Why doesn't my coffee taste right?
Brewing coffee can be incredibly simple. Add some water to ground coffee, filter it, and bingo, you have coffee! But what happens if it doesn’t taste quite the way you want it too? Maybe it tastes too strong, too weak, too bitter, too sour. Over the next few weeks we’re talking all about brewing and putting together our top tips to ensure every cup is as delicious as it should be.
Let’s start with a surprising fact, coffee only wants to give off 18 to 22% of it’s flavour. Anything less and it's too weak or sour, anything more and it’s too strong or bitter. So how do we hit that sweet spot? Here’s the 5 variables to control for a better tasting cup, every-time no matter your method.
5 variables to control in every brew...
A good recipe is all you need! A good starting point for all our coffees is using a 16:1 coffee brew ratio. This means using 16 parts water to one part coffee. Using a scale to measure your coffee and water ratio will always yield the best results. If you are making espresso at home, a 2:1 brew ratio is a good starting point. We have specific brew ratios for all our coffees on our Barista Guides.
The grind is super important! Grind size directly affects the rate of extraction or how quickly all the flavours from the coffee will end up in the water. A good rule of thumb is the finer the grind, the faster the water can extract flavour from the coffee. Because grinding coffee increases surface area and thus begins to stale (oxidize) as soon as it’s ground it’s important to grind fresh just before brewing to achieve peak flavour quality and aromatics.
In most drip brewing situations, grind size also affects the amount of time a brew takes. A coarser grind will allow water to pass by them rather quickly, while finer grinds increase the grind bed's resistance to the water.
The temperature of your water will also affect your extraction. Hotter water will extract more, quicker; colder water will extract less. Water temperature is generally best between 195 - 205 F, or 91 - 96 C. It should not be boiling. A good electric kettle can be set to your exact desired temperature.
4. CONTACT TIME
The more time water has to interact with ground coffee, the higher your extraction will be. However, the way contact time impacts strength will be determined by the type of brew you’re making. It is important to note that contact time is very dependant on the other brew variables and quite often most related to grind size.
As 98% of your cup, water composition is one of the major factors in how a coffee will taste, and also one of the most difficult to control. We find it best with a fairly low ppm count between 90 and 120ppm. Most common water filtration methods work well to reduce unwanted additions to water such as lead, chlorine, copper, and mercury, but if you want to take your coffee brewing water to the next level check out the PEAK water jug or 3rd wave water packets.
A Quick Guide to Brew Basics