2022 Coffee Brewing Guide
"How to make the best coffee"
Coffee is a subjective experience; an enigma wrapped in a complicated series of global labyrinths buried deep in the subconscious of a multi-generational quagmire, which is to say there’s a lot to be said about coffee, and some of it makes sense and resonates with everyone (like it’s pick-me-up, caffeinated qualities), and a lot of the specialty aspects of specialty coffee are obscure and barely comprehensible, especially at 5am when all you’re wanting is a nice, relaxing cup of joe.
But enjoying a quality cup of coffee doesn’t have to be a master class in erudite methods. It can be quite simple, and hopefully this guide can be a reference to some of coffee’s simplicity in making a good cup.
Not all grinders are created equal. There are quite a few different types of grinders out on the market, but the main two types of grinders for retail home baristas are blade and burr grinders.
Blade grinders are typically inferior grinders that inconsistently grind the coffee while also slightly heating it up before it’s brewed by slicing the beans repeatedly. They’re also typically advertised as being capable of grinding coffee, nuts, spices, and various other culinary wonders, and while that sounds great to have an all-in-one grind everything and anything in your kitchen sort of machine, over time the coffee will begin to taste like all the other spices and other miscellaneous ingredients you put through the blades, along with the blades wearing down far quicker than burr grinders and thus costing more in the long run.
Burr grinders, on the other hand, work by crushing the beans using dual ridges that run parallel to each other with one remaining stationary while the other rotates while the coffee transforms into a far more uniform grind. There are, however, two different types of burr grinders that’s main differentiation is their shape: conical and flat.
Conical burr grinders are, as the name suggests, more of a cone shape, while the flat burr grinders are two serrated burr mills situated flat on one another. They both tend to produce uniform and consistent grind size, but there are detractors and advocates for both types.
There are a few things to consider when grinding your coffee. For starters, the grind size will depend on your brew method. Full immersion brewers, like the French press, tend to require coarser grinds, whereas pour-overs and Aero-press require a medium-to-fine grind.
You’ll also want to consider basic maintenance of your grinder. Occasionally, it will be necessary to brush off coffee debris that accumulates over time, and it will be prudent to clean out the grinder, which is surprisingly easier than you might assume. Of course, Urnex sells coffee cleaning tablets that make cleaning your grinder as easy as dropping a couple of tablets through the grinder to extend its life while ensuring your next pot of coffee tastes as fresh as the first.
It’s also important to realize that coffee is a perishable ingredient. The moment it is ground, CO2 releases from within the coffee bean, and its freshness begins to deteriorate the longer it’s not brewed. For that reason, we recommend grinding your coffee right before brewing to for a quality cup of coffee each and every brew.
The pour-over method is one of the easiest, minimalistic methods of brewing out there. There are some pretty intricate and upscale designs of pour-over mechanisms, and there’s no wrong way to go about choosing one. From Hario to Kalita to Chemex and beyond, the list of good pour-over brewing equipment is long and still growing.
The thing to remember when choosing a pour-over brewer is what fits your needs? Most Hario and Kalita brewers produce some quality, clean cups of coffee for one or two people. Whereas with a slight adjustment and scaling of the recipe, you can brew just as aromatic and great a cup with a larger Chemex that produces a larger amount. In either case, we recommend choosing the type of pour-over that will work best with your counter space and your coffee brewing needs.
All you’ll need is your preferred coffee (ground medium fine), filtered water, filters for your brewing mechanism, a kettle, a timer, and a scale.
Begin by boiling your water.
Then you’ll need to grind your coffee. Of course you can skip this step if you choose to purchase pre-ground coffee, but either way, we recommend a medium fine grind for this brew method. It’s best to measure out the amount of coffee to water ratio you’ll be using to make sure the coffee is consistent each and every time, and that ratio for pour-overs tends to sit in the range of 1:16, but you can also adjust based on preferences and tastes.
Once the water has begun to boil, you’ll need to pre-wet the filter by pouring a small amount of the boiling water, and discarding that water. This step will prevent any paper taste from coming through in your final cup.
Place the grounds in the pre-wet filter, with the dripper and carafe on top of your scale.
