Archive for the ‘Coffee at Home’ Category

  • More Coffee Aroma/Flavor Notes: Flowers and Aromatic Wood

  • November 30th, 2010
  • Flowers and aromatic wood situate at opposite ends of the sensory range for coffee, though they both are among the most common and attractive of aroma and flavor notes.

    Floral notes appear to be a direct expression of the floral tendencies of the coffee fruit and seed; at times they show up as pure expressions of the perfumy, jasmine-like scent of the coffee flower itself. Those new to coffee often are able to pick out and enjoy floral notes in coffee for the first time if they focus on the recollection of various heavy-scented, white flowers, the kind that send out their intense perfumes at dusk and into the early evening.

    Influenced by a variety of factors – from darkness of roast, to the presence of various complementary fruit notes, to processing method, to the botanical variety of the trees – floral notes can range from heavy and carnal (lilies for example); spicy and deep (roses); meadowy and refreshing (violets), slightly vegetal and green (sweet flowering grasses). In coffees that are both very pure and free of taint and light-to-medium roasted, flowers often appear as a component in a honey-like character; in other cases the flower-related sweetness is more molasses-like and vegetal, in other cases round and peach-like. One of the most impressive aspects of floral notes are their persistence in darker roasts, even ultimately dark French roasts, where they often float at the top of the profile, evanescent, sweet and delicate, even after most of the other fruit- or plant-related nuance has been driven out of the beans by the roast.

    Ethiopia coffees are most celebrated for their floral character, but floral notes can surface in almost any coffee of the Arabica species, and occasionally and surprisingly, in some of the best wet-processed, high-altitude Robustas. In general, floral notes are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to purity of fruit removal and drying in coffee. They flourish in coffees that preserve fruit nuance yet are free of any hint of the aroma-dampening taints acquired while the coffee is drying.

    Aromatic wood is our general term for notes reminiscent of fresh-cut cedar, fir, or even sandalwood. We distinguish between aromatic wood notes, pungent, fresh and lively, and plain old wood notes, meaning the dead, flat scent of dried-out wood that long ago lost its aromatic oils. Wood, the tasteless kind, is a characteristic of green coffees that have faded and lost their aromatics through age, or roasted coffee that has begun to stale.

    On the other hand, the intense, clean odor of fresh-cut fir or cedar is almost universally attractive to human beings, and in coffee often deepens and balances sweeter fruit and floral notes. Although aromatic wood notes appear most frequently in medium through dark-roasted coffees, they can emerge, particularly as fir, in lighter-roasted coffees as well.

  • Resuming with Sweetness

  • November 27th, 2010
  • So let’s blog again like we did last summer. Reviewing three or four descriptive terms per week is the new plan.

    Judging by an occasional puzzled email, sweetness may be one of the more confusing terms for those new to coffee description. We use the term regularly in our reviews, and it’s one of the most important technical descriptors used in evaluating quality in green coffee.

    Yet readers who buy a coffee we call “sweet” will be disappointed if they expect it to taste like sugar. Sweetness in coffee is subtle, yet also pervasive and precious. It underpins much of what we value in coffee, from the honeyed floral notes of light-roasted coffees to the pungent dark chocolate of darker roasts.

    Yet coffee is, after all, a naturally bitter beverage, and bitterness too is part of its appeal. But we can take bitterness for granted in coffee. It will always be there. Promoting natural sweetness, however, requires effort, a lot of effort.

    If you taste a ripe coffee fruit of the arabica species, fresh off the tree, several sensations probably will strike you, among them: it tastes a little tart, a little bitter, but also a little sweet. Not extremely sweet, but discernibly so.

    Returning to the effort part, almost any act of carelessness as coffee is transformed from ripe fruit to roasted bean will promote bitterness and reduce sweetness. Too much green, unripe, bitter-astringent fruit in the harvest, for example, rather than sweet, ripe fruit. Failing to dry the beans properly, allowing the formation of sweetness-dampening moulds. Failing to transport or store the beans properly. Roasting them too dark too fast. And if the coffee makes it through all of that, we can destroy any amount of natural sweetness by letting the brewed coffee sit on a hot plate for more than a few minutes.

    So a good part of the care that goes into harvesting, removing the fruit residue and drying a fine coffee is aimed at preserving the original fragile sweetness reflected in the taste of the fruit. It makes everything else going on in a fine coffee better: the acidity (fuller and less sharp), the floral and fruit notes (more honeyed and ripe), caramelly and chocolate sensations in a darker roast deeper.

