Coffee means different things to different people. To some, real coffee is a 2 oz, perfectly extracted, double shot, served up in a thick-walled, pre-heated demitasse cup. For others, coffee comes in the form of a 20 oz, skinny, half-caf, Irish Cream mocha in a paper to-go cup with whipped cream and cocoa sprinkles. Regardless of how you love your coffee, we would like to offer up the following information to help you make the most of your brew.
Here are some basic guidelines to help you understand preparing coffee in a wide variety of ways:
Making Coffee in an automatic drip brewer is America’s popular choice. However, Few machines have what it takes to brew at the correct time and temperature. Finding one that brews at 195-205 degrees for no longer then 6 minutes is extremely important. Then you’ll need to decide on the filter. Paper filters tend to lend their own paper flavor to the finished cup while trapping key coffee oils. The resulting cup is sediment free and you can reduce the papery flavor by wetting the filter before brewing. Gold-plated reusable filters impart no flavor of their own and allow all the oils into the coffee. It is important to use filtered water especially on an auto-drip machine not only to balance the taste of the coffee, but also to prevent mineral buildup in all the different parts of the machine you can’t clean.
Follow the manufactures Directions and use fresh medium ground coffee. You will want to measure the water yourself separately as the cup measurement lines on each machine are different and often don’t represent any standard measurement. If your machine does not brew directly into an insulated carafe pour the brewed coffee into one, or drink it really fast so that it doesn’t burn on the hot plate. Finally thoroughly clean all parts after every use so that the coffee oils aren’t sitting around getting rancid on you.
The Clever Dripper is an immersion drip device. It combines aspects of a french press and a pour over. It is much easier to use and more consistent than a pour over, while providing a cleaner flavor profile than a french press. This is our recommendation for making single serving coffee.
HOW TO MAKE A CLEVER
- Grind roughly 20 grams of coffee on medium coarseness while bringing water to a boil.
- Place a filter in the Clever and pour hot water into it to preheat it as well as minimize the flavor of the paper. Then use this water to preheat a cup.
- Pour 375 grams (13 oz.) of hot water at around 200 degrees, saturating the grounds within the filter.
- Cover and let steep 3-4 minutes.
- Give a gentle stir and then place the Clever onto a cup to drain.
- Drink up!
We suggest that you adjust the grind, the dose, and the extraction time in order to suit your tastes and the environment.
What is Espresso?
Espresso is coffee brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans. To pull a good shot of espresso there are many different, important steps to be taken – from choosing the beans in the blend to the cup the shot is poured into.
Traditionally, at least three different single origin coffee beans are used to achieve the complexity that is desired in a shot of espresso. Usually, the base of an espresso blend is made up of a coffee that tends to be smooth, almost to the point of blandness. This base makes up the majority of the blend and provides a foundation of body and sweetness to the coffee without dominating the flavor. This then allows for small ratios of more unique coffees with distinctive flavors to be added to the blend, contributing their uniqueness without overwhelming the palate. These additions come in the form of acidity/brightness, distinctive flavors (chocolate, berry, citrus, etc.), complexity, richness and body.
Espresso’s top potential is reached in roasting when the sweetness is maximized and the bitterness and acidity are reduced. Without sweetness and aroma the espresso will never be palatable. Many roasters roast espresso fairly dark. As espresso magnifies whatever flavor is present in the coffee, dark roasted espresso will result in a bitter, charcoal tasting brew. Roasting the beans lightly for an espresso blend will feature the unique flavors present while helping to preserve the sugars.
