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skyhskyh

Please help me make good coffee at home

150 posts in this topic

I go back to my Cuisinart® Supreme Grind™ Automatic Burr Mill as a recommendation on the low end of the market. Assuming you keep it clean, it does a perfectly fine job, and for only $50. Note that as I get better at making coffee, I will likely upgrade to something better (assuming there is something the others do better), but if you are really looking to minimize the initial costs of learning, you can get the french press and grinder for about 90 bucks.

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The problem for those of us down under is cost. That Cuisinart supreme grind has an RRP of $119 here. Sigh.

Chris, I am after a similar goal. Yesterday I picked up an Isomac Granmacinino that I bought off eBay for $149. I've made two pots of French press and one pourover since then and the quality difference over the Melitta ground coffee I've been using (which was passable as long as i was still getting good coffee in the city) was incredible. And that's just with the random beans i picked up from Pine Coffee. The only extra work I had to do was stand for the 30 or so seconds it took to grind the coffee. The seller told me it's basically maintenance free (as opposed to the coffee machine he also showed me). My mother uses a blade grinder, and I find it rather painful.

I don't know what your price point is, but a number of people on Coffee Snobs seem to use the breville or sunbeam as an intro machine - there are a fair few available on eBay.

So, joining the chorus based on my recent experience: For maximum return with minimum effort, you could go the pourover route with disposable filters (easy to deal with), and fresh ground coffee. Especially if you're only after 1 cup in the morning. I have a Melita pourover cup, and buy the Harris Coffee filters from Woolies - works great for a quick morning cup and is nearly as quick as instant.

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Questions of temperature have come up here a few times, and I'd like to address those.

If you're doing a press, pour over or similar, take a fresh brewed kettle and go for it. Even after preheating everything, there is substantial heat loss, that will get you down to that 200F/93C mark. Remember too that the coffee isn't preheated, so no matter how much you preheat, you've got coffee that's going to suck heat out of the water.

If you're doing a pour over, and pulse-pouring, little bits at a time, awesome. That's good technique. Much better than dumping all the water in and developing a 'high and dry' problem. When you're doing this though, the water will cool a lot, so it's best to pop it back on the heat. We use an induction heater to keep it right hot. Remember most pour overs don't have a lid, so you're losing a lot of heat through the top of the thing.

If you're in a testing mood and want to replicate, we did all our testing with a Fluke thermometer, and a bead thermometer in the coffee slurry.


Barrett Jones - 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

Dwell Time - my coffee and photography site

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Barrett,

I would *love* to see a graph of ground coffee mass vs. delta Temperature if you have one lying around.

Thanks,

Zachary

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I've graphed nothing. Being as the ratio of coffee to water is constant, I don't see the value in it: it's going to be a straight line. We just work on how hot we need to start to get the desired result (200ish/93ish.)


Barrett Jones - 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

Dwell Time - my coffee and photography site

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Barrett,

Sorry if I wasn't clear. The ground coffee sucks some of the heat out of the water as it hits the grounds. So starting with 202 water in the kettle might mean 198 if you have 42 grams of coffee in the V60. Is there data that says a mass of coffee X changes the temperature of the water Y degrees for many common values of X?

Thanks,

Zachary

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Well, it's not that easy, because you're also losing heat through steam, the ceramic being heated (even if it's preheated, which it should be) We count on losing 10 degrees.


Barrett Jones - 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

Dwell Time - my coffee and photography site

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We have a blade grinder and a daughter getting married in June so a burr grinder is quite a ways down the list right now. We have a local roaster who is not the absolute best I've ever run across, but is doing a nice job. They have a commercial burr grinder there and will grind for me. It's kind of interesting because I think you get just a little sample of whatever they person before you had mixed in, but it doesn't seem to bother anyone. I get about a week's worth at a time so it doesn't seem to break down very much. It does come in a bag with a one way seal. I do keep it in the butter compartment of the fridge. After reading some of the advice here I may switch that to a dark, cool cabinet to see if we can tell the difference.

At home we just use a standard Mr. Coffee drip machine. The water comes through the filter in our fridge. I do take the time to heat water for coffee in a tea kettle every day. Once it steams good (but not quite boils) I pour a little over the grounds to bloom them. The rest of the hot water goes into the reservoir. On a non-rush day I will wait about a minute for the grounds to bloom then just turn it on, most days it just goes on. The Mr. Coffee has a thermal carafe, which is great. It's not an absolutely perfect world solution, but is economical, simple and does make darn good coffee.

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I am actually thinking of doing the same thing so I have been doing a bit of research myself. There is definitely an art to making coffee, but luckily most of the work has already been done for us.

I'm assuming that you are used to high quality coffee so will not be opting for your Foldgers of the world, but there are a variety of online sources available as well as some useful tips above.