    Essentially, many coffee drinkers are so accustomed to the dominating bitter character of ordinary coffee that they automatically add whitener and sweetener to their cup. At Coffee Review we value sweetness in particular because it encourages coffee drinkers to take their coffee black, or at least without sweetener, and experience the coffee itself, its subtle pleasures unwrapped for us by a sweetness given by nature but obsessively nurtured by grower, miller and roaster.

    In a few days: flowers and aromatic wood, two positive though rather opposing descriptors we use often in our reviews.

  • Sowden SoftBrew Review

  • August 18th, 2010
  • When I first laid eyes on this brewer, visiting Oren and Nancy Bloostein, I thought it was a teapot. Elegant, it was attractive. Maybe I thought it could serve coffee, but who transfers coffee from the brewer to the server anymore? Oren insisted I take it home and try it out. All the way home all I could think about was the opportunity to try out a new technology.

    I’m beginning to think there are two kinds of coffee brewers, those that utilize stillness, the steepers such as the press pot, and those that utilize motion such as drip, vacuum and, at the far end, espresso. The SoftBrew is definitely a steeper. It is simply a carafe, albeit a sleek one, and a patented screened cylindrical filter. What separates it from the press is the lack of press. There is no plunger to push down. According to the directions, you simply toss your grounds into the cylinder and add near-boiling water. After between four and eight minutes (quite a range), you simply pour your coffee. They make a variety of sized models. The one I tried is, I believe, a four-cup version.

    The first time I tried it, I was happy with the results. As it was Oren’s Daily Roast Sumatra I’d purchased on the way to my train (yes, I took Amtrak home) it was very, very nice. It had what I’ve come to expect from a steeped method: Low acidity (even for a Sumatran), a rich, burnished acidity – almost hot-cocoa-like in its texture. I couldn’t help but try to make it do more in terms of matching a high-temperature vacuum brew. For my second batch I scalded the pot with boiling water, then added the grounds and near-boiling water to see if a raise in brewing temperature might change the flavor profile. It did, but not to the good, in my opinion.

    As is my procedure when testing, I brewed using the SoftBrew a variety of ways for the next two weeks. After this battery of tests, conducted while monitoring the contact temperature, I ended up noting my most satisfactory flavor by not preheating the pot. In fact, the most casual method yielded my best results. I noted that using this meant that the majority of contact time the coffee brewed at well under industry-standard temperatures. I also found that above-average grounds portions gave me the best flavor without any noted bitterness. When using less grounds and maintaining the brewing temperature at between 195°F and 205°F I detected a strong sharp entry note. Using more coffee and a lower temperature, this note disappeared. I urge anyone to conduct their own test. It was unsubtle.

    I used a contact time of 4 minutes. By that, I mean I poured my first cup at four minutes. Since there is no press to consolidate the grounds on the bottom it can be argued that the SoftBrew never really stops brewing, although certainly as the coffee cools, the brewing slows significantly. I did not find the second cup appreciably different than the first, other than it was slightly cooler.

    Around the same time, a shipment of Sumatra from Paradise Roasters arrived on my doorstep. This coffee, as you know, is rated 94 by Ken Davids. This coffee was actually rather finicky to brew in some machines. I preferred it in the SoftBrew to its flavor in the highly-rated Technivorm. It just tasted more right, it’s balance was there and the spice and vegetal note were what the review promised. In comparing the Paradise Sumatra with Oren’s, the Oren’s did not exhibit the vegetal note. Oren told me he eschews Sumatrans that present that particularly flavor. It’s just personal preference. Both coffees reached tasted their best in the SoftBrew.

    I still prefer some coffees in other methods. My tests using Open Sky Coffee’s Columbia Fair Trade just tasted lackluster compared to its showing in my commercial Bloomfield brewer.

    The only other thing worth noting is the patented cylinder. Yes, it is easy to clean and does the same thing as the press in the press-pot. But, the one thing I want to point out is there is more sediment than I expected, and probably more than I prefer. This brewer exhibits a high degree of sediment in the cup, nothing such as boulders or large grounds, but never anything resembling a cloth or paper filter. If you use a metal filter in your drip maker, you may be surprised at how much more particulate is in your cup. I don’t want to present this too strongly. It was never truly objectionable to me, but I generally prefer a cleaner cup – my preference, and by no means universal. If you want a steeped cup minus the sediment, may I suggest the Aeropress?

