Courtesy, Death to Stock Photo and La Marzocco USA
You’re a coffee drinker. In fact, some might call you a coffee snob (but you prefer the term “aficionado.”) You know where to find the best espresso and where to buy the best beans.
But your home brew? Maybe it needs help.
If you haven’t mastered the art of making the perfect cup at home, here are some tips from champion baristas Jeremy Ho and Ben Put, the Calgary-based owners of Monogram Coffee.
THE BEANS — Choose good-quality, fresh beans from a reliable source.
Whether you’re using pour-over, French press or Aeropress, Put says to aim about 60 grams of coffee (roughly 2/3 cup) for one litre (4 cups) of water. And aim to keep your beans in contact with your water for about three minutes maximum for best results.
THE WATER — “Ideally, use filtered water,” says Put. “98.9 per cent of brewed coffee is water. It’s your primary ingredient. Filtered water will do the best job of extraction.” Unfiltered water can also have a lot of minerals in it, which will impact the taste of your brew.
THE GRINDER — Save your 20-buck spice grinder for spices, and treat your beans with the respect they deserve. A burr grinder is best because it chops the beans, rather than pulverizes them.
Why is grinding important? “Grinding beans increases their surface area and creates resistance for the water as it is poured through,” Put says. “The finer the grind, the more resistance.”
Increased resistance means more contact with the beans and more opportunity to extract flavour. But a grind that’s too fine can create coffee that tastes bitter and over-extracted; a grind that’s too coarse can create coffee that tastes weak or too acidic or lacking flavour.
FRENCH PRESS — Measure your ground coffee into the pot and carefully pour hot water over it. Put the plunger in without breaking the crust (the foam and grounds that you see on top).
Allow it to steep for three to four minutes. Then remove the plunger. Stir the coffee to break up the crust. Plunge slowly. This method gets rid of some of that gritty coffee texture, common with many French presses.
And don’t dump in more coffee if you think your coffee is too weak. “Grind your beans finer, rather than add more coffee,” says Put.
AEROPRESS — Despite advertisements, the Aeropress doesn’t make espresso.
“But it’s a very easy and consistent single-cup brewing method,” says Put. “It’s a hybrid of a French press, but with the cleanliness of a paper filter.”
To use it, add a paper filter to the basket. Then add ground coffee to basket. (Make sure the grind is slightly finer than a pour-over grind, but coarser than espresso.) Add a little hot water, to get everything wet. Then fill it with hot water to the top of the No. 4, written on the side. “Let it sit like that for two minutes and start to plunge,” Put says. It should take about two and a half minutes in total to make a cup.
PAPER/METAL FILTERS — Paper filters can impart a papery flavour to your coffee. Choose a metal cone to avoid the issue. What kind? “A gold filter is mostly esthetic. Go stainless steel unless you’re trying to impress people,” says Put. “
Then boil your water. Pour it slowly over the ground coffee until barely wet.
Then pour in more water, until your filter is about half-full. Stir. Flavour is only extracted when the grounds are submerged in water; dry grounds mean no extraction.
It should take about 2.5 to three minutes for the water to run through the coffee. If it’s much faster or slower, you need to adjust the size of your grind.
NEL DRIP — Ritualistic and time-consuming, but fans love it. Invented in Japan, this cloth filter allows some fine particles and oils through, which creates extra body and, in turn, more flavour.
Similar to the pour-over style, the key is to ensure all the coffee gets wet; otherwise you’ll end up with uneven extraction. It’s also not as easy to keep clean as other methods.
“It’s easy for the filter to go rancid. Keep it clean and when you’re not using it, store it in clean, cold water in your fridge,” says Put. “You have to take care of it.”
Still want to know more about making better coffee at home? Then also see: Making better coffee at home.
This story first appeared in City Palate.