grounds have been left to collect on any part of the equipment and that there is no build-up of coffee oil. Such residue can impart a bitter, rancid flavor to future cups of coffee. 
[I think "every time" is overkill. However, It's my experience from brewing coffee commercially for the last 15 years that you absolutely can hurt your coffee with too much buildup (we all call it oil but it's not actually) The problem is that your taste buds adjust to the taste because it ever so gradually changes with the buildup. After a while you have coffee with someone else (like Roadrunner Cafe!) and think your coffee is bad. Might be a different reason but check your equipment and wash your darn cup for the first time in 6 months!!!]

The Coffee

Purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted as possible. Fresh roasted coffee is essential to a superb cup of coffee. And purchase your coffee in small amounts—only as much as you can use in a given period of time. Ideally you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1-2 weeks.
[I added the underlines above. I know this goes against the more thrifty among us, but its true (it's twu, its' twu.. Thank you "Blazing Saddles") My main audience is in Baja Mexico near here. Many of us were here when you couldn't get good coffee for any amount and a gun in your hand unless you knew about the secret place in la Paz. We now have several roasters here in los Cabos who are doing a fine job for a fair price. We have our own roast also. Our house blend, Acme (almost dark) has received great reviews. Of course they are from my mother and what else would she say? Also, fresh ground coffee is usually a little stronger; you likely gain some volume by using a little less grounds per pot. And, by the way, I've never frozen coffee and have read that it's not recommended.]

The Grind

If you purchase whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible. A burr or mill grinder is preferable because all of the coffee is ground to a consistent size.  A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest. If you normally grind your coffee at home with a blade grinder, try having it ground at the store with a burr grinder. You may be surprised at the difference!
[We will gladly grind your coffee at Roadrunner. If you bring in a brand other than ours, my employees may snarl but underneath, they are doing it gladly.]
Do not underestimate the importance of the size of the grind to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be over-extracted, or ground too fine.  On the other hand, if your coffee tastes flat, it may be under-extracted, meaning that your grind is too coarse. Tell the professionals where you purchase your coffee exactly how you will be brewing it. For example, will you be using a plunger pot?  A flat drip filter? A cone drip filter?  A gold mesh filter? They will grind it specifically for the preparation method you have chosen and the equipment you use.
Before using the coffee, try rubbing some of the grounds between your fingers so that you can 'feel' the grind and become acquainted with the differences in size.
Never reuse your coffee grounds. Once brewed, the desirable coffee flavors have been extracted and only the bitter undesirable ones are left.
[We use a great looking old commercial grinder that my sweet wife found somewhere. Fortunately, one of the presets, one step finer than "brewed",  gives exactly the right grind for our brewed coffee. I can't give you advice on different filtering as I've always used paper filters]

The Water

The water you use is VERY important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or imparts a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine. If you are using tap water let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Be sure to use cold water. Do not use distilled or softened water.
[Here's is where I feel they missed a couple of important points.  I completely disagree with the last line above. Why? You want your coffee to taste how you want it!!  Taste is in the mouth of the beholder to rip off a tried and true expression. I've frequently used distilled water. The goal is the best coffee you can make! If distilled water makes better coffee, USE IT! The article didn't mention why they advise not to; it could be health reasons but they are wrong if it is for taste (probably wrong if it's health reasons.) Distilled water will NOT automatically give you bad results. All distilled water is NOT the same. If you drink bottled water which is frequently distilled, you know that you normally find one that is your favorite. Try it at home if your coffee tastes bad. Or try labeled, distilled water. If your coffee tastes great and you have minerals, don't change anything! Just be prepared to buy a new brewer sooner than you expect. Minerals will destroy your brewer. We have a treatment system at Roadrunner Cafe that includes a charcoal filter, sand filter, purification light and a softener. Why? Several reasons. City water virtually always has undesired tastes and in our case particles bigger than you want! Most times a charcoal filter, which is part of our system, will take care of the taste problem. The particle filter gets rid of any sand and other size particles depending on how fine the filter is. The purification light takes care of bacteria. Not normally a problem but with the reputation Mexico has for water, we USE it! Makes our customers happy if nothing else. The softener gets rid of most of the mineral content. Espresso machines are a little delicate. Minerals can render them useless quickly.]

Ratio of Coffee to Water

Use the proper amount of coffee for every six ounces of water that is actually brewed, remembering that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods. A general guideline is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.  Be sure to check the 'cup' lines on your brewer to see how they actually measure.
[This is something I repeat frequently. If you're having trouble, the amount of coffee grounds you use is frequently the issue. Easy fix!! Many commercial brands are ground courser than should be. If you change coffee to our grind, it may be stronger than you are used to. In my home brewer, a level tablespoon per cup as measured on the brewer is exactly right for my taste. Do some science. Might take a couple of pots but you'll end up liking your coffee more. Personal story: When I had a restaurant in San Jose, I left for a month and when I returned, my "old guys" table-full was ready to lynch me. Not even a "welcome back". It was "Fix the d*&^% coffee, NOW!" Turns out the employees decided though a vote or some kind of bad science to increase the amount of ground coffee in the filter by over a third!!  Not only was I making the worst coffee in town, I was paying more to do so!!!]]

Water Temperature During Brewing

Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction.  Colder water will result in flat, under-extracted coffee while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee.  If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not overboil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.

Brewing Time

The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a plunger pot, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso, as the name implies, means that the brew time is short—the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. If the taste of your coffee is not optimal, it is possible that you are either over-extracting (the brew time is too long) or under-extracting (the brew time is too short) your coffee. Experiment with the contact time until you can make a cup of coffee that suits your tastes perfectly.
[They didn't explain the last 2 paragraphs thoroughly but what was said is correct. You normally can't adjust the heat settings on you home brewer. I've almost always been able to get good coffee with the factory heat settings on my equipment.]

Now go make good coffee!

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