Measurement Tools can’t make Specialty Coffee
By now, you will have realized that making coffee doesn’t have to be complicated. It will come as a surprise to some that you are able to make good coffee without scales, tds meters, etc. I’m not knocking measurement tools.
They are vital for benchmarking and confirming extractions; however to rely on them takes the focus away from the most important tool: your tongue.
The Food Network shows that putting aspiring chefs in difficult conditions (e.g. cooking over open flame; using cheap, store bought equipment, or canned foods; etc.) challenges their ability to control the most important aspect of cooking. FLAVOUR.
Coffee is no different. Just as I’m unimpressed by the home chef who serves me a sous vide steak medium rare but under seasoned, I am equally unimpressed by the pretentious barista who tries to dazzle me with their knowledge of the katsuya method, or the morimoto hack, or the australian reverse toilet bowl spin... If the coffee doesn’t taste good, could I care less about how it was brewed?
Fundamental Testing Variables In Brewing
Time, Temperature, Grind Size and Agitation:
These to me are the fundamental variables that we must control. Yes, yes, I know, I know, I have left out water quality, bean quality, roast level, sun spots, etc. They aren’t listed as fundamental variables because we are assuming that they are constants or fixed variables in our brewing experiments. In other words, don’t start adding or removing minerals to your water, or change your beans from day to day until you’ve mastered the four fundamentals listed above.
Part 1: Testing the Impacts of Time
- French press (ideally two identical brewers, but we can still learn with one)
- Burr grinder
- Fresh whole beans (preferably medium roast, not dark. Remember our test ratio of 60g coffee grinds per 1 litre of water)
- Fancy Kettle
Measure an equal quantity of coffee grinds into each of the two french presses. Then, add the same amount of hot water into each french press. To test the impacts of time on the coffee, plunge one of the french presses 2 minutes earlier than the other. For example, plunge french press A after three minutes, and french press B after 5 minutes of brewing. Serve the coffee in identical cups, that are marked with an A and B on the bottom with tape. Now, ask someone to mix the cups up and see if you can taste the difference. More importantly, try to identify the differences in identifiable words. You may prefer cup A, while someone else in your household prefers cup B. That’s ok! The main thing is you are tasting the effect of time on your coffee. Time matters!
Part 2: Testing the Impacts of Temperature
Now, repeat the exercise in Part 1, except this time brew one of the french presses with water at a different temperature than the other. Pour boiling water into french press A and water boiled by 30 seconds less into french press B. In this exercise, plunge both french presses at the same time for four minutes, and then serve in cups labelled A and B once again. Describe what you taste, but remember to use identifiable words, not marketing terms. Now you know, that temperature matters when brewing coffee. Temperature matters!
Part 3: Testing the Impacts of Grind Size
In this exercise, put the same amount of coffee in french press A and french press B. This time, grind the coffee (remember! 60 grams per litre ratio) in french press A finer than in french press B. Add water of the same temperature to both, and plunge at the same time. Taste and observe. Grind size matters!
Part 4: Testing the Impacts of Agitation
By now you are likely climbing the walls having consumed six brewed coffees. Stop whining, and go into a caffeine rage!
No, that’s not what I mean by agitation. Though, if you really have consumed six brewed coffees I’m guessing you really are feeling a little more than antsy.
Agitation, simply, refers to stirring the grinds after you add water to them. What does that do? It increases our brew strength. More specifically, it allows more dissolvable compounds to come out in the water, quicker. It’s like stirring kool aid crystals; the quicker you stir, the faster it dissolves.
In this case, again, use the same amount of coffee grinds in each french press (60g/litre. Notice, I don’t go by the standard 1 to 16 ratio of coffee to water thingy because I believe people will struggle to divide by 16 in their head. I really don’t want you to bring out a calculator to make coffee, people look at you funny).This time, stir french press A for approximately 10 strokes and do not stir french press B at all. Plunge both pots at the same time, then taste and observe.
If you survive this chapter, you will have my respect, and moreover, you will have learned about the basic principles of extraction. Now go have a nap. Agitation Matters!
MORE ON THE COVID SURVIVAL COFFEE GUIDE
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Chapter 2: Now that you understand freshness as it pertains to coffee beans (3-14 days from its BIRTH DATE or Roast date, and only buy enough to last a week) . This will give us a good starting point because we finally have some quality ingredients...Learn More >
Chapter 3: Ok.. you managed to escape the matrix and now that you have acquired the supplies needed to take on the coffee universe on your own, we are here to offer you some help!
4 Tools Needed to Brew Coffee At Home... Read More >
Chapter 4: If you have Italian friends, and they offer you a "caffe" , chances are they pull out a stove top device that unscrews in four parts, (base, top pouring chamber or pitcher, basket and basket cover) called a Moka Pot...Learn More >
Chapter 5: I have a personal problem with pour over people because they tend to hold the opinion that pour overs like Hario v60, Chemex, Kalita, are great, but that batch brew Drip Coffee Makers suck. The reality is...Read More >
Chapter 6: Let's explore further why the proponents of Cold Brew coffee are so maniacal in their support of this process. 4 reasons: ... Learn More >
Chapter 7: Frankly this viral hype surprises most of us in the industry but, in my opinion, it is a good thing that people are seeking innovation when it comes to coffee beverages. I just wish it didn’t involve instant coffee! ... Learn More >
Chapter 8: Prior to the cold brew fad, the go-to method of making a cold coffee was to utilize the alien👽 technology known as ice.
Apparently, when you add ice to things, they get colder...Learn More >
Chapter 9: If you survive this chapter, you will have my respect, and moreover, you will have learned about the basic principles of extraction...Learn More >
Chapter 10: We are revisiting a brewing device that was long ago dismissed as an alternative for espresso. Of course I'm talking about the Aeropress. Full admission. I was an anti Aeropress-er (not anymore). For those of you not familiar with the Aeropress way of making coffee it's a strange looking plastic device that looks like a giant syringe...Learn More >
Chapter 11: I'm going to tread into dangerous waters here and talk about one of the most controversial taboo subjects in the realm of 3rd and 4th wave coffee (aka pretentious coffee). What am I talking about? Blended drinks.. , AKA frappuccinos...Learn More >
Chapter 12:There is a false belief marketed that you need to spend a lot of money on specialized equipment in order to make good coffee and latte art. This insidious belief implies you need to...Learn More >
Chapter 13:The easiest way to avoid cream and sugar in your coffee is to buy higher quality coffee, you will taste that it is naturally sweet as opposed to the dark burnt, bitter stuff from chain stores, so try out a local independent coffee shop...Learn More >
Post Pandemic: Luckily, in the past the coffee industry has proven itself relatively recession-proof. Big question is, if it is pandemic proof ?...Learn More >