How to Extract Espresso
To properly extract espresso requires a lot of patience, skill and practice. Not to mention the importance of using clean, professional quality equipment. It is essential to use a burr grinder and to grind the coffee just before use. Coffee oils are highly volatile and will grow rancid and bitter very quickly. The grinder should be turned on for 15-20 seconds each time a shot is to be made so that only freshly ground coffee is used for each shot. Do not use coffee that has been sitting in the grinder. The espresso grinder must be adjusted before each session or shift and periodically throughout the day as temperature and humidity change and will affect your extraction time. Avoid buying espresso from shops that have “Do not adjust/touch” signs on their grinder. The ideal extraction time for a shot of espresso is 23-28 seconds. Dispose of any espresso grounds that are not used within 30 seconds. Grinding in this way will require several pulls on the doser as your espresso grinder was most likely designed to dose a full hopper of ground coffee, not coffee as it is grinding. There are many improvements happening right now in the world of espresso concerning the design of espresso grinders as it has become apparent that the highest quality espresso is only achieved when the coffee is ground just before use, not sitting in a warm hopper, exposed to air and light.
To dose the coffee into the basket, pull the doser lever several times as the coffee is grinding until the entire basket is filled with ground coffee. Tamping will compress the coffee considerably so it is not unusual to have a mound of coffee in your basket. Once you have the desired amount of coffee in the portafilter, you must then distribute the grounds evenly using your finger. Different baristas have different ideas about the proper way to distribute espresso; you must find the way that works best for you and your shots. The idea is to make sure that the espresso is distributed even within the basket to avoid creating any dense or weak places in the puck when tamping. Once you have evenly distributed the grounds you are ready to tamp.
Tamping is a skill that is often neglected in espresso preparation. The purpose is to create a puck of coffee through which the hot water from the espresso machine will pierce evenly without pressing into the grounds or leaving any empty space on the sides of the basket. Placing the portafilter on a counter edge, hold the tamper with the base of the handle in the palm of your hand. Next with your wrist straight, and so that the tamper is a straight extension of your arm, press gently on the coffee with around five pounds of pressure. Some of the grounds will most likely stick to the side of the basket so lightly tap the basket with the handle on the portafilter to knock the grounds onto the flat pellet you just formed. For the finishing tamp, with the tamper held as before, press on the pellet with around thirty pounds of pressure. Tamping on a scale is helpful to do until you are comfortable with the amount of impact that is necessary to get the appropriate pressure amount. After tamping, spin the tamper 720° while continuing to apply 20 pounds of pressure to polish the surface. Make sure you tamp evenly. An uneven tamp will produce an uneven extraction. Do not adjust the pressure of your tamp to make up for a grind that is too large or small.
The choice of the espresso machine is very important to both water temperature and temperature stability. With a stable brewing temperature you can achieve an even extraction and maximize the potential of the espresso. The water used for espresso must be filtered. To brew good espresso consistently the water temperature inside the espresso machine should be between 92-96°C. Run water every time you take the portafilter out and again before you replace it. If you do this regularly you should be able to maintain a constant temperature within the espresso machine. The espresso cup should be pre-heated and have thick walls with a narrow mouth to keep in the heat and aroma, proportionately.
For those who crave a sense of ritual in their daily coffee brewing experience, there is the always lovely French Press. Also known as a “press pot”, this device features a cylindrical carafe with a lid/plunger, complete with wire or nylon filter and a sturdy frame and handle. Surely, the popularity of the French Press has a great deal to do with its aesthetic appeal as well as the careful routine involved in its preparation, but there are also a few distinct differences in a cup of French Press coffee that set it apart from other brewing methods. Here we will go over the process of brewing in a French Press, and why someone may or may not want to choose this as their preferred method of making coffee.
Once you have chosen a French Press that suits your individual needs (yes, there are endless styles and sizes), and you have your favorite freshly roasted whole bean coffee on hand, you are ready to begin the French Press ritual.
- Begin heating your water (remember it is best to start with cold, filtered water).
- Grind the coffee as evenly as possible, enough to where the grounds will not pass through the filter screen. Usually, the appropriate grind will be a bit coarser than that used for a filter drip brewer, but not as coarse as that used for a percolator. Note that the finer the grind used, the more oils and aromatic compounds will be released in your cup.
