Category Archive: Brewing Tips
Chemex Pourover – Photo by Noah Huffman
To many of us, coffee signifies the beginning of our day. We carefully integrate coffee into our morning, afternoon, and evening routines. We cherish the moments when we can take a step back from our busy schedules and take a moment to sip our life-generating brews. For some, coffee is an absolute necessity to any productive day. With something so integral to our daily routine, one would think the coffee brewing experience would be just as important as the end result. More often than not, the brewing process of coffee is completely overlooked, and as a result our coffee tastes less than ideal.
Luckily, there is a way to brew delectable cafe-quality coffee at home. Using the pourover brew method will give you coffee that tastes outstanding.
Imagine the classic coffee brewer: you wake up, flip a button, and coffee is brewed and ready in a few minutes. Unfortunately, these coffee brewers often do a terrible job of extracting the greatest amount of flavor from the beans. Brews are left under-extracted which cause a serious lack of flavor as well as an overall underwhelming experience. Especially when you’re spending the money to buy well-roasted beans, your brewing experience should reflect the standard of quality necessary to bring forth the most flavor.
Unlike most automatic coffee brewers on the market, a full pourover setup (which we will discuss) gives an individual all the tools necessary to control each aspect of the brewing experience. But what does this mean? Essentially, brewing coffee via pourover will give you control over several factors taken for granted with automatic brewers, such as:
Coffee to water ratio (strength of brew)
Having control of these factors gives you the opportunity to brew coffee which reflects the depth of flavor and complexity of each bean. Additionally, making a pourover not only creates awesome tasting coffee, but it takes the very impersonal experience of an automatic coffee brewer and makes coffee-brewing personalized and intimate. Taking time to bring the water to temperature, weighing and grinding the beans, and finally controling the entire course of the brewing process creates a unique and beautiful experience.
Now that we have covered some of the fundamental aspects of pourover brewing, we will review the necessary pieces of equipment used during the brewing process.
The dripper is the key piece of equipment used to brew pourover coffee. Essentially, it acts as the context where the coffee brewing process will occur; where the magic takes place. Drippers vary in size and shape from large to small, flat bottom to conical, glass to metal. Choosing a dripper is a matter of deciding what best fits your brewing needs. If you’re looking to brew only a single cup for yourself in the morning, the dripper you choose will greatly differ from the person looking to brew for several friends.
There are two drippers I highly recommend to anyone who is interested: the Hario V60 – 02 and the Chemex – 8-Cup. Both are conical brewers, which aid to facilitate extraction. Many cafes use the Hario and Chemex because they’re recognized as fantastic brewers. Additionally both the Chemex and V60 work well for a variety of different budgets. I personally use a ceramic V60 and the 8-Cup Chemex.
The kettle is used to pour hot water into the dripper and onto the ground coffee. You do not want to use a regular kettle, such as grandma’s favorite tea kettle. Most of these kettles have a very large opening to pour water into a mug, but for pourover brewing this does not give sufficient control over the brewing process.
Rather than a classic tea kettle, a gooseneck kettle should be used. The name reflects the type of spout, which is thin and curved to restrict water flow as well as maximize control over pouring. A well made gooseneck kettle will allow for complete control of the water throughout the brewing process, which will allow you to dial in your brewing recipes accurately and effectively. Likewise, since the stream of water from the kettle is much finer, it will be easier to cover all the coffee ground evenly, which will aid in extracting the most flavor.
The water used should be heated to about 195-205 degrees fahrenheit. Temperatures higher than 205 tend to “burn” the beans, which will leave the coffee tasting flat and lifeless, while temperatures lower than 195 generally will hinder the extraction of flavorful solubles, also leaving the brew underwhelming. If a thermometer is not readily available, allow the kettle to boil and sit for two minutes. By this time the temperature should be within the given parameters.