    Speaking of grind, you’re probably wondering what grind I used. I tried various grinds, possible since there’s not plunger to get hung up on and the cylinder’s laser-cut holes are quite small. I ended up preferring a slightly coarse grind, the same as I use for a Chemex.

    The Sowden SoftBrew is certainly an innovative product. If you like the press pot, but find it difficult to clean and want a beautiful way to brew and serve coffee for a two to four people, it might be a very good choice.

  • Colombia Coffee and Rediscovering “That” Coffee Taste

  • August 11th, 2010
  • I recently received an email from a self-proclaimed, coffee obsessed reader. The question she asked was a difficult one to answer. It had to do with that feeling many coffee drinkers have had. You know the one, that feeling of coffee being in some way better in the past. It could have been last year or twenty-five years ago, but that memory of the way coffee used to taste lingers. Maybe it was your first cups of specialty coffee after years of drinking canned conventional coffee. It could have been those espressos you had while on vacation in Rome, or when passing through Seattle. Those moments might have been in your own home, in the still morning hours, when the stars were aligned, with fresh packages of coffee, and those ritualistic sequences of events – the boiling kettle, the purring grinder and the Hario V60 dripping into your mug. You remember it like it was yesterday, sublime. Yet somehow you can’t seem to duplicate that taste again, either at home or in your favorite cafes.

    “That” taste that is so hard to define. Everyone has a unique relationship to coffee that is influenced by factors such as where someone has lived, how old he or she is and the cultural traditions they have experienced. Someone who grew up in an immigrant household in New York’s Little Italy in the 1960s likely has a different relationship to coffee than a 25 year old living in Williamsburg today. So to offer one answer for all coffee drinkers is task beyond an emailed response or even this blog post. The Coffee Review website endeavors to provide context needed for individuals to figure out on their own what that taste is and how it can be rediscovered.

    For many adults living in North American, however, the coffee taste remembered from many years ago can often be found in medium roasted, washed processed, heirloom varieties of Colombian coffee. There has been a long tradition of importing coffee from Colombia into the United States and Canada, and there are generations of people who have come of age drinking this type of coffee. As an agricultural product coffee changes over the course of seasons and generations, sometimes by naturalization and sometimes by design. This holds true for Colombia as well as other coffee growing regions throughout the world. Over time many farmers in Colombia have been encouraged to transition to from traditional varieties to higher yielding ones and this, in part, has had an impact on the way much of the coffee from this country tastes today. Still, there are many small-holding farmers in Colombia that produce the older heirloom varieties that deliver flavors that will remind many coffee drinkers of the taste they remember from years past. Over the last few months we have received several Colombian coffees in the Coffee Review lab that might very well meet the expectations of this group of coffee drinkers. I won’t list them here, but those of you who are interested can search the site to uncover these hidden gems. If these coffees don’t match up with your memory of “that” coffee experience, then there are a myriad of other reviews to peruse to help you rediscover the flavors you are looking for.

  • Those Little Scoops

  • June 16th, 2010
  • How many of you measure coffee using a tiny scoop that came with your coffee maker? Maybe things are different around an august group of coffee aficionados, but I just returned from a weekend retreat and all I could find was a subminiature spoon. I resisted the urge to remove it from my hosts’ residence for evaluation, but I suspect it measured between 5 and 7 grams of coffee.

    This let me to a topic that’s made measuring problematic for many of us just-awakened people trying to just make a fresh batch of coffee: How to measure.

    The classic coffee scoop is 10 grams. Sometimes it’s labeled a coffee measure. It is, volumetrically two tablespoons. This works out pretty well for a 6 ounce cup of coffee. What I think happened is the influx of foreign products into the US. I’m talking German and Dutch ones mostly – this was before our current overwhelmingly Chinese product invasion. The European brewers measured their cups in metric, which added enough confusion, but they were smaller besides, roughly 5 ounce cups. This threw everything off. It also gave them a perceived value advantage, in that it gave comparison shoppers the illusion that they had greater capacity, which of course they didn’t. But, a casual consumer reaching to grab a last-minute wedding present would see a Braun coffee brewer that claimed 10 cups next to a Mr. Coffee that claimed only 8. Although only 2 ounces apart, the consumers started picking up the European-source brewers, at least that’s what the appliance industry reckoned. The last hold-out was Bunn, who only changed their cup markings a few years ago, after paying the price in the volume sweepstakes for more than twenty years.

