How to make strong coffee

July 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

I think their marriage will last a few more years as they’ve already passed the 60-year mark but my mother and father in law just don’t agree on coffee. Sure, they both like coffee but mom likes strong coffee and dad is of a mind to stretch a basket of grounds.

A guide to tasting and appreciating the variety of fine coffees roasted at Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters

Tasting Notes

We gently remind dad that he can always add a little hot water or an ice cube to his cup if the coffee is too strong for his taste. Coffee brewed too weakly can’t be salvaged.

Coffee at our cafe is brewed strong. We use a full complement of properly ground coffee whether prepared in volume through our brewers or single cups by hand at our pour-over bar. Let’s begin with a definition of “strong” — the dose of coffee used in brewing.

The coffee you’re buying is good so lets invest a little time to prepare it with precision and then adjust to your taste.

That word, “strong,” doesn’t, or rather shouldn’t, have any meaning to the darkness of the roast. Our dark, aromatic Onyx blend coffee would be a weak coffee if too little is used in the brew. A light Brazilian can be muddied by too strong a brew. Other factors influence desirable aroma and taste: sweetness, acidity, body, balance and finish are the five on which we concentrate because the coffee industry’s flavor wheel can make you dizzy.

Coffee Flavor Wheel

Flavor Wheel

Here’s what the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) recommends: 10.5 grams of properly ground coffee per US cup, or 8 fluid ounces of water. You may have heard 7 grams but that relates to a 6 ounce, or European, measured cup. In the US, it’s 10.5 — it doesn’t seem like much, does it.

If you spend a little time with a gram scale like the simple one shown, you’ll learn how much coffee beans to prepare for grinding for whichever method you prefer. For Christmas a couple of years ago, we received a really nice coffee measuring scoop and leveled off it holds 13 grams of coffee. It’s pretty, though, but about as accurate as the “2 tablespoons” per cup adage.

So, we’re going to stick with 10.5 grams per US 8-0unce cup. That adds up quickly to 85 grams (just a pinch shy of 3 ounces) for 8 US cups, or 64 ounces of water to prepare coffee.

But there’s a head fake involved. Our “12 cup” carafe in our home brewer isn’t really 12 US 8-ounce cups. In fact, at the 12 cup “fill” mark, the carafe falls short of eight (8) US cups. Our favored cafetiere (French Press) held just four (4) US cups. Little wonder we’re always short of coffee!

This whole issue of strength of coffee can get sticky within a finicky industry. SCAA’s technical recommendation, the measure used for Gold Cup awards, is for 18 to 22% weight of the ground coffee’s oils to extracted to a brew. By SCAA’s calculations this will produce a beverage containing 1.15 to 1.35 percent dissolved solids. But, we think you shouldn’t fret so much to set up a chem lab in your kitchen.

Let first your nose, then your pallet decide. You may want more or less coffee than the 10.5 gram per 8-ounces benchmark. That will depend on how different coffees taste and how you adjust preparation methods to suit your own tastes, whether you’re my mom or my dad.

We’re just not going to get into equipment here. SCAA currently certifies just three home brewers, mostly because most home automatic drip brewers fail SCAA’s temperature tests. Water temps are supposed to be between 92c and 96c (197f to 204f) in the brew basket for no less than 50% of a 2-8 minute brew cycle. We use off boil water in our French Press — that’s hot, likely around 94c or 202f. The three certified machines are:

  • Technivorm Moccamaster
  • Lance Larkin BE 112 Brew Express
  • Bunn HG Home Brewer

You’ll enjoy the fully enjoy the fresh taste of our roasts only if you grind just prior to preparing your coffee. A quality burr (not blade) grinder is the first investment to make in quality preparation.

Whether you use paper filters or a metal filter is up to you; the latter delivers more of the oils to the cup and the result is a richer character, as in how the coffee feels in your mouth. Paper filters deliver a cleaner cup, absent any sediments that slip through the metal filters.

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