Begin pouring your water in a spiral motion to ensure all your grounds are fully saturated. At first you’ll notice the coffee grounds expanding. This is the CO2 releasing, along with other gasses trapped within the bean. This is called the bloom.You’ll want to wait about 30 seconds or so for the coffee grounds to contract a bit and to allow all the necessary gasses to expel from the coffee bed.
Slowly pour the rest of your water onto your coffee. It’s best to make sure the dripper is never overrun with water by only filling it half to about three-quarters full while the water makes its way through your coffee bed. Overall, this should take about 3-4 minutes in total. If the coffee brews too quickly or slowly, then there could be an issue with the grind size you're using, and it might be best to adjust.
Like we said, it’s a pretty simple, straightforward process. The dripper and carafe are typically low maintenance and easy to clean. The cups of coffee pour-over produce are uniform, clean, and bring out some potent aromatics that are a good addition to any morning routine.
The pour-over is also extremely customizable. You can go incredibly intricate with it by making the pour-over a mathematical, scientific equation by honing in on every small detail from the micron particulate size of your grind to the alkalinity and pH of your water, or an artistic expression by adding in cloves and orange peels to the coffee grounds as it brews. Either way, the pour-over make a fine, delicious cup that we think no matter where you go with it can bring up some great qualities in your coffee.
The French press is an iconic piece of coffee brewing equipment known the world over for producing bold flavor notes with a texture of its own class. A straightforward brew, the French press can offer any coffee lover with a rich array of aromas and taste.
The premise of the French press is pretty simple: it has a brewing carafe in which the coffee is immersed in water for 4 minutes before the top plunger is pushed down and filters the grounds from the finished coffee.
What you’ll need is: coarsely ground coffee, filtered water, a kettle, a scale, a timer, and some sort of stirring mechanism to stir the slurry of coffee grounds (we recommend the blunt end of a wooden spoon, or something that can withstand hot temperatures but also isn’t too hard like metal since many French presses are made of glass).
Begin by boiling your water.
Next measure out your coffee. This will mainly depend on how big your French press is/how many cups of coffee it can make, and whether or not you are wanting to make an entire pot or just a couple of cups. We recommend starting out with a ratio of 1:12 of coffee to water, so, for example, 30grams of coffee and then about 350grams of water.
Grind coffee coarsely and place at the bottom of the French press. Once the water has come to a boil, start pouring it over the coffee bed, ensuring to fully saturate every coffee particle. We’ve found it helpful and easiest to water all the coffee using a swirling pattern, but you can adjust and experiment in whatever way is easiest for you.
Once the carafe is filled about halfway with water and the coffee begins to bloom, stir the coffee with your stirring mechanism to ensure all the coffee is fully soaked, as well as release CO2
Fill the rest of the carafe with your remaining water, place the plunger on top without pushing it down, and set a timer for 4minutes.
Once your timer finishes, push down the plunger, which acts as a filter that separates the coffee grounds from the finished coffee. Pour and enjoy!
The French press is one of the most accessible ways to brew a complex and interesting cup of coffee. Some detractors might say that it doesn’t produce as clean of a cup as a pour-over does since it retains some of the coffee oils that a lot of people might call bitter, but nonetheless the French press still highlights great flavor notes about with a robust body that puts on display all the greatness of a coffee’s provenance, and if there’s any flaws, then they’re that much easier to taste.
If you’re looking for an alternative, ecologically-friendly single-cup brewer that doesn’t take up much counter space and can easily travel with you, including camping trips or your office, then look no further: the Aeropress is here!
The Aeropress has developed a bit of a niche notoriety and cult following over the years within the coffee community, even having its very own globally renowned competition dedicated solely to brewing the best Aeropress coffee in the world; aptly called the World Aeropress Championships.
Its history is rather eccentric, and was created by Alan Adler in the mid 2000’s in his company Aerobie (which eventually was rebranded as Aeropress Inc in 2017 due to the Aeropress’ popularity), that was mainly known for making various toys, like the Aerobie Pro flying ring, which set a handful of Guinness world records for “longest throw of an object without any velocity-aiding feature.” Within a short time frame, it became a well-known feature in many coffee enthusiasts’ toolkits around the world.