    Now consumers, never wanting to think too much about a detail like measuring, started receiving downsized measuring scoops. The canned coffee industry didn’t help things, because concurrently, perhaps in response to the market confusion, took the old corporate number 7 response and started imprinting the nebulous “use more or less according to taste”. I recall a local Chicago brand, Stewarts, who claimed their coffee was so much more flavorful that their tiny supplied spoon allowed you to measure less and still result in great tasting coffee.

    When I began my coffee connoisseurship, I was so confused, in desperation I finally bought a cheap diet scale and started weighing my grounds. In fact, that’s my preferred method to this day. First, I think it’s more accurate, and that’s confirmed each time I measure, as I use a 2-tablespoon scoop and find it can vary a bit. Second, it allows me to measure accurately before I grind, reducing waste.

    But, there I was, with a non-standard scoop, early in the morning in my friend’s kitchen, faced with the prospect of brewing some wonderful beans I’d brought with me. I even brought a Chemex coffee maker along, but alas no scale, or for that matter, no standardized scoop.

    I quickly did some quick conversions in my head. I figured the scoop to be 6 or 7 grams, and the Chemex I brought took 50 grams per pot (It holds 30 ounces of water). I used 7 scoops. It turned out just okay. It was an Alterra Coffee Sumatra Mandheling, and I know the coffee – it could have been better.

    Next time, I bring a scale. But, what would you do? How do you measure? Do you know what size scoop you have? Anyone challenge the 10 grams/2 tablespoons per 6 oz cup formula? How much do you use? Also, a number of brewers have confusing cup measurements (Technivorm is one, using 4.5 ounce cups). Does this throw anyone off?

  • Steep or Brew? One and the same or different?

  • April 16th, 2010
  • There are many unknowns in coffee. Regardless of how scientific some of us can make it sound, most of the brewing practices are a product of tradition, not science. At best, it’s practical observation, a very good first-step in scientific inquiry, but hardly definitive.

    Let’s take the agitation of grounds during brewing, sometimes called turbidity. One analogy expressed is that of a clothes washing machine, which features an agitator, to swirl the clothes around during the wash cycle. This is to get the detergent thoroughly mixed with water, and to help powders to dissolve. It also gets clothes to rub against each other, the modern equivalent to rubbing against a washboard.

    What does agitation do during coffee brewing? In order to brew at all, it is a given that the grounds must all come in contact with hot water. If the grounds don’t get wet, you’ve wasted them. A poorly designed automatic coffee brewer will leave dry grounds. Sometimes, it’s not the coffee brewer’s fault. End users may have overloaded the grounds basket. The grounds may have been too coarsely ground – good drip brewing involves a controlled backup (think rush hour traffic) so that the grounds are under water throughout the brew cycle. The grounds may be too fresh. I know, roasters are always stressing the importance of freshness, but just-roasted coffee foams up like beer, and the grounds floating atop the foam are chemical loafers – let’s call them “supervisors”.

    So, agitation follows the washing machine analogy to this end. Everyone who’s brewed using a manual drip machine has probably swirled their brewer around in order to help get all the grounds good and wet and settled.

    But, the analogy gets lost after that. Unlike powdered detergents, there are not coffee grounds that need to be dissolved. The grounds do not, as far as I know, brew by rubbing against each other. Supposedly, coffee extract is removed from the grounds using heat, hence the importance of ultra-hot, just under boiling brewing temperatures.

    So what happens next? How does designing an automatic brewing sprayhead to power wash the grounds result in more extraction or affect it at all?

    Lacking any credible scientific research, we can only turn to observation and precedent. The famed Vacuum coffee brewer, which dominated brewing during the first half of the 20th Century, has plenty of turbidity during its relatively short contact time. Once the hot water shot up the tube and into its upper bowl, the brewing water/grounds mixture bubbled nicely, like a hot tub with its jets on full. Perhaps this was observed as part of its ability to turn out rich coffee within three-to-four minutes. I always thought this was due to its using fine grind coffee.

    Curiously, an equally revered brewing method features the least turbidity. The French press uses a coarse grind. In fact, if you grind fine, you just might break it trying to force the press down. Once you initially stir it, you’re supposed to place the press inside, virtually ensuring no-agitation throughout most of the contact time. Let’s see, no agitation, the coffee is ready in three-to-four minutes, using a coarse grind.

    How can that be?

    I’m not saying that turbidity is not a factor. What I’m saying is we still don’t really know why it is a factor, and, even if it is, it’s still not the only way to make coffee. I’m suggesting there’s a lot more to discover about just what brews a great cup of coffee.

