Brewing coffee is as much of an art as it is a science.
Here are some essential tips and recommendations for brewing coffee that will insure you are producing the best possible cup of coffee, no matter which coffee brewing method you prefer.
Keep in mind, coffee is only as good as the ingredients that you start with.
It’s the water. Coffee is 98% water. The quality of your water is an essential element to brew great coffee. Always start with the freshest, cleanest water possible. If your tap water has an unpleasant detectable taste or odor, this will effect the flavor and quality of your coffee brew. At higher temperatures, your taste buds are even more sensitive to the impurities of off-tasting water. If you have a problem with your tap water, try using a water filter. Many bottled waters will work fine. Distilled water, however, lacks the necessary level of dissolved mineral solids to give the water a “fresh” taste.
Coffee freshness. Fresh coffee beans are essential to produce a great cup of coffee. Purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted as possible, it is at its best 12 to 24 hours after being roasted. Purchase your coffee in small amounts — only as much as you can use in a given period of time. Ideally you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1-2 weeks. Always be sure to wait until just before you are ready to brew to grind your beans. Coffee beans lose their freshness very quickly after they are ground.
The right grind. If you purchase whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible. A burr or mill grinder is preferable because all of the coffee is ground to a consistent size. A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest. If you normally grind your coffee at home with a blade grinder, try having it ground at the store with a burr grinder. You may be surprised at the difference! Do not underestimate the importance of the size of the grind to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be over-extracted, or ground too fine. On the other hand, if your coffee tastes flat, it may be under-extracted, meaning that your grind is too coarse. Tell the professionals where you purchase your coffee exactly how you will be brewing it. For example, will you be using a plunger pot? A flat drip filter? A cone drip filter? A gold mesh filter? They will grind it specifically for the preparation method you have chosen and the equipment you use. Before using the coffee, try rubbing some of the grounds between your fingers so that you can ‘feel’ the grind and become acquainted with the differences in size. Never reuse your coffee grounds. Once brewed, the desirable coffee flavors have been extracted and only the bitter undesirable ones are left
Clean equipment. Make sure the equipment you use for brewing coffee is clean. Oils, mineral build up, and residue can accumulate over time and will definitely taint the flavor of the coffee you brew, such residue can impart a bitter, rancid flavor to future cups of coffee. Mineral deposits will also hamper the correct functioning of a coffee maker causing longer brewing times and lower water temperatures, which result in an inferior cup of coffee.
The right ratio of coffee to water. The optimum ratio of coffee to water is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per six ounces (3/4 cup) of water, remembering that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods. This will produce a cup of coffee on the stronger side. For brewing coffee on the weaker side, use 1 tablespoon of ground coffee per six ounces of water.
Water temperature during brewing. Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, underextracted coffee while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee. If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not overboil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds
Brewing time. The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a plunger pot, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso, as the name implies, means that the brew time is short — the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. If the taste of your coffee is not optimal, it is possible that you are either overextracting (the brew time is too long) or underextracting (the brew time is too short) your coffee. Experiment with the contact time until you can make a cup of coffee that suits your tastes perfectly.
After your coffee has been brewed, it should be enjoyed immediately!
Pour it into a warmed mug or coffee cup so that it will maintain its temperature as long as possible. Brewed coffee begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing so only brew as much coffee as will be consumed immediately. If it will be a few minutes before it will be served, the temperature should be maintained at 180 – 185 degrees Fahrenheit. It should never be left on an electric burner for longer than 15 minutes because it will begin to develop a burned taste. If the coffee is not to be served immediately after brewing, it should be poured into a warmed, insulated thermos and used within the next 45 minutes.
Never reheat your coffee!
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