- Measure out the ground coffee (7.25 grams per 4-5 oz. of water depending on desired strength) and place it into the bottom of the vessel. Remember, if you use a typical 2 Tbl. measuring spoon use one scoop per 8-10 oz. of water.
- Once your water is heated to 195 degrees F., pour the correct amount of water slowly into the vessel to mix with the coffee grounds. Do not fill the vessel too full. Just below the spout is as full as you ever want to go.
- Now that your coffee and water are together at last, take a spoon and mix the grounds to help them disperse into the water.
- Place the lid/plunger into the vessel to where it is keeping the bulk of the heat trapped inside but not weighing on the grounds and brew. Usually leveling the screen filter to just below the spout works fine.
- Now for the most difficult part of French Press preparation – wait four minutes for the brew to develop.
- After four minutes, slowly push the plunger downward to the bottom of the vessel, being careful at first to stay evenly atop the grounds. As urban legend has it, the best pot of French Press coffee comes from a plunge that is slow and steady, using only the weight of your hand to apply pressure to the plunger, though some resistance is normal and may require you to use some force near the bottom.
- Now, leave the plunger depressed so it keeps the grounds in place, pour a cup, and enjoy. Any left over coffee should be poured into another cup or carafe immediately, so as not to over-steep the remaining coffee.
Given your taste preference, grind style and technique, the environment, as well as the desired strength of the brew, you may want to experiment with your brew time, as well as the grind.
Now,just why does that French Press coffee you drank taste so darn different? Well, one major difference between a French Press and other brewing methods is the control you have over the water temperature and brew time, which are so very important yet often are out of your control on many automated drip machines. Also, the absence of a paper or cloth filter allows many of the precious coffee oils to make in into your cup instead of stuck on a filter. And, if you enjoy a heavy body presence in your cup, the added sediment and oils will surely appeal to you. On the other hand, French Press coffee is not for everyone, especially those without a decent grinder. Because many consumer grinders do not get a consistently even grind, one may find the brew too thick or sludgy, due to an increase of fine grinds or sediment in the cup. Also, most French Presses are not designed to keep coffee hot, so you should not make a huge pot and allow it to sit, as it will get cold quickly and will also continue to strengthen the longer it sits. With those things said, the French Press produces a truly unique and tasteful cup of coffee. It gives the brewer a high level of control over the process, as well as a preparation technique and artful vessel to enhance the coffee experience.
The Aerobie AeroPress makes “smooth, fast, easy” coffee with easy cleanup. This coffee maker can prepare one to two cups of coffee at a time, depending on how you prefer it. The process is quick and with the micro filters it prepares a very clean cup of coffee. Aerobie markets it as “espresso” and “the absolute best cup of coffee”, two descriptors that almost make it worth avoiding. However, it makes an excellent cup of coffee if you ignore the brew instructions on the box. What I mean is that they recommend brewing an “espresso” and then watering down to have an “americano”. It is certainly not espresso, as espresso is optimal (according to the nice work done by Illy) between 195-205 degrees and under 9 bars of pressure. See above if you want to know what espresso is. So, we recommend that you ignore the brew instructions that come on the box. Try out one of the techniques below and then experiment to get it just right for yourself.
Recipe #1: BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS TECHNIQUE, AS IT RELIES ON FLIPPING NEAR BOILING WATER!!
- Heat 200 grams (7 ounces) of water to around 200 degrees.
- Grind 17 grams of coffee, using a medium grind. Pour the grinds into the Aeropress placed upside down, with the plunger used as the base.
- Saturate the grinds using all of the water. At this point you can fit the filter into the screen. Quickly saturate the the filter.
- Stir gently at 30 seconds.
- Screw on the screen with the filter attached. Preheat your mug if you have extra hot water.
- Flip the Aeropress onto a cup at 50 seconds.
- Begin plunging slowly and steadily, attempting to take about 10 seconds, to finish by 1 minute total.