The basic premise of the Aeropress is that it uses pressure to push the water through the coffee bed to extract a delicious, yet clean cup that we’re sure you will enjoy. While there are quite a few different techniques and methods to brewing with the Aeropress, we’ve found that the “inverted” method, where the plunger sits on the bottom, gives you the most control over steep time, water ratio, and consistency.
You’ll need an Aeropress brewer, medium fine ground coffee, Aeropress filters (that come with the Aeropress), filtered water, a kettle, a scale, and a timer.
First, you’ll want to start boiling your water.
Measure out your coffee. With the Aeropress, we recommend using a 1:16 coffee to water ratio. This will make approximately one cup of coffee. You can, however, always adjust the ratio based on taste preference, as well. Once measured, grind the coffee medium fine, or about the size of table salt.
Invert the Aeropress with the plunger on the bottom and the brewing chamber sitting on top, then place the grounds in the chamber.
Begin brewing by pouring your water over the coffee bed and set your timer. Fill the Aeropress about halfway. Stir the grounds to ensure the coffee slurry is fully saturated, while also releasing CO2.
Fill the rest of the Aeropress with remaining water to the top. Fit the filter cap with a paper filter in place securely onto the Aeropress and wait till the timer reaches 2 minutes.
Flip the Aeropress onto the cup you’ll be using. We recommend not using anything flimsy, like a paper cup, but rather a ceramic mug or metal tumbler that can withstand the pressure of you pushing down on the Aeropress’ plunger.
Continue to press down on the plunger until you hear a light hiss, which will indicate that the coffee is finished brewing, and enjoy!
A couple things to note is: it works best to not apply as much force as you can on the plunger. It seems counterintuitive, but if you press too hard, then the pressure builds up and compacts the coffee grounds, building up air pressure and making it significantly more difficult to brew. If you’re applying adequate pressure to the Aeropress and it’s still too difficult to press down on the plunger, then it could indicate that your grounds are a bit too fine, and it might work best to grind a little coarser to make it easier for the water to pass through.
There are a wide variety of tips and tricks that span from the esoteric and bizarre to the precise scientific and exacting. As with all other forms of brewing coffee, the Aeropress is incredibly customizable, and we encourage you to find the recipe ratio and methods that work best for you.
Ice coffee is a staple within each cafe’s summer menu. Brewing coffee over ice can dramatically change the composition and flavor notes of your favorite coffee and be a unique and interesting way to experience your coffee drinking routine. Ice coffee differs from cold brew in that it is coffee brewed using hot water over ice, releasing those volatile aromatic compounds that coffee is known for, while capturing those chemical reactions that tend to break down and degrade over time when coffee is left to sit for too long.
The recipe is of course customizable and apt for whatever changes your heart desires. We do recommend creating more of a concentrated coffee by using a higher ratio of coffee to water, since the coffee does tend to be watered down by the ice, especially when it begins to melt.
You will need fresh coffee ground medium fine, filtered water, a scale, a pour-over mechanism with appropriate carafe, filter, ice, and a timer.
Begin by boiling your water.
Measure out 40grams of coffee and grind to medium fine. We recommend using around 300grams of water and then 160grams of ice, which will be about a 1:11 coffee to water ratio.
Before brewing, pour a little bit of your hot water over the filter to ensure your coffee won’t have that paper taste at the end. Discard the used water.
Place your grounds into your now pre-wet filter in your pour-over mechanism, and place your ice into the carafe. Begin pouring your water over the coffee bed.
Add only enough water to allow your coffee to bloom and de-gas, fully saturating all the grounds, which will take around 30-45seconds. Continue adding water in 20second bursts to ensure the flow is even and to have maximum control over the pour.
Add whatever sweeteners or dairy you like to finish your ice coffee and enjoy!
Ice coffee is one of the simplest and classic beverages of summer. You can customize it any different sort of way, from adding your favorite flavored syrup and sugars, to creating inspired and unique cocktails. It’s a great way to cool off and stay caffeinated as the temperature rises.
While cold brew and ice coffee are enjoyed over ice and during warmer seasons, their similarities end there. Cold brew has slowly been gaining more and more loyal followers over the past decade, with each year the cold brew community growing larger and larger. And for good reason too: cold brew is a simple, yet effective, method of brewing coffee cold without the need of heating up water, while eliminating some of the more astringent acidity some ice and hot coffees are known for.
