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Please help me make good coffee at home


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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.

This is a great demonstration of why it's important to note the difference between "strong" and "bitter." The "strength" of your cup of coffee, i.e., how "watery" it is, is very different from how bitter it is. As I noted above, if your coffee is too bitter, the first variable you should address is grind coarseness. If your coffee is consistently too bitter, a coarser grind will lead to a less overextracted brew, and will remove some bitterness. This is, of course, dependent on other variables, but I believe using the grind as a control, as it seems you have done, is a mistake. The issue with an automatic brewer like a Technivorm is that it doesn't (to my knowledge) allow tinkering with the brew time. As a result, a coarser grind, while removing some bitterness, will also be less fully extracted due to your inability to extend the brew time to compensate for less exposed surface area with the coarser grind.

Also, it might just be that the coffee is roasted darker than you prefer. I roast my own coffee, and I generally try to avoid "roast taste" as much as is reasonably possible. Maybe you just need a coffee that's roasted very lightly, in which case I'd recommend a roaster like Ritual in San Francisco, which is well known for very light roasts.

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If you don't mind me saying, I think that some of the steps you're taking are just clouding the issue for you. One doesn't need to go very far for great coffee - especially in Zionsville. Not too far away is a place called Souderton and a roaster called One Village Coffee Roasters. Go there. Talk to them. Ask them for ideas, brewing techniques and suggestions on coffees to try.

Honestly, buying grocery store coffee is generally asking to be disappointed. Get fresh coffee from people who care. Already you've got the temperature issue solved with the Technivorm. How about coffee quantity? Do you have a scale? Scales make consistent brewing much easier to achieve. I recommend 2 grams of ground coffee per finished ounce. Meaning: if you are brewing a 12 ounce cup you use 24 grams of coffee.

As someone else said, grind size is also incredibly important. If you go to One Village for a visit, maybe they can help you with a visual reference? When guests ask me about grind size, I try to give them a sample of the grind we use to help them match at home. Ideally, with 200F water, 2g ratio coffee, you want to have a total brew time of four minutes. Try to achieve those parameters and I think you'll find a nice cup of coffee waiting for you. The next problem will be finding the actual beans you will rave about.

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If you don't mind me saying, I think that some of the steps you're taking are just clouding the issue for you. One doesn't need to go very far for great coffee - especially in Zionsville. Not too far away is a place called Souderton and a roaster called One Village Coffee Roasters. Go there. Talk to them. Ask them for ideas, brewing techniques and suggestions on coffees to try.

Honestly, buying grocery store coffee is generally asking to be disappointed. Get fresh coffee from people who care. Already you've got the temperature issue solved with the Technivorm. How about coffee quantity? Do you have a scale? Scales make consistent brewing much easier to achieve. I recommend 2 grams of ground coffee per finished ounce. Meaning: if you are brewing a 12 ounce cup you use 24 grams of coffee.

As someone else said, grind size is also incredibly important. If you go to One Village for a visit, maybe they can help you with a visual reference? When guests ask me about grind size, I try to give them a sample of the grind we use to help them match at home. Ideally, with 200F water, 2g ratio coffee, you want to have a total brew time of four minutes. Try to achieve those parameters and I think you'll find a nice cup of coffee waiting for you. The next problem will be finding the actual beans you will rave about.

Thanks for the One Village recommendation. There's a shop a lot closer -- Creamery on Main, in Emmaus -- that also sells and brews One Village coffee. I hope that means it's about as fresh as the stuff in Souderton. :unsure: My Google search yielded a place in Bethlehem, but I didn't want to travel that far.

I do have a good scale (My Weigh KD-8000) and have been weighing my coffee before and after grinding. I've been varying the amount used, depending on the coffee, in order to determine a ratio that pleases me. Since I still haven't tried a great coffee, that ratio has yet to be determined.

As for grind size, I've been using a mid-range grind on the medium scale of the Capresso Infinity, which some people recommend for the Technivorm. I've tried grinding it more finely, which seems to clog up the filter, and less finely, which results in a too-weak brew.

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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?

I use $.79 / gallon Wegmans spring water, which is to say, I have no clue about its mineral composition. I tried searching, but got as far as determining its origin.

I'm fairly certain that my brother uses filtered tap water. (He's in the filter business.)

