Brewing Coffee for Beginners
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The art of brewing proper coffee is an enjoyable experience and how you brew does make a difference to the taste. In fact the same coffee brewed by different methods can seem almost unrecognisable to one another as they extract and emphasise different flavour notes. There are entire websites and youtube channels devoted to the subject but when you are starting out, knowing what advice to listen to can feel overwhelming. That’s why we decided to strip it all back to basics and create this journal post where we will go through the different ways to brew coffee and the type of flavours you can expect.
Coffee beans contain caffeine, natural oils and flavours within them. Depending on how much of those oils your brewing method lets through its filter will change the taste of your coffee.
Tip #1: This should go without saying, but step one, of any brewing process is to purchase high quality coffee. Low quality coffee will always taste bad, no matter how you brew it!
Tip #2: Grind your own beans. This is not only part of the overall experience, but it ensures freshness and allows for the correct grind for your chosen brewing method. The size of grind dramatically affects the brew method and flavour profile each time.
Tip #3: Water temperature. Unlike making tea where using boiling water is ideal, coffee actually requires a slightly cooler temperature (about 92 degrees). When too hot the boiling water can burn the coffee grounds, destroying the oils and flavours in the beans. The simple solution is to wait a minute after boiling the kettle before using.
Cafetiere (French Press)
The cafetière or French press is the most popular way of making coffee at home in the UK. It’s fairly simple to use and you can buy a basic cafetière for about £10. The coffee is brewed by immersing it in water for a few minutes. This method allows more of the strong flavour to come through giving you a fuller, stronger and rich bodied taste.
The minor point for this method is that there will always be a small amount of coffee dregs in the bottom of your cup. However, if you use the Planetary Design Bru-Stop, the coffee dregs issue is greatly reduced.
Stove Top (or Moka Pot)
The stove pot is one of the oldest methods of brewing coffee and is still used today for people who love ‘espresso’ coffee without the need of an espresso machine. They work by forcing boiling water upwards through the coffee and into a separate compartment.
Pour-Over (V60 Dripper)
Named because you literally pour water over the ground coffee to extract the flavour. This is a great introduction to drinking better coffee and works well if you are making a single cup for yourself. If making for two or more, you can use a chemex (traditionally made of glass).
This process takes out more of the oils which means you get a smoother cup of coffee. Sometimes described as a sweeter cup of coffee with far less bitterness.
The other great thing about this process is that it’s easy to clean up. The ground coffee stays in the filter and you can place it straight into your food waste.
In some ways the Aeropress is like a pour over, but it is unique enough that we have given it its own separate category. This is a very popular brewing tool among the coffee nerds … and for good reason!
The Aeropress uses air pressure to push coffee through the filter producing a smooth and rich flavour. Like the V60, the coffee is not so strong due to lower levels of caffeine.
There is also another way of brewing with the Aeropress called the inverted method, which works in a similar way to a cafetiere and allows more caffeine into your cup, giving you a stronger taste.
For those lucky enough to have an espresso machine at home this gives you a range of options for different drinks, and a whole other extraction experience from the coffee beans. With the water at a high pressure forced through much finer ground coffee than most other brew methods you get strength, boldness and a rich crema full of aromatic flavour.
This is then ideal for your base, giving you a punchy espresso base to enjoy on its own or with steamed milk depending on your drink of choice. You need a bold bean to cut through the milk and ensure you still get plenty of flavour in the cup.
How do the EA team brew at home?
The best thing about brewing high quality coffee is that you can brew it however you want and nobody can tell you you’re wrong! There is definitely a level of enjoyment that comes from not only drinking great quality coffee but the ritual of brewing it the way you like it.
Part of the fun of starting out is experimenting with your brewing process to find the right system for you and then continuing to experiment with different techniques and coffees to discover new flavours.
When brewing high grade arabica beans, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. If you are on a tight budget or just starting out, using a regular kettle and our pre-ground coffee will be significantly better than instant or cheaper filter coffee.
However, as you get into the groove of making coffee and want to take it to another level then any coffee aficionado will tell you, that the most important tool to invest in, is a grinder.
In our next journal post, we will look at coffee grinders and why you should consider investing in one.