Brewing coffee at home has, by and large, been a pretty static affair. You’ve got the way you do it. It’s probably the same way you’ve done it for a very long time. Might even be the same way your parents brewed coffee at home. Anyone out there still using a percolator?! Nothing wrong with that…
I’d guess too that the method chosen is at the intersection of flavour and convenience – a very delicate balance between the two. Could you make a tastier cup? Sure, if you were willing to spend the time. Could you make a cup that was prepared more quickly? Absolutely, but geez you’ve got some standards.
Within the realm of Specialty Coffee professionals, a couple of home brewing devices have surfaced and blossomed over the last couple of years. They range from clever to cute to quirky. Do they make the most delicious damn cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted? Well that depends…
Along with the appearance of these new brew methods there has been a new understanding of the process of brewing coffee – regardless of the actual method used. It involves the very precise control over the relationship of water used to brew, and the amount of coffee – like down to the gram. It’s a far cry from the six heaping scoops of coffee and one for the pot method of measuring in days gone by.
The reason for this new found desire for utmost accuracy has stemmed from our ability to measure something called TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), aka, “Strength.”
The Strength of the coffee is the destination; the Extraction is how we got there.
Strength is to some extent based on personal preference but within Specialty Coffee the textbook definition is 1.25%. That is, your cup of coffee is 98.75% water and 1.25% coffee. Small changes in the Strength of your coffee, from 1.25 to 1.35 or down to 1.15 make a noticeable impact on your impression of the coffee in the cup.
Remember, this is our destination but how we got there is equally important and relates to Extraction. This is how much “stuff” we’ve pulled out of the coffee. We’re looking for an extraction of 18-22%. Less than 18% is a problem, as is over 22%. Outside of the 18-22% sweet spot range the cup becomes unbalanced.
Balancing the Strength and Extraction involves considering how much coffee you are using relative to how much water. It is also influenced by the fineness of the grind as well as changing the “dwell time” or contact time the coffee has had with the brew water.
Now this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject but in the weeks to come, as we look at some of these new methods of brewing, the discussion will be couched in what we’ve touched on here:
1) Accurate measurement of coffee and water
2) Brewing an appropriately strong and balanced cup
The end result excitingly ensures that you get every last drop of flavourful goodness out of whichever coffee you’re brewing.
On the flavour/convenience continuum, we’re trending heavy on the flavour, light on the convenience but hey, it might be just the thing to add a little zest to your coffee brewing ritual.