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This is a great demonstration of why it's important to note the difference between "strong" and "bitter." The "strength" of your cup of coffee, i.e., how "watery" it is, is very different from how bitter it is. As I noted above, if your coffee is too bitter, the first variable you should address is grind coarseness. If your coffee is consistently too bitter, a coarser grind will lead to a less overextracted brew, and will remove some bitterness. This is, of course, dependent on other variables, but I believe using the grind as a control, as it seems you have done, is a mistake. The issue with an automatic brewer like a Technivorm is that it doesn't (to my knowledge) allow tinkering with the brew time. As a result, a coarser grind, while removing some bitterness, will also be less fully extracted due to your inability to extend the brew time to compensate for less exposed surface area with the coarser grind.

Also, it might just be that the coffee is roasted darker than you prefer. I roast my own coffee, and I generally try to avoid "roast taste" as much as is reasonably possible. Maybe you just need a coffee that's roasted very lightly, in which case I'd recommend a roaster like Ritual in San Francisco, which is well known for very light roasts.

I've been reading as much as I can (online) about coffee and its various qualities, but think I need a hands on class in order to speak more fluently on the subject. As Fat Guy once said, I'm pretty much still at the "I like it" or "I don't like it" stage. I did just discover the following article on Sweet Maria's website, and plan on following its recommendations:

http://www.sweetmari...brary/node/2931

I think that I do prefer a lighter roast. From what I understand, "roast taste" is a more caramelized, homogeneous flavor that will mask the origin taste of a particular bean. Also, if a bean is over roasted, it is likely to taste funky, for lack of a better word. If I'm seeing lots of oil in a particular bag of roasted beans, doesn't that mean that it is a very dark roast? The Eight O'Clock coffee, besides being old and from a supermarket, certainly was oily.

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I think that I do prefer a lighter roast. From what I understand, "roast taste" is a more caramelized, homogeneous flavor that will mask the origin taste of a particular bean. Also, if a bean is over roasted, it is likely to taste funky, for lack of a better word. If I'm seeing lots of oil in a particular bag of roasted beans, doesn't that mean that it is a very dark roast? The Eight O'Clock coffee, besides being old and from a supermarket, certainly was oily.

Yes. Until a certain point, when the bean will be carbonized.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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If I'm seeing lots of oil in a particular bag of roasted beans, doesn't that mean that it is a very dark roast? The Eight O'Clock coffee, besides being old and from a supermarket, certainly was oily.

There are two things that affect how the oil to rises to the surface of a coffee bean: roast level and age. If you roast up past FC+ and into the extremely dark roasts (those that I suspect everyone here agree are over-roasted for your purposes) your beans will be oily coming straight out of the roaster. On the other hand, if you roast to, say, Full City, it may take a few weeks before any oils rise up to the surface. But give them a few months in the cupboard and you'll find they're coated with oil. The higher you roasted, the sooner the oil will rise to the surface, but if the beans are old enough then the amount of sheen isn't an indicator of roast level, it just means they're old.

Chris Hennes
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If I'm seeing lots of oil in a particular bag of roasted beans, doesn't that mean that it is a very dark roast? The Eight O'Clock coffee, besides being old and from a supermarket, certainly was oily.

There are two things that affect how the oil to rises to the surface of a coffee bean: roast level and age. If you roast up past FC+ and into the extremely dark roasts (those that I suspect everyone here agree are over-roasted for your purposes) your beans will be oily coming straight out of the roaster. On the other hand, if you roast to, say, Full City, it may take a few weeks before any oils rise up to the surface. But give them a few months in the cupboard and you'll find they're coated with oil. The higher you roasted, the sooner the oil will rise to the surface, but if the beans are old enough then the amount of sheen isn't an indicator of roast level, it just means they're old.

What he said.

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I took onocoffee's advice, and picked up a pound of One Village coffee beans from the Creamery in Emmaus. I'm sure I got a great deal -- $8 for the pound -- considering the One Village website charges $12. They had no idea how much to charge, since they don't typically sell coffee beans, just brewed coffee. Their "Artist's Blend", which is all they carry at this location, is a combination of Central American beans roasted to both French and Full City. I didn't have high hopes, since the beans were quite oily, but it made for a really good cup of coffee. Since I've been drinking my coffee with half and half lately, I did notice a bit of fat buildup where the oils from the beans and the cream congealed into an unsightly fat layer on the surface of the cup. I just skimmed it right off and kept drinking.

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I recommend 2 grams of ground coffee per finished ounce. Meaning: if you are brewing a 12 ounce cup you use 24 grams of coffee.

Where does this number come from? This isn't the first place I've heard it, but it's about twice the strength I've been making my coffee at. When I tried a cup the other day at this ratio (20 grams of ground coffee for a 10-ounce cup), I found it to be unpleasantly intense. (Not bitter, just very strong.) Not to mention how expensive it is! Even the Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends only 1.6 grams per ounce in the cupping guidelines. So what gives?