The pourover process is made null when using pre-ground coffee. As with any pre-ground coffee, a majority of the important flavors and aromas are entirely lost quickly after grinding occurs. Because of this, I highly recommend purchasing a grinder. This will ensure you are obtaining the greatest amount of flavor.
Whole bean coffee used within 3 weeks of the roast date is going to give the best flavor. This coffee is still fresh and retain most of the delicious flavors. After 3 weeks, coffee naturally starts to “stale,” which like most food products means the flavor will be lacking.
The grinder you choose to use will make all the difference for the ensuing brew. For this, there are two types of coffee grinders available: burr and blade grinders.
In essence, blade grinders use blades that spin rapidly to crush, chop, and slice the coffee beans into usable grounds. While blade grinders are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, they will not grind the coffee accurately nor evenly. Because the blades are merely spinning rapidly and grinding the beans, this means there is no assured way for each bean to grind the same. Simply put, you will end with some beans that are nearly whole, while some beans are fine as dust.
The alternative which I highly recommend are burr grinders. In essence, two burrs (either metal or ceramic) are used to crush the beans into a specific size. Because of this, burr grinders tend to grind each bean to a specific size, resulting in remarkably more consistent grounds. This being said, the cheap burr grinder found at the local grocery store will not grind much better than your average blade grinder.
At Utopian, we offer two grinders. The Baratza Encore is a great entry-level burr grinder that does an amazing job for a relatively inexpensive price. This grinder is reliable, and works perfectly for anyone looking to step into the world of manually brewing coffee. A majority of the settings work very well from pourover, as well as other brewing methods such as Aeropress and French Press. I cannot recommend this grinder highly enough for anyone looking for their first burr grinder.
Another option is the Baratza Sette 270. Think of this grinder as the luxury version of the Encore. The Sette will grind more consistently, as well as grinding finer for home espresso use. Aesthetically, this is a beautiful piece of equipment which will undoubtedly bring your home brewing game to a new level.
To brew coffee well, you need to know exactly how much coffee is being used, as well as how much water to use. Using too much coffee and too little water or vice versa will result in an unpleasant brewing experience. Thus, weighing coffee and water are extremely important steps that ensure the quality each brew. By these variables, you can create a brew ratio.
One common brew ratio is 1 x 16.5. This means for every one part coffee, you will use sixteen and a half parts water. For example, if you decide to use 30 grams of coffee, you will multiply 30 x 16.5, resulting in 495, which is the amount of water you will want to use. This ratio is not set in stone by any means. If you want your coffee be stronger, try a 1:15 brew ratio, and if your coffee is too strong, try 1:17.
Water Temperature is Important! Photo by Noah Huffman
Spoon / Stir Stick (for stirring coffee grounds)
Mastering the art of pourover coffee takes time and persistence. As stated before, making coffee in this method is not about efficiency, but rather about the ritual of brewing. Patience is key to making great coffee.
Photo by Noah Huffman
Chemex Brewing Instructions
40 grams coffee ground coarse (a touch larger than coarse sea salt)
660 grams water (heated to about 204 degrees)
Total brew time 4:30 – 5 minutes
- Start the timer and begin by pouring 100 grams of coffee over the grounds in a clockwise motion. The water stream should be thin and cover all the coffee grounds. Use a spoon to then stir over the next 25 seconds.
- At 45 seconds, add water in the same circular motion (slowly and deliberately) until reaching 250 grams at 1:20.
- At 2 minutes, repeat the previous step until reaching 450 grams.
- At 2:45 finishing the brew by reaching 660 grams total.
- Stir one last time, you should shoot for a flat bed of grounds.
V60 Brewing – Photo by Zach Shultz
V60 Brewing Instructions
25 grams coffee grounds medium (it should look similar to table salt)
400 grams water (heated 202 degrees)
Total brew time 2:45-3:20
- Start timer and add 80 grams of water to the brew bed, covering all the coffee grounds. Use spoon to stir grounds, thoroughly soaking the coffee.