  • Consumer Reports Coffee Brewer Survey

  • March 26th, 2010
  • As part of my self-improvement goal to become a kinder gentler person, I’ll resist the urge to ask, “What were they smoking?” Like a lot of baby boomers, I have a nostalgic appreciation for Consumer Reports. They represent the hard-line leftist/socialist bent of many workers in post-World War II. They stand for uniformity, the illusion of tight product tolerances. The skinflint in me wants to believe I can sneak by using no-brand paints, cheap tires and generic orange juice.

    The problem I have with them is not philosophic. I truly want to find ways to live the good life on the cheap. Problem is, so often I’ve gotten Consumer Reports (from the library of course, if not a free read at Borders) and been disheartened by the results using their best buy ratings as a guide.

    Years ago, I chastised them for ignoring standards of any kind, and only using their “test panel”. I’m guessing it was a bunch of prune-faced cheapskates who simply wanted to pretend to like products that were inexpensive. My Italian mother-in-law who always complains about the food in restaurants is the model of the sort of person I mean. She’s bound and determined to dislike anything that costs more than she can cook if for. It’s an affirmation of her staying home and cooking every meal herself. In her case, it’s partly justified because she can cook on par with most restaurants. She just doesn’t get that part of the enjoyment of a restaurant meal is sampling someone else’s artistry.

    Consumer Reports doesn’t give you truly good alternatives, in my opinion. They just give you less costly ones, ones chosen by people, who, again in my opinion, don’t have any better idea than a random consumer about what’s really good versus what’s not. They might argue this is one of their strengths, but to just sample a cross section of consumer reviews, Amazon or has it covered. I expect a magazine that charges to test using objective criteria and to publish both the criteria and results. The title of the magazine is “Consumer Reports” and I assume this means a report to consumers, not by consumers. This is a major problem with their methodology. I recall a quote from someone who said “the trouble with staying free of industry influence is you end with a bunch of peers who don’t know anything”.

    I’m not challenging Consumer Reports’ freedom of industry influence, but this does not make them neutral. They seem too eager to become willfully ignorant in the bargain.

    Take coffeemakers. The latest Consumer Reports article starts off well enough. They drop a name I agree with…. Technivorm. Technivorm is an industry standard auto drip coffee brewer.  They use it as a standard of comparison. I’m not only fine with that, I would agree. But, then, they don’t rate it number 1. In fact, they don’t even put it in the top ten! Why not?

    Consumer Reports gives a nod to the industry standard requirements for a coffeemaker to get the water hot enough, 195˚ to 205˚F, noting that the Technivorm readily achieves this. Again, I concur. Then, they proceed to rate other brewer’s as best buys, citing an $80 Kaloric and eight others CR claims “brewed comparably”. Then, they recommend a $20 Black and Decker, described “for someone a little less fussy about their coffee” and claim it is “almost as good”. Never are any measurements given to back up their claims. My point is, if they publish stopping distances for cars, they should publish contact temperatures for coffee brewers.

    Also, where are the other measurements that would allow the reader to judge the ratings to be valid? Nowhere is there any mention of how long any of the top-rated ‘almost as good’ coffeemakers keep the grounds soaked in hot water. I’ve tested many brewers that peak at between 195 and 205, but spend the first several minutes of the brew cycle at temperatures well below the ideal range. The Technivorm keeps your grounds in hot water for no more than 6 minutes. That’s because, as the coffee industry’s standards specify, any longer than six minutes and bitterness becomes progressively pronounced.

    There are brewers out there that subject your grounds to hot water for more than twelve minutes. CR doesn’t list contact times anywhere.

    Another problematic area of many auto drip brewers is that of submersion of the grounds in water. The French press has become the darling of the smart set due to its automatically keeping all the grounds well under water throughout the brewing cycle. Does CR even know this? Do they test for it? Many auto drip makers are prone to leaving dry grounds, so inefficient are they at getting all the grounds wet. This means you wasted money by buying and using grounds in your brewer that never “gave” anything to your cup of coffee. It means your coffee is weaker than it should be, right?

    And, who is their test panel? If they don’t publish their test criteria, they are basically saying their results are “because we say so”. So, who are they? Are these professionals or consumers?

    At the moment, these are the questions that come to mind. I have to say, I can’t take each unit and offer a ranking different than CR’s, without testing and this is my next step. What I can say, is Consumer Reports offered no evidence that they tested these units with any but the most casual attention to the standards for good extraction. It’s not brain surgery and their readers deserve more. So far, I would not put Consumer Reports as a best buy when it comes rating which coffeemaker to buy.

