These Three Variables Are Everything.
Some people are resigned to the idea that good coffee is something they have to buy from a coffee shop but it doesn't have to be so and, in fact, Popular.Coffee is on a mission to change that. The key is understanding the three simple variables of brewing. Once you've got these, all brewing will become simple and fun. You'll nail it every time! We cover the variables one by one below, they are COFFEE, WATER & TIME.
A good specialty roast (like ours at Popular.Coffee) will always be stamped with a roast date. The roast date is there because coffee is a fruit, and like all produce, it will taste best fresh! Ground coffee will not stay fresh as long as whole bean, this is because ground coffee has more surface area to oxidize and oxygen makes your coffee go stale.
When is coffee no longer fresh and delicious?
|WHOLE BEANS||GROUND COFFEE|
|Opened bag + airtight container||4 weeks||2 weeks|
|Unopened bag||6 weeks||
For context, it's important to understand that industrial coffee is produced in such large quantities and distributed through such long global supply chains, that it never gets to you freshly roasted. That's why most of the coffee in the supermarket doesn't have a roast date on it (it just has a sell-by date, which just indicates when it will go rancid). In order to mask the staleness of industrial coffee it's often over roasted, and we'll explain more about roasting in the next section.
At first, coffee beans are green and it's the roasting process that gives them their beautiful brown color. There are light, medium and dark roasted coffee beans, which all vary in how they look and taste. Light and Medium roasts are served in the most premium coffee shops like Intelligentsia & Blue Bottle and are loved because they are complex and let you taste the original flavors of the coffee fruit. Dark roasts are the more classic taste profile, found in European Espresso bars. Super market coffee and Retail coffee chains such as Dunkin' & Starbucks aim for a consistent roast on an industrial scale and sadly this results in a 'consistently' burnt roast. Popular.Coffee offers 3 wonderful medium roasts, listed below:
- WARM has a voluptuous and smooth body, perfectly accented by milk or sugar
- BRIGHT is dynamic and complex, which makes it perfect for drinking black
- CALM is a perfectly balanced medium roast decaf
As of November 2020 we are pleased to offer our customers a well calibrated dark roast called MAGIC. Its smoky taste is clear and present but does not obscure the original flavor of the beans.
What's the difference between coffee bean roasts?
The original taste of the coffee fruit dominates. Some people find it too acidic.
A balance of both the coffee fruit and the smoky flavor of the roasting.
The smoky taste of the roasting dominates.
|Black & oily||
Flat, burnt, bitter
There are two ways to measure coffee, by volume (eg. a scoop or spoon and an eyeball) and by weight, using a scale. By volume is not very precise. Even when you think your scoops are identical some coffee beans will be heavier than others (seriously this is a thing), which can skew your dose by up to 20%. If you always brew with the same coffee, ground in the same way, using the same method and for the same number of cups, you'll get pretty good at eyeballing the right volume of coffee and you probably don't need to measure with weight.
However, if you want to to brew with different coffees, in different ways, and for a different number of cups, you'll quickly want to start weighing your grinds to keep track of what tastes best to you. The key benefits of measuring by weight are that you'll be able to a) fine tune to your preferences and b) consistently replicate, even if you're brewing in different ways and quantities. Measuring by weight makes your brewing super consistent and easy to fine tune because you are able to brew using a precise coffee to water ratio. This just means that for every gram of coffee you will use a fixed volume of water.
For some of the most common brew methods, like Automatic Drip, French Press and Pour Over (start with a medium grind) the ratio is around 13 ml of water for every gram of coffee. This table shows how to hit the commonly used 1:13 ratio without having to do any maths yourself!
1:13 Coffee to Water Ratio Cheat Sheet
|Coffee grounds volume||
Coffee grounds weight
|1.5 tablespoon||20 grams||350 ml||12 oz|
|2 tablespoon||30 grams||500 ml||17 oz|
|4 tablespoon||60 grams||1000 ml||34 oz|
|6 tablespoon||88 grams||1500 ml||51 oz|
Coffee Grind Size
Grind size can go from coarse to extra fine. A specific brew method will require a specific grind size, however, there is wiggle room either side for personal preference. The finer the grind the more coffee surface area will coming into contact with the water, allowing you to brew with less water and time. Fine grinds are hard to achieve with most home grinders, which is why Espresso bars and Nespresso capsules are so popular. Popular.Coffee offers all our coffees in two grind options:
- a convenient HOME BREW GRIND, which is a medium grind that can be used for all popular home brewing methods.
- an exclusive NESPRESSO MICROGRIND, which is an extra-fine grind, impossible to achieve with a typical home grinder, and specially calibrated for use with Nespresso Refillable Capsules.
What grind size to use to brew with?
|COARSE||COARSE / MEDIUM||FINE||EXTRA FINE|
|Refillable Nespresso Capsules|
There are two ways to measure water, you can eyeball the level or you can measure exactly. If you always brew the same way, you'll get good at eyeballing. However, if you want to start brewing with a specific coffee to water ratio, you'll need to measure exact quantities. For this you can use a measuring jug, or even a scale (in the metric system 1g of water is the same as 1 ml of water).
Brew coffee with water that has just been boiled, which usually happens at 212F. Some coffee nerds promote using water that is somewhere between 185F - 205F depending on the brew method. That usually happens after resting for about 10 seconds at room temperature. Naturally, this doesn't apply to making cold brew coffee.
Unless you live in an area with excessively "hard" or "soft" water, it's fine to brew with tap water. When water is too hard the interaction between the minerals in the water and your coffee can result in some funky flavors. If it is too soft then there won't be enough minerals in the water for your coffee to stick to during the brewing process, which will result in less flavor. If your tap water is hard or soft, use a bottled mineral water like Poland Spring. Do not use distilled water (which is very "soft" water) or very high mineral content water (which is very "hard").
Extraction = Water + Time
Brewing is the process of extracting soluble materials (flavor, caffeine and oils) from the grounds and into your brew. Water acts as a solvent and can dissolve up to 30% of the coffee grinds you use. When a brew is under-extracted it will taste sour and weak. If over-extracted it will taste bitter and harsh. Different brewing processes are just different ways to control the time of the extraction so it tastes good. Coffee grinding also impacts extraction, as a finer grind offers for surface area to the water, helping the coffee extract faster.
Using Pressure In Extraction
Using pressure means that you can extract more flavor from your coffee with less time and water. The most popular home brewing methods are Automatic Drip, French Press and Pour Over; these don't use any pressure and therefore water remains in contact or passes through the coffee for the longest time. Aeropress and Moka Pot both use some pressure. Finally, Espresso is well known for using pressure. A common Espresso recipe will use 15 grams of coffee to make a 30ml shot, which is a 1 to 2 coffee to water ratio. Without the use of high pressure it would be impossible to make a good brew so fast and with such a small amount of water.
Extracting By Percolation
Percolation is a brewing process that passes water "through" coffee and then "through" a filter. It can use either gravity or pressure, or a combination of both to percolate water through your coffee & filter. The Automatic Drip and Pour Over methods both use percolation.
Extracting By Immersion
Immersion is a brewing process that "soaks" coffee in water and then strains out the grinds. Brewing coffee with a French Press or Aeropress inverted method are both examples of immersion. Because the grounds are sitting soaked in water, precise timing is very important, so we always recommend using a timer.
Brewing delicious coffee should not feel like a chore. Now that you understand the three simple variables, you can play around with your coffee. Brew it your way, taste and learn! There is no perfect coffee other than the one you like best. Similarly, there is no one brewing method is better than another, they are just better suited to different needs and tastes.