Recipe #2: THE NO-FLIP TECHNIQUE.
- Heat 275 grams (9.5 ounces) of water to around 200 degrees.
- Place a filter inside the screen and screw it onto the Aeropress. Saturate the filter with hot water, with the Aeropress on the mug you will use, in order to preheat it.
- Grind 20 grams of coffee, using a fine grind.
- Saturate the grinds using all of the water. It should pour up to the 4. You may have a little left over.
- Stir immediately, being gentle.
- Fill up with any remaining water if necessary.
- Place the top piece into the Aeropress and let it sit until 1 minute has gone by from when you intially saturated the grinds.
- At 1 minute plunge slowly enough to finish at 1 minute and 30 seconds.
We suggest that you adjust the grind, the dose, the amount of water, and the extraction time in order to suit your tastes and the environment. There is no right way to make an Aeropress (but plenty of wrong ways)!
A great way to prepare fresh coffee one cup at a time is to use a cone-shaped manual brewer, or pour-over. This is an easy way to prepare fresh, high-clarity brewed coffee in an environment that is easy to clean, control, and maintain. These filters are sometimes referred to by the brand name Melitta. Brewing with the pour-over method is extremely cost-effective and requires very little counter space.
Manual filter cones or baskets come in different shapes and sizes. It is important to use a brew basket that is appropriate for the amount of coffee you wish to brew. A wedge shaped filter is better for brewing smaller amounts of coffee (1 to 3 cups) and flat-bottomed baskets work best for larger brews.
How to Use a Manual Filter
The items necessary for preparing coffee using this brewing method are:
- A ceramic or plastic cone brewer (not to be confused with a gold filter) and a paper filter (cloth, metal, or synthetic filters can also be used).
- Freshly ground coffee.
- A vessel, like a preheated mug or thermos.
- Hot Water
- A spoon
Proper grind and portioning, as always, are essential in order for proper extraction to occur. The amount of ground coffee you use depends on how much you are brewing. A general rule of thumb is to use approximately 2 tablespoons per 6 oz. Of course you can always adjust to your taste.
- Place a filter into the brew basket.
- Preheat your mug or thermos by rinsing the filter with hot water.
- Put the filter cone or brew basket directly onto the container making sure it is steady.
- Boil water. (Water temp. should be approx. 95 degree C/203 degree F.)
- Measure the coffee into the filter and level out the bed of coffee a bit to obtain an even extraction.
- Measure hot water and pour a small amount of water over the grounds to moisten the surface. Let stand a few seconds to allow the grounds to absorb the water and any “blooming” to dissipate.
- Slowly pour the remaining water over the grounds in a circular motion. If any of the grounds remain dry or if the flow of the drip stops, give it a stir.
- After the water has run through all the grounds remove the basket from the container and stir the coffee.
We suggest that you adjust the grind, the dose, and the extraction time in order to suit your tastes and the environment.
“Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.”
– Turkish Proverb
One of the earliest known forms of brewed coffee, dating back to the 16th century, is the brewing technique commonly referred to in the western world as Turkish or Greek coffee. Believed to have originated in Damascus, and still a common brewing method throughout the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, this style of preparing and drinking coffee enjoys a much smaller, cult-like following in the US. Once one has experienced a well-prepared cup of Turkish coffee, or better yet has taken part in the brewing ritual itself, no coffee experience can match it in terms of its rich flavor, intense sweetness, mythical tradition, and delicate preparation process.
The key to preparing a good cup of Turkish coffee at home is the acquisition of an ibrik (also known as a cezve, kanaka, džezva, xhezve or bríki) and the appropriate grinder. An ibrik is a traditional Turkish pot designed to brew coffee in the hot desert sand. Traditionally made of copper, the ibrik has a wide base that narrows at the top, one or sometimes two spouts, and a long wooden handle. Ibriks are available in a variety of sizes, and are made from a variety of different of metals.