- At 30 seconds, pour water in a clockwise motion until reaching 150 grams.
- Around 1:20 add water until reaching 300 grams.
- At 2 minutes, finish the brew by reaching 400 grams water. Stir one last time. Like the Chemex, shoot for a flat bed of coffee grounds.
Final Brewing Tips / Tricks
- Coffees roasted lighter will generally need a coarser grind size, while darker coffee will need a finer grind size.
- Using tap water can work sometimes, but for the best results, use re-mineralized water. This will aid in extracting the key flavors.
- Focus on your rate of pouring. If you pour too fast, you will speed up the entire brew, while pouring too slowly will cause the brew to slow down, or worse, stall out.
- Fresh coffee is key – using old coffee will generally result in a very poor brewing experience.
- Invest time into learning the craft – take a few minutes a day to make a pourover.
- Record your results in a notebook for reference later on – you may find that different coffees need different ratios.
Brewing coffee at home can often be a challenge for people; a challenge that leaves them wondering why they can’t get it to be as good as the coffee shop. A lot of that is due to the tools (equipment) the specialty coffee shops are using and we’re going to talk about a way that you can make a great cup of coffee with a pretty simple method.
Grinding fresh and using an accurate amount of specialty coffee and water makes a huge difference! However, there is a final step you may choose to take if you wish to greatly elevate your personal coffee experience. This final step is the manual brew method, such as the French press or pour over. The reason most people switch to the manual methods is that you have more control over water temperature and water flow; a few of the manageable variables that make great coffee.
Let’s focus on temperature for now. Water acts as a solvent to coffee by “washing” the flavor out of the coffee grounds and happens to be a better solvent at near-boiling temperatures. Brewing with water that is between 195 – 205 degrees has been found to work best, so as to not burn the coffee while still extracting the best flavors from the coffee grounds (lower temperatures will not extract the full flavor). The problem is that most home brewers cannot reach this temperature and the ones that can cost $100 or more. This is a huge factor in coffee quality that can easily be controlled through manual brewing.
Next, we have water flow. A lot of brewers just spit the hot water onto the bed of coffee sporadically, leaving some parts of the coffee bed completely dry! As you can imagine, this results in a very poor pot of coffee, a problem easily corrected by manually pouring the hot water over the coffee bed yourself.
One simple solution to all this is to brew with a pour over filter cone. Using water just off the boil (about 200 degrees F), add a small amount of water to wet all the grounds and let the coffee “bloom” or rise. Wait 30 seconds, then start to pour the rest of the water slowly from the center of the grounds outward, in a circular motion. As the coffee begins to filter downward, a slow, even pour helps draw out infusion time to maintain the thermal mass of the coffee/water mixture. Total brew time should be about two and a half minutes. We sell the Chemex 8-cup Pour Over pot in our shop. Drink deeply…and enjoy!
Cold brew refers to a coffee brewing method that is quite different from the traditional. Most traditional methods involve the steeping of ground coffee beans in hot water and filtering the finished product through a drip filter or a French press. Cold brew coffee, however, use a method where you steep fresh roasted coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for an extended period of time to produce a coffee concentrate.
The cold brew method can usually take from 12-24 hours to complete. The results are truly unique, and the simplicity of the process is just as impressive. If you’re planning on exploring this method while making a home brew, you will need a few items to complete the process.
First, you’ll want to have fresh roasted coffee beans on hand and a coffee grinder. Our favorite fresh roasted coffee for this method would be the Guatemala San Miguel. You will also need a filtration device, and our recommendation would be a French press. The final component will be cold or room temperature water.
Here are the 5 simple steps to making cold brew at home:
- Grind your coffee beans and put them into your French press.
- Add your water at a 1 to 5 ratio of coffee to water.
- Cover the press, without the filter, and let it set between 12-24 hours.
- Remove the cover and filter the coffee using the French press filter.
- Pour your coffee concentrate into a container of your choosing.