There are quite a few cold brew specific mechanisms out on the market right now, and that list is bound to grow as the demand does. But, if you're not wanting to buy a single-use kitchen gadget that’s only purpose is to brew cold brew, then do not fret. Just like there’s more than one way to cook an egg, there’s quite a few methods to brew cold brew.
The process is quite simple: cold brew is simply ground coffee submerged in cold or ambient (aka room temperature) water for an extended period of time. The coffee can brew in pretty much any sort of container, like a mason jar or bottle laying around. We, however, recommend using a French press, if you have one, since the French press has the added benefit of already having a built in filter attached to the plunger top that can easily separate the coffee grounds when the cold brew has finished brewing.
All you’ll need to brew cold brew is: coarsely ground coffee, filtered water, a scale, a cold brew brewing mechanism (or French press), and a timer.
Measure out the amount of coffee you will be using. This will depend on two factors: how big is your brewing mechanism/how much cold brew you’re wanting to brew, and how strong you like your cold brew. We recommend starting out with the ratio of 1:8 coffee to water and adjust accordingly based on taste preference.
Grind coffee coarse and place in your brewing mechanism.
Add appropriate amount of filter water, making sure to fully saturate all your grounds. You might need to use a stirring mechanism to ensure all your coffee is fully immersed.
The next step is perhaps the hardest: wait. Keep waiting for about 20hours. You can cut this short and do a 10-12hour brew, but your cold brew will taste a little weaker, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s all a matter of preference. If you’re not wanting to really keep track of the time because you have other things going on, we get it, then you can just as easily leave your cold brew to brew overnight and that will be a fine starting point.
Separate coffee grounds from the cold brew once done. We find it’s helpful to pour the cold brew into a mason jar and refrigerate. You can even make ice cubes out of your cold brew and add to your favorite milk for a delicious sweet treat.
Customize to your liking by adding whichever sweetener, flavor, and/or dairy you like to taste, and enjoy!
Cold brew has grown quite popular over the years, and despite some of its detractors within the specialty coffee community that criticize cold brew for taking out the complex flavors and acidity found in specialty coffee, even saying that the quality of the bean doesn’t matter, we’re here to say that simply isn’t true. Cold brew coffee, while less acidic than hot coffee, can still produce a vast array of complex flavor notes depending on which coffee you choose. From that single-origin Nicaraguan Mango Honey to a standard Cold Brew Blend to many, many more, cold brew coffee, when brewed with freshly roasted, quality coffee beans, can produce a unique and distinct cup of coffee that’s both thirst-quenching and inspiring.
Other Specialty Brewers and Other Factors to Consider:
There are quite a few different ways to brew coffee nowadays. It’s a constantly advancing, expanding list from the traditional, like moka pots and cezve/ibriks, to the modern wonders of the siphon and the mobile briping brewer and the VacOne coffee air brewer.
The list can be quite exhausting, at times a bit overkill. But the fundamentals to making a quality cup of coffee has not actually changed since the beginning of the 3rd wave of specialty coffee that started back in the early 2000’s. In fact, one could easily argue that the process of making good coffee hasn’t changed since Kaldi the Goat Herder discovered coffee back in the 9th century in Ethiopia.
All you need is quality beans freshly roasted, the right equipment that fits your needs, good, filtered water, and the ability and desire to experiment and customize your cup of coffee to match what flavor you’re wanting out of it, and, most importantly, someone to enjoy your coffee with.
Specialty coffee will constantly evolve. Part of the evolution is necessary, like finding the right hybrid of coffee varietal to be able to withstand the demand of the growing specialty coffee community drinkers while also surviving the strains of environmental changes, and some of the evolution of specialty coffee might seem a bit silly to outsiders, or at the very least not necessary. But the fact of the matter is that coffee has been at the forefront of some of the most significant changes in human history for the past 500 years, and it is yet again at the precipice of a continuing saga being told all throughout the world.
Hopefully, this coffee brewing guide has helped you in some small way discover your preferred way of brewing with your preferred bean. Or maybe it will help you feel confident enough to experiment to achieve your perfect cup of coffee. Either way, coffee is quite a wonderful, unending journey that wakes us up, brings us together, and continually pushes us forward.