Black liquid karma. The grease that gets you going in the morning.
- I like my women like I like my coffee…
- Ground up and in the freezer.
Okay, that one is a bit funny, but it isn’t exactly true. Recently I’ve learned the wonder of freshly roasted coffee. Here in Edmonton a company called Transcend does an excellent job of supplying fresh roasted beans. However, other than good fresh beans, the brewing method is the most important part of making great coffee. I feel that too many people ignore this.
There are tons of ways to make coffee. There are numerous variables contributing to the taste and the name of the game is controlling those variables. Some methods are better than others. Some are needlessly expensive and most people assume it requires an expensive appliance to do. Yeah a $50 coffee maker is too expensive for me; I’m cheap. So, as a public service announcement I want to show my favorite method.
Okay so lets start by looking at what equipment you need to make coffee. First is the kettle. You need hot water so get a kettle or learn to build a fire. Next is the brewing device. There are lots of options, some are very interesting contraptions. I prefer one of the most simple methods, which is to brew in a french press or bodom. Also, like I mentioned above, I like Transcend’s whole bean coffee so we need that and a grinder. The grinder that I’m using is from a Japanese company called Porlex. It has a conical ceramic burr that gives a much more consistent grind than the typical blender style grinder.
- If you have a blender style grinder with a spinning blade, DO NOT USE IT FOR COFFEE!. It will give you some powder and some chunks. Your brew will not be consistent and will containt lots of silt in the bottom.
Next, fill up the grinder and grind up them beans. I’m not sure exactly what the measurements I use are, but most people do not use enough beans for a good cup of coffee. Typically I see people play the trade-off game where they skimp on beans and then brew for an extra long time. On top of saving beans you only get a bitter, aweful cup of coffee this way.
I recommend increasing the amount of beans to where you have enough to make good coffee; at which point you have more leeway with the time variable. I think I use somewhere in the range of 1.5-3 scoops of whole beans per cup. About 5.5 scoops go in the grinder and I get about 3 metric cups (250ml) out of it.
Once you have the beans ready, it’s time to decide on brew time. I’ve found that if brew time is too short the acids and more volatile chemicals are more present and you get an acidic coffee. Too long a brew time and you get really really bitter coffee. Somewhere in the middle - for me somewhere in the 4-6 minute range - is a sweet spot where all of the complex flavours can be tasted. Every batch of fresh roast beans will be different so you have to constantly play with this.
Water tempurature is also an important variable. There are some very tasty chemicals that dissolve better when the water is very very hot. However, at the extreme, brewing too hot isn’t the best either. Again, there is a sweet spot in the middle somewhere. I like to fill my press immediately after it boils, so that the water is as hot as it can be. Then, since my press is only thin glass, it cools down rather quickly over the 5-or-so minute brew time. So far, this seems to work well.
When I fill the press, I like to pour in a few ounces and then swirl everything around. This ensures all of the beans get thoroughly wet and also starts to build up a bit of a froth. Then I pour in the rest of the water and set the top on, with the plunger holding all of beans below the water’s surface.
Right after pouring in the water, start your timer.
When your timer goes off, gently swirl the press in wide circles for a few seconds to move the beans around, then push the plunger down with slow consistent pressure. You want to avoid really jerking things around at this point because, the water with the dissolved goodness is the coffee you want. Any solids that might be free floating - read: silt - you want to try and leave in the press when you pour it out. So you also want to avoid kicking any of it up so that it pours out with the coffee. The plunger gets most but there will still be some silt to watch out for.
Right after you press the coffee it is ready. Fill your cup and enjoy. It is important to pour out all of the coffee in the press. Don’t leave any unused portion in the press as it will continue to brew slowly due to the beans at the bottom. I like to pour the remainder into my thermos to enjoy later.
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to brew a great cup of coffee!