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I'm kinda in the middle - I use 1.5 gms per oz. of water. Maybe it comes from the same people who enjoy triple ristrettos using about 21 grams of coffee - I've never really enjoyed that intensity.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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mkayahara -

Where does it come from? It's what I use. It's what we serve. And people like it.

Bear in mind that weight is only one variable. Grind is just as important, as is water temp and brew time. On top of all that, coffee freshness and roast profile are important factors.

Your best bet is to experiment with a baseline standard. Find some really great, quality coffee that's fresh and give it a try. Make sure your water temp is proper and the grind is right and you're on your way.

And is 24 grams really that much more expensive? Let's presume you're buying coffee at $17/lb. The cost difference between 19g v. 24g is nineteen cents. The yield difference between the two is 24 cups v. 19 cups per pound.

But really, the most important thing is taste. Find the ratio that works for you. It's that simple.

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Matt, I thought you must have misplaced the decimal in your post. Most likely you are talking about French Press rather than espresso but I thought you used a Rancilio so I'm confused. When I make coffee with my Miss Silvia, I always use a double basket which when properly filled takes around 30g (or 1 oz). This makes two espresso shots of around 30g each. So a traditional espresso uses 15g coffee per oz, not 1.5. My personal favourite is to use the double basket and pull a ristretto (around 20g) which means 30g of coffee to make a 20g (2/3 oz) coffee. The main reason for drinking ristretto is that you can avoid sugar as the bulk of the bitterness comes in the second part of the pour (check it by pouring 20g in one cup and the last 10g in another and comparing taste).

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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mkayahara -

Where does it come from? It's what I use. It's what we serve. And people like it.

Oh, I don't doubt that at all! I'm just wondering whether it's been empirically shown that people like 2g/oz better than, say, 1.7g/oz or 2.2g/oz?

Bear in mind that weight is only one variable. Grind is just as important, as is water temp and brew time. On top of all that, coffee freshness and roast profile are important factors.

Your best bet is to experiment with a baseline standard. Find some really great, quality coffee that's fresh and give it a try. Make sure your water temp is proper and the grind is right and you're on your way.

Sure, this is certainly the case. For what it's worth, I'm roasting my own coffee once or twice a week (from Sweet Maria's, lately), grinding immediately before brewing in a Baratza Maestro Plus, using just-off-the-boil water (I've measured it at about 205F, though sometimes I stop it as low as 195F, before it reaches the boil), and brewing for 4 minutes in a French press.

And is 24 grams really that much more expensive? Let's presume you're buying coffee at $17/lb. The cost difference between 19g v. 24g is nineteen cents. The yield difference between the two is 24 cups v. 19 cups per pound.

Wait, what? What I'm saying is that I currently use about 1 gram per oz of finished coffee, so the price difference of going from there to 2 grams per ounce is approximately double. My standard morning routine consists of making a 1.5-litre French press which, at $17/lb, would cost about $1.87 a day the way I make it now, but $3.74 a day if I doubled the amount of ground coffee going into it. To me, that's a pretty substantial difference, though maybe I would end up just cutting back on my consumption.

But really, the most important thing is taste. Find the ratio that works for you. It's that simple.

And I'm pretty comfortable enjoying the ratio that I use. I was just curious as to why it's so far off what appears to be a "standard" ratio.

Matt, I thought you must have misplaced the decimal in your post. Most likely you are talking about French Press rather than espresso but I thought you used a Rancilio so I'm confused. When I make coffee with my Miss Silvia, I always use a double basket which when properly filled takes around 30g (or 1 oz). This makes two espresso shots of around 30g each. So a traditional espresso uses 15g coffee per oz, not 1.5. My personal favourite is to use the double basket and pull a ristretto (around 20g) which means 30g of coffee to make a 20g (2/3 oz) coffee. The main reason for drinking ristretto is that you can avoid sugar as the bulk of the bitterness comes in the second part of the pour (check it by pouring 20g in one cup and the last 10g in another and comparing taste).

Yeah, I was talking about French press. Sadly, my espresso machine is sub-par (it's a Saeco Aroma, sold in the US as a Classico, I think), so I'm not really working with standard dosages for it. I just play with the ratios that work for the equipment I've got.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I've owned a French press for years, but haven't used it since I lived in Queens six years and four moves ago. I wanted to give it another shot, since my drip and pourover experiments have been lackluster, but discovered a minor fracture in its base. Instead, I repurposed an Adagio ingenuiTEA 16 ounce teapot, purchased during a brief flirtation with loose tea. I must say, it works pretty darn well as a makeshift French press. I grind more coarsely (the finest of the Capresso's coarse settings), and use about 23 grams of coffee and 14 ounces of water. Four minute steep. The resulting cup has a lot more body and flavor than what I've been getting out of the Technivorm. I don't think I'll bother again with drip unless I'm brewing for more than one.

