Coffee Brewing Tips
There are many methods used to make a great cup of coffee. Our helpful tips will help get you started, but always feel free to experiment.
Brewing your own
The drip or filter method is possibly the most widely used method today. Finely-ground coffee is placed in a paper or reusable cone-shaped unit and nearly boiling water poured on top. For best results, a small quantity of water should be poured on first to wet the grounds and speed up the release of caffeol. The resulting brew filters through the unit into a pot or mug and is ready to drink, while the coffee grounds remain in the cone. There are electric versions which automate this process, including heating the water, and in general make a better or more consistent cup of coffee than the manual version. The filter method is especially popular in Germany and the USA.
Paper filters are the most commonly encountered variety used in the filter method. They do the most thorough job in removing particulates, but will also absorb some of the essential oils and aromatics from the coffee. This will yield a brew with less aroma and perceived body.
Recommended grind: medium to fine
The French press is touted as the purist brewing method. They require less work than you would imagine, and produce the most flavourful coffee – albeit, strong coffee. Fill the bottom of the beaker with a few tablespoons of very coarsely ground coffee. Fill the beaker with water that is 10 seconds removed from a running boil. Stir slightly and let the coffee steep for four minutes. Slowly, push the grounds down with a plunger of two finely netted screens. A thick, rich coffee soaks up all the oil of the grinds and floats to the top.
Recommended grind: coarse
Today, espresso and cappuccino, which were invented in Italy, are the fastest growing methods of making coffee. Espresso machines force hot water through very finely ground and compacted coffee into the cups below. Good espresso is expensive to make because in order to extract the greatest amount of flavour from the coffee, a high level of pressure is required and thus a high specification machine. Yet when making espresso, it is important not to over-extract the coffee, which means the machine should be switched off sooner, rather than later. While the coffee is still coming out as a golden brown liquid, it is perfect. This liquid is the crema, which lies on top of the black coffee underneath. The crema will dissipate a few minutes after the coffee is made, but in those few minutes it will tell you everything about the quality of the espresso. Too light, or too thick or too thin: all mean that the espresso is sub standard.
Recommended grind: fine
This refers to the permanent metal filters sold for drip brewers (mainly auto-drip) in which the perforations, in the form of miniscule slits, are much, much finer. Most are either stainless steel or gold-plated in order to prevent off-tastes from being imparted to the coffee. They trap quite a lot of the particulates while passing the oils and aromatics, but the brew won’t be quite as “clean” as with paper filters.
The percolator consists of a pot with a chamber at the bottom, closest to the source of heat. A vertical tube leads from this chamber to the top of the percolator. Just below the upper end of this tube is a perforated chamber. The grounds go in the top chamber, water in the bottom. When the water boils, it travels up the tube, over the grounds, cooling the water, then back down to the bottom chamber to cycle again. The percolator uses a coarse grind. The water will be very hot and in a lot of contact with the grounds.
Recommended grind: coarse to medium
Arab or Turkish Coffee
Although the coffee bean spread from Arabia to the rest of the world, the Arab method of making coffee did not. Nowadays usually referred to as Turkish coffee, the brew is made in an ibriq, a small copper pot with a long handle. Two teaspoons of finely-ground coffee plus one of sugar are added to a cup of water and the mixture is brought to the boil. The ibriq is taken off the heat as it comes to the boil, usually three times, and then it is poured out and drunk. A cardamom seed is sometimes added for flavour. The drawback of this method is that boiling the coffee causes the more delicate flavours to be lost.
Recommended grind: extra fine
The vacuum pot coffee maker is as close as one can get to making espresso coffee without the use of an espresso coffee machine. The vacuum pot (or “balanced siphon”) method is a stove-top coffee brewing method. The vacuum pot itself is made up of 3 separate parts.
The bottom part generally holds cold water prior to the coffee preparation. The center part of the vacuum coffee pot maker holds the coffee grounds, which are generally coarse ground, although less coarse than the French Press method. This central part acts like a filter and simply drops into place inside the opening of the bottom water compartment. The top of the vacuum pot maker is where the brewed coffee is deposited. This part is screwed tightly in place on top of bottom part that holds the cold water.
The vacuum pot is then placed on a stove burner. Once the water reaches boiling point, the steam is forced up a chamber through the center part of the vacuum pot that holds the coffee grounds. The coffee is extracted from the grounds by the force of the steam and as the steam condenses the liquid coffee is forced up a second chamber into the top holding compartment of the vacuum pot. The result is a full-bodied, rich tasting coffee with espresso characteristics.
Recommended grind: medium