From the 17th century
until the early part of this century, coffee was generally made by placing
the ground coffee in water and boiling it. You may have heard of some of the
tricks people used to make the coffee grounds settle into the bottom of the
pot, such as dropping an eggshell or bread crust into the coffee pot. People
boiled coffee and tea during that time more for their health than any other
Water was often contaminated
and boiled water was safer to drink. People didn't know that, of course, but
they did know that they did not get sick as often drinking boiled coffee or
tea. In fact, it was considered by some to have curative powers.
In the early 20th century,
however, it was discovered that the taste of coffee was much better if you
added the water to the coffee grounds after the water had boiled. That discovery
was the start of coffee brewing. Today there are many methods for grinding,
measuring and brewing coffee.
How Much Coffee
to Use? Select a good measuring scoop using the same scoop each time,
make your measures level and you will be able to accurately repeat the measure
each time. Rule of thumb: use 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6-8
ounce cup of water. Adjust to taste. Refer to our section on grinding to determine
the proper coffee to water ratio for your specific brewing method.
single biggest ingredient by volume in coffee is water! So it only stands
to reason that the quality and taste of the water you use to brew your coffee
will have a major impact on the final product. Start with fresh, cold water.
Bottled waters are often too acidic and plain tap water is also often loaded
with unpleasant tasting elements. For many the best choice is filtered tap
water. Tap water has the advantage of being highly oxygenated and filtering
eliminates the impurities that can harm the coffee's taste. Investing in a
good filtration device is another must for the true connoisseur. If you don't
want to use filtration, then use fresh, cold water that is pleasing to your
We strongly recommend that you invest in an electric coffee grinder. Starting
with whole beans, ground fresh is the secret to really good coffee. There
is no substitute! You will be amazed at the added flavor and aroma you will
experience from grinding your own coffee beans before each brew. Blade grinders
are the most common and most popular. While blade grinders work well, it is
necessary to make certain the coffee is ground evenly, and that the grinder
doesn't run too long because the blades will heat up and rob the coffee of
some of its flavor. The real connoisseur should buy a grinder that can be
set for specific grinds like those in supermarkets and coffee specialty shops.
If you use a blade grinder, the best method is to count seconds. You will
quickly learn just how long to run your grinder to obtain the correct degree
of grind. Counting is the most accurate method to operate a blade grinder.
Counting keeps you from over grinding or under grinding your coffee. Grinding
effects the amount of surface area exposed to the water and the flow rate
of the water through the coffee. It's important to get the grind right for
the type of brewing equipment you are using.
- French Press:
Grind your coffee coarse, use a tablespoon of coffee per 10 ounce cup. There
are many sizes of French presses.
- Espresso: Grind
your coffee extra fine. You will know you have reached the correct grind
when you can make a finger print in a small amount held in the palm of your
hand. Put 8-10 grams of ground coffee per 2 ounce shot in a stovetop espresso
maker. Put 7 grams of ground coffee per 1.5 ounce shot in an electric espresso
- Conventional Electric
your coffee medium to fine. Use 3/4 to 1 cup of coffee per 10 cup pot.
- Manual Cone Systems:
Grind your coffee medium to fine, in a basket-type brewer, Use 3/4 cup of
coffee per 10 cup pot.
Grind your coffee coarse. 4 ounces of specialty coffee will yield 15 10-ounce
cups of coffee. 8 ounces of specialty coffee will yield 30 10-ounce cups
of coffee. 1 pound of specialty coffee will yield 60 10-ounce cups of coffee.
- Keep your brewing
equipment clean. Clean brewing equipment means that the final cup will
not have unpleasant odors and tastes from old coffee and sediment.
- Make certain the
water is the right temperature, 195F - 200F degrees. Never boil your coffee.
- Never repour over
used grounds, the coffee will not become stronger, only more bitter.
- Stir your coffee
after brewing, this assures an excellent mix.
- Serve coffee immediately
after brewing. If this is not possible, hold in a thermal container to
maintain freshness and flavor.
Electric Drip - This
is the most popular method in use today. There are a number of good models.
Pick one that suits your taste and style but look for one that can heat
the water to the required 195F - 200F degrees. If the water temperature
isn't high enough, you will not get the best brew.
Manual Drips - The advantages
to a manual drip brewer are that the brewer can control the flow rate by
how fast they pour the water into the filter and the water can be properly
heated to the right temperature before starting the brewing process.
French Press - This
is a good method to use for quality coffee. Just be certain to purchase
a good unit made from hi-quality glass. Some people may not like this method
because of the sediment that can remain in the final cup but it does provide
an excellent brewing method. Two keys to making good coffee using the French
Press method are: 1) remember to preheat the container with hot water prior
to making the coffee and 2), failure to clean the container. If you pour
boiling water into a container that is not preheated, your water temperature
can drop as much as 20 degrees and this seriously effects the final cup.
Likewise, failure to clean the container effects the final cup taste.
Vacuum Method - The
vacuum method is distinguished for producing excellent brewed coffee. In
this method, water boils and goes into an upper chamber where it is held
for a few minutes. The device is removed from the heat and as the water
cools, a vacuum is created which pulls the coffee through the grind. Advantages
to the vacuum method are that the water reaches boiling temperature and
the method does not require quite as precise a grind as some of the others,
making it easier for many to use.
Percolators - There
are still many of these around. They are not recommended. Percolators boil
the coffee which is not a method that gives good results for the final cup.
- Gold Filters - Great
at keeping sediment out of the final cup but you will need to adjust your
grind to their flow rate. Also, gold filters need to be kept very clean
and must be hand-washed because they are so soft.
- Paper Filters - Paper
filters are designed to be fast flow because the filter industry is aware
that most brewers use electric drip machines and that they tend to over
grind their coffee. Slowing the flow down is a good way to improve the
final cup's taste by lengthening the extraction time. There are some filters
available which are designed to do this.
- Natural vs. White
Paper Filters Oxygen whitened paper filters are environmentally preferred
over bleached filters. Natural paper filters tend to have a taste that
can be detected in the final cup by some people. There is no difference
in the flow rate between bleached and unbleached filters however, select
the one you prefer.
- Final Note - If you
really want to know what is happening in your brewing process, examine
the spent grounds. They can tell you a great deal about the brewing process
and help you solve problems.
of Coffee and Espresso