How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Craft Coffee at Home Part 1
Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina.
It consisted of very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex, of which he drank two large cups, black and without sugar.”— Ian Fleming. From Russia with Love (1956).”
Craft coffee is a term that refers to the art and science of making high-quality coffee. It involves paying attention to every detail of the coffee production process, from the origin and quality of the beans to the roasting and brewing methods and to the presentation and taste of the final cup. Craft coffee is not just a product, but a philosophy that values quality, sustainability, and transparency in the coffee industry.
Brewing Craft Coffee
There is no definitive answer to what the best brewing method for craft coffee is, as different methods can produce different results and appeal to different preferences and tastes. However, some general factors that can affect the quality and flavor of the coffee are:
The type of coffee beans: Different types of beans have different characteristics and qualities, such as origin, roast level, acidity, body, and aroma. Some beans may be more suitable for certain brewing methods than others, depending on how they react to the water temperature, extraction time, and pressure. For example, espresso machines require finely ground beans that can withstand high pressure and temperature, while French presses work better with coarsely ground beans that can steep in hot water for a longer time.
The grind size: The grind size affects the surface area and the extraction rate of the coffee grounds, which in turn affects the flavor and strength of the coffee. A finer grind size means more surface area and faster extraction, which can result in a stronger and more bitter coffee. A coarser grind size means less surface area and slower extraction, which can result in a weaker and more sour coffee. The optimal grind size depends on the brewing method and the personal preference of the brewer.
- The water temperature: The water temperature affects the solubility and the chemical reactions of the coffee compounds, which in turn affects the flavor and aroma of the coffee. A higher water temperature means more solubility and faster reactions, which can result in a more complex and full-bodied coffee. A lower water temperature means less solubility and slower reactions, which can result in a more delicate and smooth coffee. The ideal water temperature depends on the type of beans and the brewing method, but generally ranges from 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C).
- The extraction time: The extraction time refers to how long the water and the coffee grounds are in contact with each other, which affects how much of the coffee compounds are dissolved into the water. A longer extraction time means more extraction, which can result in a richer and more flavorful coffee. A shorter extraction time means less extraction, which can result in a lighter and more balanced coffee. The optimal extraction time depends on the type of beans, the grind size, and the brewing method, but generally ranges from 2 to 6 minutes.
Types of Brewing Methods
You can choose from various brewing methods and devices, such as espresso machines, AeroPresses, French presses, pour-over drippers, siphons, cold brew makers, and others. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type of coffee, grind size, water temperature, extraction time, and pressure. You can follow some general guidelines or recipes for each method, or you can experiment with different variables to find the best way to extract the flavor and aroma from your beans.
Some of the popular brewing methods for craft coffee are:
- Espresso: A method that uses high pressure and high temperature to force hot water through finely ground coffee beans, producing a concentrated and intense coffee with a layer of crema on top. Espresso machines can vary in size, price, and functionality, but they all require some skill and practice to operate properly. Espresso is usually served in small shots or mixed with milk or water to make drinks such as cappuccino, latte, americano, or macchiato.
- AeroPress: A device that uses air pressure and immersion to brew coffee quickly and easily. The AeroPress consists of two cylindrical chambers that fit together with a filter at the bottom. The brewer places finely or medium ground coffee in the lower chamber, adds hot water, stirs for about 10 seconds, then presses down on the upper chamber to force the brewed coffee through the filter into a cup. The AeroPress produces a smooth and clean coffee with low acidity and bitterness.
- French press: French press is device that uses steeping and filtration to brew coffee simply and elegantly. The French press consists of a glass or metal pot with a plunger that has a metal mesh filter attached to it. The brewer places coarsely ground coffee in the pot, adds hot water, waits for about 4 minutes, then pushes down on the plunger to separate the brewed coffee from the grounds. The French press produces a rich and full-bodied coffee with a lot of oils and sediments.
- Pour-over: A method that uses gravity and infusion to brew coffee precisely and consistently. The pour-over involves placing a paper or metal filter on top of a cone-shaped dripper that rests on a cup or a carafe. The brewer places medium or medium-fine ground coffee in the filter, then pours hot water over it in a circular motion, starting from the center and moving outward. The water passes through the coffee grounds and drips into the cup or carafe below. The pour-over produces a clear and complex coffee with a balanced flavor.
- Siphon: A device that uses vacuum and vapor pressure to brew coffee dramatically and delicately. The siphon consists of two glass chambers connected by a tube with a cloth filter at one end. The lower chamber is filled with water and heated by a burner or an electric coil. As the water boils, it rises into the upper chamber where it mixes with finely ground coffee. After about 2 minutes, the heat is turned off or removed, causing the brewed coffee to be drawn back into the lower chamber by vacuum pressure. The siphon produces a smooth and aromatic coffee with a light body.
- Cold brew: A method that uses cold water and time to brew coffee gently and slowly. The cold brew involves soaking coarsely ground coffee in cold or room-temperature water for 12 to 24 hours, then filtering out the grounds. The resulting coffee concentrate can be diluted with water or milk, or served over ice. The cold brew produces a sweet and smooth coffee with low acidity and high caffeine content.
The best brewing method for craft coffee depends on your personal preference and taste, as well as the type of beans and the equipment you have. You can try different methods and experiment with different variables to find the one that suits you best. You can also enjoy the diversity and variety of craft coffee by exploring different methods and discovering new flavors and aromas.
article by Eugene Nielsen