|Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash|
Welcome back to my Coffee Journey. Today we're talking about the fact that coffee consists in 98% water, which is one of the four fundamentals when it comes to coffee preparation:
- Proportion (Ratio)
Personally, I would love to add "Time" as the fifth participant, but let's leave this aside.
Let's start with water
What's the big deal about the water, you may ask? Water is water, right?
You may actually ruin your coffee if you are using water that contains chlorine, or smells like iron or sulphur, so please use fresh, cold, filtered water. Cold as opposed to from the hot water storage tank.
Let's talk about the temperature some more. The perfect water temperature for brewing coffee is 195 - 205°F = 90 - 96°C. The higher the temperature of the water, the more quickly extraction will happen. If water is too cool, extraction takes much longer. At a certain point, some compounds simply won't extract. This is why a cold brew takes much longer and has a much more mellow flavor than a hot brew of the same beans.
Hot coffee will also be more acidic due to the acid levels in the coffee bean's fatty oils. The hot water will break up these oils much quicker, depositing much more acid into the coffee. Much more as in 70% more compared to cold water!
So if you suffer from an upset stomach from drinking coffee, cold brew may be for you.
I know you didn't sign up for science class when you clicked on this blog post, but allow me one last word about water quality: water hardness. Yes, depending on where you live, you know full well water hardness is a factor in your daily life when it comes to washing your hair, doing laundry, cleaning your surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom or maintaining the appliances in said rooms.
What does this have to do with coffee though?
Well - everything! Considering coffee is 98% water, the same coffee will taste totally different if you live, say in New England or Southern California and use unfiltered water.
So if you're interested, check your water hardness with your local utility company and compare it to the recommended standards:
|Source: Barista Institute|
Treat coffee like any other fresh produce and protect it from oxygen, light, heat and moisture. So please store your precious coffee in an opaque, airtight container at room temperature, and use it within a week (two, if you must) of opening.
I don't know who came up with the idea of storing coffee in the fridge, but it's a bad idea for the following reasons:
When coffee beans were roasted, they lost moisture and started to create sugar through caramelization. Ever since they've been ready and willing to absorb water. in the fridge there is a lot of moisture, which basically starts the process of extracting flavors. Meaning if you use beans or grounds that have bee stored in the fridge, you are basically using stale and partially "brewed" coffee. Plus, since coffee works as a deodorizer it will absorb all the aromas in your fridge. Unless you like roasted chicken flavoured coffee, don't do it. Also don't leave your coffee beans behind in your car. Temperature changes, sunlight and humidity will ruin them.
When Starbucks' business started to grow, they encountered the following challenge: how to supply all of their stores with fresh-roasted coffee beans without building a roasting plant in every city?
A creative mind - I wish I remembered their name - came up with the concept of FlavorLock bags, which have a one-way valve that allows carbon dioxide released by the beans to escape without allowing flavor-robbing oxygen to get in. Very clever.
Also they are very particular about their standards in making coffee. An espresso shot needs to be used for these lattes and cappuccinos within 10 seconds. Brewed coffee will be replaced every 2 hours.
Here are some recommendations for grinding:
- coarse for French press
- medium for flat bottom drip
- fine for cone filter
- extra fine for espresso
If you grind your coffee finer, you'll expose a lot more surface area, which is very useful for extracting more coffee flavor. But when you change the surface area, you also change the way that the grounds interconnect with each other. So when you tamp them down in your "coffee puck" the finer the pieces are, the better they fit together, and the harder it is for the water to flow through them. This will increase the contact time between the water and the coffee.
If you can, always grind just before brewing.
|Source: James Hoffmann|
A general recommendation is to use a 1:16 ratio of coffee and water. Here's a chart with very detailed measurements and ratios for your convenience. Personally I use 10 grams = 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for 180 ml = 6 ounces of water, and I use my simplified French press method. It includes a spouty cup and a sieve, just the right size for one person. I only use the French press when several people are having coffee.
I can't wrap this up without telling you why I consider
just as important as the other factors. Here goes:
One not so fine day I was preparing a French press, and I accidentally put 4 hours (instead of 4 minutes) on my timer. My inner clock told me at some point it might be time. The coffee had been brewing for 5 minutes, and it tasted terrible. Nothing like a little mishap to learn life lessons!!
Are these explanations helpful to you? Will you look at storing, grinding and preparing your coffee differently from now on?