September 27, 2017

The number one trick to brewed coffee

The number one trick to brewed coffee is tasting it!

There is a common myth that if you are roasting for brewed coffee all you do is roast lighter.

The problem we see, or more to the point, the problem we taste is many brewed coffees are sour, acidic and very under-roasted. Customers are never coming back for a second cup if the acidity is high enough to make them pull a “lemon face” when they try it or if it curdles milk when they add some.
When most Australian’s think of brewed coffee they are remembering coffee brewers from the 1980’s which had no temperature control, were fed with stale shelf-bought ground coffee and the pot sat there stewing for hours on a hotplate. It’s no wonder brewed coffee was bad and needed multiple sugar packets added to make it palatable. Jump forward 30 or 40 years and our choice of excellent fresh roasted coffee is huge, owning a grinder isn’t rare and some of the brewers have gotten a lot smarter in the way they work.
So what can you do to improve your brewed coffee?

Roast Depth
While most coffees will require a lighter roast depth, how light should it be? Taste it! Most medium roast depths will be a pretty good start, at this point the sugars in the bean are at their sweetest and the sour elements of the roast have been “cooked off”. Excuse the pun, but the “sweet spot” you are aiming for is this sweet-spot between too light and too dark. If you can taste green peas, wheat, chaff, hay or other farm like flavours, then the roast depth was too light. If the dominating flavours are toasty, BBQ, meat or other
Unami flavours then the roast depth was too dark. Due to the longer water contact time in brewed coffee you will find the carbons, sours and bitters that might have worked well in an espresso are far more exaggerated and the resulting brewed coffee is often too bitter.

Use a coffee brewer with adjustable temperature and experiment to find the right temperature for the bean you are using. You go to great lengths to adjust your espresso machine to use a stable and repeatable temperature and you can quickly tell if the temperature moves a couple of degrees but most brewers on the market only produce near boiling water at the head. For a starting point I’ll try most brewed coffees at 92C but some shine at 89C or 93C.
I use a Behmor Brazen coffee brewer every day (both home and at work) and it allows me to easily make fine temperature adjustments each time and it is smart enough to regulate that temperature during the water release so it never blurts boiling hot steam into the coffee at the end of the brew. Disclosure: Yes, I sell these brewers but even if I didn’t they are the brewer I would use.

If your brewer has a hot plate then turn it off. Nothing good can come from stewing coffee on a hotplate. Instead use a thermal carafe to hold the temperature or only brew what you are going to use right away. Interestingly, you will get far better results microwaving a cold coffee than ever using a hotplate.
Milk and Sugar
It’s rude to expect everyone to like drinking brewed coffee as a long-black with no sugar, as they say, different strokes for different folks. I have many customers who really love a splash of milk in their brewed coffee, it adds some body and a smoother mouth-feel . A dash of high cream milk can really make a difference to someone’s first experience with modern brewed coffee and I know a lot of people who will drink it no other way. It’s also a good way to wean someone from their bucket ‘o milk with a splash of coffee in the mornings. Sugar is the same, while I don’t add it to mine it won’t give me a twitch if someone else does.

Get some fresh roasted coffee, try a few different regions, different processing methods and some good roast depths and build your own library of coffees that work great in a brewer. Start with a clean crisp Kenyan, an earthy natural process Ethiopian or an exotic Central American Geisha, all three will yield very different results in the cup but all will be great when you get all the parameters just right.

By Andy Freeman Coffee Snobs

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