Simple coffee brewing

July 27, 21 | Hacks

lI’m a coffee hobbyist. I’ve been on coffee brewing training. I can ramble on about tiny details of coffee making few people have time for. But I wanted to share an easy way to make outstanding coffee on a dime without the hassle.

The secret behind brewing coffee is that most of the gains in taste come from 3 basic tricks that everyone can master. There are many more tricks to approach perfection, but beyond these 3 tricks, there is a rapidly declining incremental utility. In other words the benefits get smaller (and more elusive).

Trick #1: The beans

Find whole coffee beans from a local roaster that have been roasted within the past week or so (the date of roasting should be on the packet; if it’s not there, the coffee is likely not fresh). Look for single origin, meaning the beans come from the same farm. Personally, I prefer African beans, such as Ethiopian, Rwandan or Kenyan because I love the light fruitiness. I stay away from South American beans with their chocolate and caramel flavours. Blended beans are usually assembled by the roaster to create a less pronounced taste, usually for making espresso-based drinks.

Trick #2: The grind

The subtle parts of coffee taste disappear seconds after grinding due to contact with air. So it’s crucial to grind your coffee just before brewing it. Personally, I use a simple hand grinder, the Porlex Travel Coffee Grinder. It has a burr that grounds the beans. Don’t use an electric blade grinder, because unlike a burr, it shatters the beans, so the grind size is uneven, resulting in an uneven brew and worst taste.

Trick #3: The brew

The simplest way is using a French Press. They are easily available even at Starbucks, like this model. For a 12 oz (0.35 l) French Press, the coffee ratio is about 1 g of coffee for 15 g (ml) of water. This translates into around 23 g of coffee, which conveniently corresponds to just about filling the grinder a bit less than full. To choose the grind size (how coarse to grind the beans), I go for 7-8 clicks away from tightly screwed. Then pour the ground coffee into the press, pour boiled water to cover the beans and wait 45-60 seconds (this lets out some bubbles).

After this short wait, slowly pour more water to fill the press, and give the mixture a quick stir with a spoon.

Leave the coffee brewing for between 4min and 20min depending on taste. 4min gives a clean brew, whereas 20min gives you a much fuller mouth feel. Press the plunger down slowly, pour into a cup, enjoy. You can keep your coffee in a thermos and drink it over time, but keep in mind that the taste will change over time as chemical reactions affecting taste continue to happen in the brew.

Cost per cup of 12 oz / 35 dl: approx. US$ 1.50.


Steps towards perfection

If you’ve discovered a new love of freshly brewed coffee, you might want to climb up the improvement curve to get a bit more precision in your brewing:

  • Scale to measure the coffee water ratio
  • Kettle with temperature control
  • Try other brewing methods: Chemex, Aeropress, V60, cold brew
  • Get to know your beans and how they’ve been processed (region and type of farm, process like dry, washed, carbonic macerated, and quality of the process, cupping score )
  • Fancier electric burr grinder
  • Experiment with different waters (less mineralised, left to air, etc.)
  • Do your own roasting
  • Try a coffee class (brewing class, tasting class etc.)

Porlex Travel Coffee Grinder: summary

For lovers of freshly ground coffee, this grinder is a real gem. It contains approx. 20-25g of coffee beans. It has a dial setting enabling a grind ranging from fine (espresso) to coarse (French press). The lever is comfortable and doesn’t require much strength to operate. It’s also highly portable for travel. It makes it a convenient choice for home use and use on the go (for example with a small French press or an Aeropress Go).

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