As far as the coffee maker goes I would opt for something in the 30-70 range as there are a variety of models that don't require a water pot and can ration out exactly a cup. This might help to get your percentages right.

I've been told to simply buy beans at the store and grind them yourself as it is much cheaper than buying pre-ground beans. Or of course you could invest in your own grinder also as listed above.

If you find this to be taxing there are some machines out there that cost a pretty penny and pretty much do all the work for you. This may seem expensive but considering how much you likely spent on coffee outside the home, it could be paying for itself in no time.

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I can't seem to make a decent cup of coffee to save my life.

Some background: I am by no means a connoisseur. In the past, I drank a lot of Starbucks mocha, primarily to disguise the flavor of their coffee. When I couldn't brew a decent cup at home, I bought a Technivorm Moccamaster. When that still didn't work, I resorted to Folger's Singles with hot cocoa mixed in. I then switched to tea. :blush:

Recently, I had what I thought to be a great cup of coffee at my brother's house. He grinds his own, but brews a blend of Eight O'Clock and Kona style coffee from Costco.

So, I dedicated the old blade grinder to grinding nuts (there's another for spices), and purchased a Capresso Infinity burr grinder. I ordered some green beans from Sweet Maria's, and a recommended popcorn popper from Amazon. While waiting for the beans to arrive, I'm experimenting with different supermarket coffees, coffee-to-water ratios, and methods of optimizing the Technivorm. I'm grinding immediately prior to brewing. I bought what I believed to be the most recently roasted beans from Wegmans, their "Single Origin Organic Guatemalan", which claims to be a medium roast, with medium body and full flavor. No matter how much or how little coffee I use, I hate it. It's either too strong/bitter, or strong and insipid at the same time. I haven't even used the popcorn popper yet, and I'm already looking to buy a heat gun and try that method of roasting instead.

All this for a decent cup of coffee, that my culinarily challenged sister-in-law can crank out in her Mr. Coffee without a second thought. What am I doing wrong?

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How many different varieties of coffee have you tried? Do you know whether you prefer a darker or lighter roast (in general)? If you liked the eight o'clock/Kona blend at your brother's, have you tried making the exact same thing at home?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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How many different varieties of coffee have you tried? Do you know whether you prefer a darker or lighter roast (in general)? If you liked the eight o'clock/Kona blend at your brother's, have you tried making the exact same thing at home?

I'm honestly not sure what I like. I have tried straight-up Eight O'Clock, original roast, that was not very good. (It was a month away from its use-by date, so I guess that meant it was eleven months past the roasting date.) Besides the Wegmans stuff (the aforementioned, plus one of their city roasts -- weak stuff, and their breakfast blend, which I don't recall at all), I have only ever brewed Dunkin' Donuts and Luzianne ground coffee with chicory. (I remembered once liking Community coffee, and thought it would be the same. It wasn't.) I realize that's not a wide variety, but I'm reluctant to buy any supermarket coffee ever again, and I don't know of any decent shops in the area that are roasting their own.

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Well, my concern is that it may be that you don't like most coffee, and that it doesn't have anything to do with freshness, etc. If I was you'd I'd try replicating the blend of your brother's that you liked to make sure you get your brewing technique down first, since you know for a fact that you liked that one. If you start right off into roasting your own there are going to be too many variables.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I thought, perhaps, that I'm just not a coffee person, but I have had many good cups of coffee over the years, just none that I have brewed myself. No one else seems to like it either, my brother included. It drives me nuts that I have to serve my tasty, homemade baked goods with bad coffee. I will eventually break down and ask my brother exactly what he does (blend, amounts, etc.), but my competitive nature would prefer to figure it out on my own, then wow him one day with my home roasted brew. Absurd, I know.

I'm going to try brewing some of the Wegmans Guatemalan coffee in a French press and see if that makes a difference. If I still don't like it, then I can at least assume that the Technivorm isn't the problem, and that it's likely that particular bean that I dislike.

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Are you following the brewing instructions at Sweet Maria's?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Are you following the brewing instructions at Sweet Maria's?

Absolutely. I use a paper filter in the Technivorm, so I pre-wet it, close the drip stop switch to allow the coffee to bloom, weigh my coffee, etc. I will now test drive their French press instructions.

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You might also try using the filter and carafe from the Technivorm but doing a simple pour-over brew, so you can control the water temperature. French press coffee is quite different from drip.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Maybe I missed it, but have you experimented with changing the coarseness of your grind? It seems like you've changed most other variables, but that one is of crucial importance. If it's too bitter, it's probably overextracted, meaning you need to make your grind more coarse. If it's insipid, you should grind finer.

I am a bit curious about what you mean by "strong and insipid at the same time" though. Could you elaborate on how you're using "strong?" I find that many people use that descriptor to describe many different attributes of coffee, from caffeine content to amount of flavor.

