Coffee Brewing Guide

Before making coffee, it is worth learning about the main factors that affect its taste. This will allow you to better understand and experiment with any brewing method. We will cover six factors: the freshness of coffee, the quality of water, the quality of grinding, the cleanliness of equipment, the accuracy of the scales, and the storage method. We will also discuss bypass brewing.

Coffee Freshness

Beans must be freshly roasted to make delicious coffee.

During the roasting of coffee beans, a reaction occurs between proteins and amino acids and releases important flavor compounds. These compounds are responsible for the taste and aroma of coffee. After roasting, the coffee's aroma still continues to form. However, two weeks after roasting, the quality of the coffee begins to decline as the flavor compounds dissipate.

After two months, and with each passing day, the taste becomes less and less expressive, and sometimes bitter, like old oil. The aroma loses the features of the country and the region where the beans were grown. The coffee becomes tasteless.

To prepare a delicious coffee drink, you need to use beans within the first two months after roasting. During this period, coffee can be considered fresh.

However, there are subtleties to the idea of fresh coffee. For instance, it's not good to make espresso with coffee that is too fresh. If you make coffee using any other method, the beans can be used one day after roasting. However, if you are making espresso, you need to let the beans “rest” for at least five days after roasting. Then the potential of the coffee will be maximized.

Water

Coffee is almost 99% water, so it’s important that you use only the best water for your coffee.

Water doesn't just contain H20 molecules, but also various salts and minerals. Water with these compounds is referred to as "mineralized." Water that's suitable for coffee isn't too highly mineralized.

Coffee brewed using water with low salinity is sharp, bitter, and excessively bright. Coffee brewed using water with high salinity is inexpressive. It's important to find a balance.

The mineralization of tap water after simple filtration depends on your region, but most often it is 300 mg/L—this is a lot. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends brewing coffee using water with a salinity of 75 to 175 mg/L. The ideal level of mineralization is 100 mg/L.

In addition to mineralization levels, it is important to pay attention to the pH value of your water. The ideal pH range is from 6.5 to 8.

To get the best water for your coffee, you should use a filtration system. There are two steps:

  1. Use a professional reverse osmosis filter to obtain distilled water.
  2. Mix in mineralized water or use remineralizing cartridges.

Of course, a complex filtration system is not suitable for everyone; therefore, as the optimal solution, you can use bottled water.

Additionally, it is important to understand that although water softeners/filters will extend the life of your coffee equipment, they do not reduce the overall mineralization of water. They simply replace calcium with sodium.

Water softeners are useful because it eliminates scale from your equipment. However, an increase in sodium content can negatively affect the taste of coffee.

Grinding Quality

High-quality grinding should be uniform. The coffee grounds should all be the same size. If the particles vary in size, the taste of the coffee will be unpredictable.

There is no perfect uniform grinding either, so it is important that the dispersion in particle size is as small as possible. Only in this case, the taste of the drink will be manageable and clean.

As a rule, good electric grinders with grinding controls are not cheap. If you are not ready to spend so much, you can buy a manual burr coffee grinder. Cheap electric coffee grinders, which are sold in electronics stores, should not be used because they do not give a uniform grind.

In addition to uniformity, the size of the grind is also important and varies across brewing methods. That's why it's important to buy a grinder that has many grind size settings.

Equipment Cleanliness

A dirty coffee maker or coffee grinder will reduce all your efforts to nothing. Dried oils or ground coffee that remains in a grinder's canal and gets into the fresh grounds will make the coffee rancid.

In good coffee shops, the coffee grinders are cleaned daily, and coffee machines are cleaned twice a day. Even if a person is not well versed in coffee, he or she will recognize coffee that is made with dirty equipment. In such a situation, adjusting the grinding or replacing the water will not help—you just need to regularly clean the equipment.

Coffee equipment is cleaned with water, brushes, and special cleaning products.

Using Scales

Coffee requires maximum accuracy in preparation, and scales are one of the main tools that help with this. If you measure the dosage by eye, the result will always be random. Scales help you brew the best coffee.

Each brewing method requires a specific water-to-coffee grounds ratio. Scales will help you accurately measure these ratios. For example, 60 grams (2 oz) of coffee per liter (33 fl oz) of water should be used for immersion, drip or pour-over methods and 17-20 grams (0.6-0.7 oz) of coffee per 110-120 ml (4-5 fl oz) of water should be used for a double espresso.

Storage Method

Fresh coffee loses its aromas very quickly. To slow down this process, it must be properly stored in a suitable package.

The ideal packaging for coffee is an opaque, tight bag with a degassing valve and zip lock. Such a package protects the beans from sunlight and contact with air, while the degassing valve helps to remove carbon dioxide, and the zip lock lets you open and close the package many times.

The ideal shelf life for coffee is one to two weeks. It's acceptable to store it for up to a month. We recommend that you buy only as much coffee as you can drink in this amount of time. If you need to store coffee for longer, you can put it in the freezer, but make sure your freezer doesn't have any extraneous odors that the coffee could absorb.

Coffee can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, but it can be thawed only once and only at room temperature. Do not re-freeze. After defrosting the coffee, you need to drink it within one to two weeks

If the coffee is ground, it loses its aromas much more quickly. Therefore, you should grind coffee a few minutes before preparation, and you should not buy ground coffee in a store at all.

Bypass Brewing

Bypass brewing is when you brew a concentrated drink, and then dilute this with water.

Bypass brewing allows you to improve the taste of coffee by interrupting the extraction before too many bitter components make their way into the brewed coffee.

During the extraction of coffee, solids dissolve in the drink. This happens sequentially: first acids, then sugars, then bitter substances like caffeine and tannins.

When bypass brewing, a concentrate is first prepared, in which only acids and sugars are extracted, without the last bitter components. Then the concentrated drink is diluted with water to make it lighter.

The total dissolved solids (TDS) in the concentrated drink is above normal. By diluting the concentrate with water, you can achieve the standard TDS that the SCA recommends (1.15–1.35%).

What brewing methods can you use bypass brewing with?

The method is mainly used when brewing a large volume of coffee—when you need to keep the brewing time under 4 minutes to avoid long extraction and bitterness. For example, bypass brewing works well for filter coffee.

Bypass brewing is used for the preparation of AeroPress coffee. This method became popular after UK barista Paulina Mishka made coffee using this method at the 2017 World AeroPress Championship.

Should I use bypass brewing?

Bypass brewing is one way to achieve optimal taste, but you need to select a recipe so as not to spoil the body of the drink. Therefore, it's up to you whether you want to learn this technique.