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  • 5 months later...

After a few half-arsed attempts at using a French press and a 'coffee/tea pot' from the supermarket I've quickly achieved success with the AeroPress, a burr grinder and a pid-controlled kettle (prior to getting the kettle I was using my induction cooktop to quickly and reliably bring the water to 80C without me needing to stand there with a probe, something that's just not any fun at all early in the morning).

  1. Measure 20 grams of coffee beans (of late I've been trying different varieties of single origin from Jasper's, purely because one of their larger outlets is close to home. Once I exhaust their range of single origins I'll look into ordering coffee from elsewhere.
  2. Grind in Sunbeam conical burr grinder. I tend to grind it coarsely, altho' I'm yet to settle on a specific setting. At some point I might make a few cups, each ground on a different setting (there are 24 or 25 settings all up, iirc) and see if one is noticeably superior to the others.
  3. Spoon into Aeropress and operate according to the instructions (which are exactly the same as the Modernist Cuisine ones: it's just that the MC guys measure their coffee by weight and the Aeropress booklet speaks in terms of volume).
  4. Compost the grounds. Consume coffee. You are now ready to fight gorillas. Or teach grade ones.

For me this meets, exactly, the requirements I had when I wanted to make my own coffee at home. Namely I wanted it to be very good (equal, in my eyes, to what I'd get at my old regular) but not involve too much fucking around, either when brewing or cleaning up. The Aeropress basically cleans itself. The burr grinder, which is easily disassembled, is also very easy to clean. You hit a button to drop the burrs out and then the rest of the unit can be washed normally.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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Chris,

Welcome to nerd coffee land.

I think you get better results from an aero with a finer grind, but to each his own. That said, and this is from someone who has been "brewing" my own coffee at home for a long time, I'm not a huge fan of the aeropress.

I can understand your frustation with the French press, but I suggest you get and try a pour-over set up, just to see how you like it compared to the aero. You can probably pick up a Melitta for $25 or a Chemex for $50, and imo either is well worth the price - especially since you seem to have a grinder dialed in as well as a kettle. If you really want to join the hipster coffee generation, you'd best move to the Hario world...because, you know, Japanese people have been brewing coffee forever.

As for the aeropress "cleaning itself," I find that anything that comes into contact with coffee in any way, shape or form (i.e grounds or brewed) eventually needs to be cleaned by someone other than itself! My aeropress has gotten mucky over the years at the plunger and is virtually uncleanable.

And really, do we need MC to teach us how to brew coffee at this point in our existence?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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'll try a finer grind then. I simply went with the advice I'd received elsewhere. Very fine?

When I say that it cleans itself it means that I can just rinse it and leave it on the counter to dry.

If I was to get another toy, tho', well, I've been coveting a siphon setup ...

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I'll try a finer grind then. I simply went with the advice I'd received elsewhere. Very fine?

When I say that it cleans itself it means that I can just rinse it and leave it on the counter to dry.

If I was to get another toy, tho', well, I've been coveting a siphon setup ...

As for fineness of the grind, I go somewhere between espresso grind and fine-drip grind.

I totally understand that the aeropress claims it cleans itself - but even with plain rinsing, coffee oils will eventually build up on the inside of the unit and all over the black/rubber end of the plunger.

As far as the siphon setup goes, well, I've got no problem with that either...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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 got a coffee siphon recently, and I love it. I don't use it every morning, because it's more of a hassle than my French press, but I do love the coffee it produces.

I'm curious about cleaning coffee oils, though: what do people use? Do we just accept that anything made out of plastic is a lost cause after a period of time?

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I recommend 2 grams of ground coffee per finished ounce. Meaning: if you are brewing a 12 ounce cup you use 24 grams of coffee.

Where does this number come from? This isn't the first place I've heard it, but it's about twice the strength I've been making my coffee at. When I tried a cup the other day at this ratio (20 grams of ground coffee for a 10-ounce cup), I found it to be unpleasantly intense. (Not bitter, just very strong.) Not to mention how expensive it is! Even the Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends only 1.6 grams per ounce in the cupping guidelines. So what gives?

This seems to be the new thing in North American coffee brewing -- using way more coffee/cup than in the past. I find most coffees now much too strong. It drives me crazy.

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