How to Brew Coffee

The Upside of Brewing Coffee- One man’s poison maybe another one’s meat.

There is no one-way of making the perfect cup of Coffee. The quality of your coffee is determined by four main factors: -the brewing method, the origin of the coffee and the type of roast and grind. Remember you are the best judge of what particular brewing method is most likely to produce the kind of coffee most pleasing to your taste buds. Don’t get bullied by so called experts!

The Equipment

There are many ways to brew coffee. The 4 basic ways to brew coffee are based on how the water makes contact with the coffee- filtration, pressure, steeping/immersion and boiling.

1. Filtration Method : 

It can be a manual or an electric drip coffee maker. In either case, hot water drips through a basket that has ground coffee beans and then drips down to a pot below.

You can buy one here (Opens in a new window)

A variation is the Flip coffee pot. It consists of a bottom section filled with water, a middle filter section that holds the coffee, and an upside-down pot placed on the top. When the water boils, the coffee maker is flipped over to let the water filter through the coffee grounds.

Indian Filter Coffee machine made of stainless steel; two cylindrical compartments, one fits atop the other with a covering lid on the top. The upper compartment has tiny holes. And then there is the perforated disc with a stick handle. The coffee is placed in the upper compartment, the perforated disc is used to cover the ground coffee, and hot water is poured on top of this disk. The coffee brew takes time to trickle down and hence the decoction is strong.

Pour over is another coffee filtration process:

The ritual of the pour over is an experience of stillness: There’s no machine in your way. Just you and a few simple tools. The final cup is noticeably more delicate and complex. Observe the bloom, experience the first trace of coffee-drunk steam, notice how the spiral of the pour alters the final cup. Check this you tube link for a quick glance through the process
  1. Bring at least 200ml of water to a boil.
  2. Grind 15 grams of coffee to a coarseness resembling sea salt (Medium for a stronger cup). To enjoy the nuanced flavor of a single-origin coffee that is lightly roasted, we recommend less coffee: 23 grams for every 350 grams water.
  3. Place a filter in the dripper.
  4. Add the ground coffee to the filter and gently tap it to level the surface of the grounds. Place the brewer on a carafe or cup, place this entire set-up onto a digital scale, and set it to zero.
  5. Start a timer. Begin pouring water slowly over the coffee, starting at the outer rim and moving in a steady spiral toward the center of the grounds. 
  6. Starting in the center of the grounds, pour in a steady spiral toward the outer edge and then back toward the center
  7. Add milk and sugar to taste 

2. Pressure Method :

The Italian stovetop coffeepot is a three-chamber design. Water boils in the lower section. The steam forces the boiling water up through coffee grounds held in the middle section, separated by a mesh from the top section. The coffee decoction is then collected in the top section.

3. Steeping :

A French press is a cylinder with a plunger that has a metal mesh filter. The coffee powder is placed in the cylinder, and boiling water is then poured into it.  After 5-7 minutes the plunger is pushed down, leaving the filter just above the ground powder, allowing the coffee to be poured.

You can buy one here (Opens in a new window)

Malaysian Coffee A simple muslin pouch, shaped like a filter, into which coffee is placed, and then steeped into hot water. This method is often used with local strong Robusta coffees of Malaysia.

A Vacuum brewer constructed of two chambers: One atop the other with a tube in the centre. Water is placed in the pot, the coffee grounds are placed in the bowl on top, and the whole apparatus is set over a burner. As the water heats, it is forced by vapour pressure up the tube and into the chamber where it mixes with the ground coffee.  The water vapour in the pot cools and contracts, creating a partial vacuum and the coffee flows down through the filter.

4. Boiling:

Turkish coffee, sugar, and water are placed in a narrow-topped pot (Ibrik) and brought to the boil (optionally 2-3 times) then instantly removed from the heat. The coffee can be flavoured with cardamom.

A simpler method is to put the ground coffee in a cup, pour hot water over it and let it cool while the grounds sink to the bottom. In Indonesia this method is still used.

It is essential that your equipment be cleaned after each use by rinsing it with hot water and towel drying. It’s best to soak the equipment in hot water to loosen all particles and then wash it. Clean thoroughly to avoid residual build-up of coffee oil.


Golden do’s and don’ts of making coffee:

The Grind-A fine balance

A burr or mill grinder is preferable to a blade grinder because all of the coffee is ground to a consistent size. This is an important step.  If your coffee is ground too fine it may taste bitter and if it too coarse it may taste flat. Professionals where you purchase your coffee can grind it specifically for the equipment you use. The theory behind this is rather simple: The more coffee surface area exposed, the faster the extraction. However once you know the size of the grind best suited to your equipment, you can grind it at home, small amounts each time just for that cup! Freshly ground coffee is an essential to a descent cup of coffee.

Don't ever re-use coffee grounds, because its desirable flavour has been extracted during the first brewing and it will taste like bitter nothing!

There are 3 essential grinds and the apparatus’s that can be used:

Coarse Grind:  French Press, Vacuum Coffee Maker, Stop tops Espresso Pots and Percolator.

Medium or Fine: Drip Makers with a cone filter. Also, Espresso machines (depending on the machine) and an Aeropress.

Fine: Indian Percolator or and you could also try Drip Makers with a cone filter.

The Coffee- Utopia would be home browned, home ground and home made coffee

Know where your coffee comes from? Is it a blend or is it a single estate coffee. Buy roasted coffee beans and not ground. Invest in a small grinder at home. If possible, purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted. And grind the desired amount for your cup each time you make the coffee. Fresh roasted and ground coffee is essential to a superb cup of coffee.

Don’t purchase coffee in Bulk. It’s not like wine, which gets better with time. An old packet of coffee powder is as good as sawdust.

The Water: Remember, filthy water cannot be washed.

Water makes up most of your coffee cup, so be sure to use cold filtered or bottled water. Do use clean water with no detectable tastes or odours. Don't use distilled or softened water.

Coffee: Water ratio- ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’-TS Eliot

A thumb rule is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This of course can be varied to suit individual requirements.

Don't try to make "weaker coffee" by decreasing the amount of coffee you use to brew. This only results in a bitter, over-extracted beverage. Instead, just add a little water to your cup and you will be able to enjoy a less intense, but still high-quality coffee flavour

Water Temperature During Brewing

The temperature of water should be between 95 degrees Celsius for optimum extraction of coffee flavour.  Water too cold or too hot will impact the taste of the coffee. If you are manually brewing coffee, let the water come to a full boil, immediately turn off the gas and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.

Brewing Time- making Time count

The amount of time that 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. But please experiment with the contact time until you can make a cup of coffee that suits your taste bud perfectly.

Reheating a cup of coffee is not EVER an option. Many a slip between the cup and the Lip

Enjoy Your Coffee! All this sounds like a long process but from grinding to brewing it take me 6 minutes. So enjoy your brew.