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By strong, I meant leaning towards bitter. I tend to prefer coffee on the mellow (i.e. weak) side, always with sugar and milk or half and half. The cup that I described as both strong and insipid was more aptly described by my brother as bitter, yet completely lacking in body.

Since getting the burr grinder, I have primarily used the middle range of the medium coarseness setting, because I'm brewing drip, and in an effort to be consistent while other variables change.

By the way, I agree that I'm using crappy coffee. (I use bottled spring water.) Still waiting on those Sweet Maria green beans, I bought a bag of Eight O'Clock Colombian beans, which were actually a bit better than their red bag "Original", but far from fantastic. I still think it tastes way too strong. I've been using 50 grams of beans for every liter of water. I'm sure most of you would prefer to bathe in an infusion that weak.

Oh, and I never got around to my French press experiment. It cost significantly less than the Technivorm, so I'm inclined to try to make that work first.

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I think your perceptions of weak/strong/bitter/insipid might be off, as MikeHartnett points out.

No matter what you do to that crappy coffee, be it French press, Technivorm or having the infusion made by hand maidens, it is never going to be good.

I like Chris' suggestion that you brew some coffee with the pour over method, by using the filter and carafe from the Technivorm - having absolute control over the water temperature. No need to make a liter all at once - make a 1/2 pint - use the right amount of coffee, and go from there...fwiw, I think your grind is probably too coarse for pourover - I go the just the upside of an espresso grind for my pourover coffee.

And buy some good roasted beans - Sweet Maria's is great - but you really have to understand the roasting process before you can be absolutely certain that the beans you produce are any better than, say, 8 o'clock's. You could buy some roasted beans from them, or Intellegentsia, or...


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I appreciate all of your detailed advice. I am taking every bit of it into consideration. As I struggle to find the language to describe what I'm tasting, I feel a bit like a blind man trying to describe a painting. Thank you for bearing with me.

Regarding the pour over suggestion: I wondered how that would be an advantage over the Technivorm, since the major selling point of that machine is precise temperature control. I measured the temperature of the water with a Thermapen as it dripped into the filter basket and, depending on where along the probe the water hit, it fluctuated between 195 and 205, which is supposed to be spot on. I'll give this suggestion a shot anyway, for curiosity's sake, grinding more finely this time.

As for simply purchasing a bag of Intelligentsia, I'm just being cheap. From all I've read about it, I'm sure it's fantastic, but I didn't want to fall in love with $25 per pound (once shipping is factored in) coffee, and only be able to have it every once in a while. The home roasting idea is my attempt at having good coffee at a more reasonable price. Should I try Intelligentsia once to set a gold standard for my home roast, or is that just madness? I was thinking their El Gallo breakfast blend might be a good option for me.

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Should I try Intelligentsia once to set a gold standard for my home roast, or is that just madness? I was thinking their El Gallo breakfast blend might be a good option for me.

Yes - I think that would be a good idea. If you have a food saver or similar, you can vacuum 1/4 lbs. and keep them in the freezer till the night before you're ready to use.

I think you should aso try one or two of their single origins (they sell 1/2 pounds), maybe a Central or South American and an African?

That's a good water temperature from the Tech...


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I just tried the pour over method using the filter basket from the Technivorm, the finest of the medium grind options on the Infinity, and 199 degree spring water. I closed the stopper, poured in a bit of water, stirred, let it steep for thirty seconds, then opened the stopper to half while pouring in the rest. The result? Exactly the same as before.

I'm sure I'm just accustomed to weak coffee, but what has been consistent about all of my experimentation is that I require far more cream and sugar -- just to make it drinkable -- than I typically do for a cup of coffee of equal volume.

Perhaps that's because I'm now measuring more precisely. In the past, I would buy a bag of ground coffee -- invariably Dunkin' Donuts -- and measure out a scoop for every cup of water, plus one for good measure, as my parents used to do. Who knows what size scoop? Over the years, it may have been the one accompanying the coffee machine, or the coffee can, or just a measuring spoon. I never weighed coffee before two weeks ago. From what I can gather, my 50 grams of coffee-to-1 liter of water ratio -- by most standards, a weak to average strength cup -- is somewhat stronger than the the higher end of Technivorm's suggestion of 5 to 6 scoops (theirs) per 1.25 liters of water. That's about 40 to 48 grams of coffee per liter.

What's even more maddening is that, even if I work out a good ratio for one type of coffee, it will likely change when I change to another type of coffee. This is like relearning how to bake. Each flour has a different weight per volume, different properties, and is better suited to one task or another. Silly me. I thought making coffee would be easy.

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When you say you're using "spring water," what's the mineral composition like? Ideally you want somewhere above 20 ppm of hardness, but below 80 ppm, based on my readings. What kind of water did your brother use?

Edit: typo


Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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