Should one be inclined to pursue an authentic Turkish coffee preparation method, a mortar and pestle can be used to grind the coffee beans into a fine powder, though there are a wide variety of quality handmills available, such as a Zassenhaus Mokka Havanna, which are capable of pulverizing the beans to the desired consistency. Many machine grinders now have a setting for Turkish coffee that can give you a very fine grind, though you will achieve the best results through the use of a good handmill. The fundamental component to a perfect cup of Turkish coffee is to grind the beans to a powdery finish.
How to Prepare Turkish Coffee:
Once you have your ibrik, or similar vessel, at hand, and have ground your coffee, gather some sugar, cold, filtered water, and a spoon. You are ready to begin.
First, measure the water using your serving cups. Traditionally, a small demitasse-style cup is used. If you are making just one serving, fill the cup to the rim with water and pour it into the ibrik. Follow the same logic for two, three, or four servings. It is important to note that you need some room at the top of the ibrik, maybe a third of the total volume or so, to allow for the “bubbling up” of the brew. Once you have the correct amount of water in the ibrik, add one heaping teaspoon of coffee per serving into the water.
Now for the sugar and spice, and your chance to really compliment the brew with your own personal touch. Sugar is a common ingredient in Turkish coffee (and to many a staple), and spices such as cardamom (ground seeds or powder) and anise (also finely ground or powder) are also sometimes used to spice up the brew. The amount of sugar and spice used will greatly alter the taste and experience of drinking the brew, given the size of the demitasse, so a relatively conservative starting point would be a teaspoon of sugar for every two heaping teaspoons of coffee. In Turkey, it is common to be offered four degrees of sweetness: sade (unsweetened; no sugar), sekerli (a little sweetened; half a teaspoon or so), orta sekerli (medium sweetened; about one teaspoon), cok sekerli (very sweet; at least one and a half teaspoons). You can work this part out in your own evolution as a Turkish coffee drinker, as slightly increasing or decreasing the amount of sugar will greatly change the sweetness and intensity of the brew, a decision you should make based on your own taste preferences. Once you have your water, coffee, and sugar in the ibrik, mix them together with a spoon until the sugar dissolves. Now it’s out to the desert to cook over the hot sand, or in many cases I’m sure, the stove top (which should do a fine job standing in for the sand).
Once your sugar and spice(s), if you’ve used them, are completely dissolved, place the ibrik on the heat source. Your heat should be at a consistent medium temperature, so as not to scorch the coffee and sugar. There is no need to stir the brew from this point on, but you do need to very attentively watch the pot as it heats up. When the coffee reaches a certain temperature it will begin to slowly boil and rise, or “bubble up”. This is normal, even desired, though you need to be very cautious as to not allow the brew to boil up and over the top of the ibrik, as it will rise very quickly once it gets going.
Once it has risen close to the top, remove the entire ibrik from the heat and allow the brew to settle down again. Once it settles, place the ibrik back on the heat source, and once again allow the brew to rise, though not quite to the top, and then remove it from the heat source. Repeat this process one more time, for a total of three bubblings. Now, pour off a little froth into each serving cup, and return it to the heat source. Allow the brew to bubble up for a fourth time, remove from the heat and slowly fill each cup with the brew, a little at a time in each to assure that each cup has the same amount of liquid in the end. Be sure to give the drink a minute or so to cool, as well as to allow the grounds to settle in the bottom of the cup. Also, advise guests that they should not drink the “mud” at the bottom of the cup, unless they enjoy chewing their coffee.
When finished drinking a cup of Turkish coffee, flip the cup over onto the serving plate and allow the grounds to run up the sides of the cup as it is cooling. Once the cup has thoroughly cooled, flip it back over and examine the patterns of the grounds in your cup, as it has long been said that they hold the drinker’s fortune. So if there is a fortune-teller nearby, you are in luck, but if not, at least you get to enjoy a great cup of coffee topped off with a little romance, mythology, and tradition.