  • How Strong Should My Coffee Be?

  • October 21st, 2009
  • Those of us who’ve ever asked a coffee professional how to brew coffee have likely gotten the following industry recipe:

    6 ounces water

    10 grams ground coffee

    4-6 minutes contact time

    Water temperature: 195-205º F

    Extraction target: 18-22% extracted soluble solids by weight

    This all seems pretty clear. Except, maybe the “extraction target”. But, how many people end up really brewing using this formula? I have no statistics but I would venture that very few do. I know I personally start with every new sack of coffee using these measurements. Then, I vary, sometimes quite a bit.

    I often am asked how strong I like my coffee. It is a difficult question, one I suspect does not have as defined an answer as we might suppose. The standard for coffee has been 1.35% soluble solids extraction, but who determined that? Does that really represent coffee strength?

    The history of coffee strength is based upon panels of industry experts telling the public what it is supposed to like. Now, in my opinion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It is true for many products, so coffee’s industry experts need not feel too elitist, or if they do, they should not feel uniquely elitist. It is common for wine groupies to head for the local wine store and have a wine guru (almost certainly someone with a vested interest in a wine business) lecture them about what to notice/like in a wine. Why shouldn’t it be the same with coffee? In the 1930s, a bunch of coffee industry cuppers decided to publish standards, including brewing temperatures and strengths. This commission published their formula in what is currently reprinted as the CBC Workshop manual. They are a quite useful tool. These specifications, though, are a bit like small, medium and large T-shirt sizes. You just might find you don’t quite fit into those sizes.

    Coffee is typically brewed by individuals. Unlike wine, every coffee drinker gets to ultimately decide his own strength. I routinely offer coffee as gifts to friends who seem to delight in informing me that they brew it lighter than I did when they had it at my house.

    I know this is a challenge to anyone who’s reprinted the coffee industry’s formulas, but how strong is enough? Is the 1.35% soluble solids specification really the one size that fits all? Should the industry attempt to force end-user conformity to any specific standard?

    How do we define strong? I would suggest that strong is when the coffee flavor is enough, but before the bitterness becomes objectionable. There is probably an association between the size of this window of opportunity for a given coffee and our enjoyment of it. In other words, if you like a light roasted Colombian coffee, it is because it has an easy to find spot where the flavors and tastes you like can be found, but there is little or no

    discernable bitterness.

    Well here are a few answers. We know that one size does not quite fit all. How to we know this? Well, for one thing, the European coffee standards are a bit different, and stronger, than the American ones. The Europeans accept more bitterness, as their standards accommodate a longer brewing time and finer grind coffee.

    The American, and European, standards were achieved by taste panels, panels that used the currently available coffees and ones that were light roasted. The American coffees were almost certainly lighter roasted and they were likely what is not called cinnamon roast. Does anyone know if dark roasted coffees taste equally strong at 18-22% extractions and 1.35% soluble solids as an light roasted coffee. We know they do not. That is common sense. The amount of bitterness is certainly higher. It might be a nice and tidy world if they tasted the same except for roast, but they don’t.

    Why do I bring all this to your attention? Simply because so much emphasis is spent in the coffee industry to try to get you to brew to achieve a certain extraction % to achieve a certain percent soluble solids. But, if varies with each individual what strength they prefer and it may vary per individual per roast type. I may like coffee stronger than you. I may like dark roasted coffee less strong than I like my light roast coffee.

    Now, this one specification of coffee strength, the how strong, would be just intellectual curiosity if it were not for its being the holy grail of coffee perfection. It is the number that all the other measurements in brewing formulas are designed to serve. We use ten grams per 6 ounces of water, keep it in contact with the specifically ground coffee at 195º-205ºF for 4-6 minutes in order to achieve 18-22% extraction resulting in 1.35% soluble solids. Every single coffee brewer made is somehow expected to achieve this result.

    Well, I’m here to tell you to free yourself from the tyranny of this goal. Today’s wider range of roasts means it might make more sense for you to back off the amount of grounds to get your best tasting cup. If you’re using a French press or manual drip, maybe you want to take the kettle off the heat an extra minute before pouring, which will reduce the extraction. Maybe you want to press the plunger on your press down a minute sooner, or later. Or grind a bit finer or coarse, perhaps the best way to increase or reduce strength using an automatic drip maker.

    Play with it. Don’t feel you have to color inside the lines.

    How strong? As strong as you like it. That’s how strong.

    ©Kevin Sinnott 2009

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