Be sure to remember that the flavors in a cold brew are intensified by the cooler water, as well as the exposure time. It is usually best to dilute your cold brew to taste when serving.
Always be sure that you buy coffee that is fresh, as it will make a huge difference in the flavor. So if you have fresh roasted coffee and all of the necessary filtering tools, you’re ready to start honing your cold brew skills. We wish you the best of luck!
If you’re missing any of the key components, feel free to visit our online coffee store. If you stop in to visit, don’t forget to sign up for our Coffee of the Month Club.
With the hot months of Summer coming up, I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts on how to make some great iced coffee. I’ll offer two different recipes: A quick and easy recipe and then a more technical one for my fellow coffee nerds.
The easiest way to make some great iced coffee is to simply double the amount of coffee grounds you are using for the given amount of water. The extra coffee gounds will ensure you brew a strong coffee concentrate that won’t be diluted when it melts with the with ice.
Once you have your grounds and water ready to go, add some ice to your coffee pot’s carafe. I fill the ice to the same line on the carafe that I used to measure water. So if I did 8 cups of water I would fill ice to the 8 cup line. Make sure to brew directly on to the ice! This is a little trick that I promise will make your coffee taste better.
After that, simply brew, pour the coffee into a glass full of ice, and enjoy!
However, if you wish to get more technical with your brew and you use a scale to weigh out your ratios, I’ve got something for you.
Instead of the normal 50/50 water to coffee ratio for iced coffee, I personally prefer a 40/60 coffee to water ratio. I find this yields a slightly better brew. So for brewing 12 ounces of hot coffee I’d normally use 25 grams of coffee and 12 ounces (354 milliliters) of water. Our default iced coffee ratio of 50/50 would have me double my coffee to 50 grams, but our new 40/60 water to coffee ratio would have me use 35 grams of coffee. My water amount would remain the same at 12 ounces (or 354 milliliters). For my ice ratio, I use roughly 2/3 of my water ratio. So I’d use 8 ounces (236 grams) of ice. Always brew directly onto ice. This ensures the natural sweetness of the coffee is preserved and helps keep away bitterness. When you brew hot and add ice afterwards, you’ll most likely notice you end up with a more bitter brew.
This is just my personal iced coffee recipe. Please experiment, tweak it, and use whatever works best for your brewing setup!
The French press, or simply a press pot, is probably one of the most popular manual brewing methods. It’s a great way to highlight all that UTOPIAN coffee has to offer. I have some simple French press tips and tricks I use when brewing with the French press that I believe can elevate your gourmet coffee experience and I’d like to share them with you.
The “Before You Brew” French Press Tips:
1. Make sure you use the correct grind–the coffee particles should resemble breadcrumbs or coarse sea salt. If you find it difficult to plunge the plunger, then you need a coarser grind. If you follow all the normal brewing steps correctly but your coffee taste weak, then you may need a finer grind.
2. Preheat your press. Fill your press with hot water and then discard the water after a few seconds. This will help maintain a constant brew temperature which is important for delicious coffee.
3. Have a solid coffee-to-water ratio. I personally use 56 grams of coffee (about 8 Tablespoons of ground coffee) for the 8-cup French press. Adjust to your taste, but this should give you a starting point.
How-To-Brew French Press Tips:
1. Use water that is between 195 – 205 degrees. Water between these temps will do the best job at fully extracting the flavor. But be careful! Boiling water (at 212 degrees) will actually burn the coffee. I pull my water off the stove just as it’s about to boil and let it set for 30 seconds. That’s a good gauge if you don’t have a random thermometer laying around.
2. After adding your water to the coffee start your timer! You’ll probably notice that the coffee forms a dome at the top of your press. What I do is after 30 seconds I gently stir the grounds into the water with a large spoon. 4 – 5 gentle stirs should do the trick. This will help integrate all the coffee and water so you get an even brew. Gently set the plunger on top to seal in the heat and wait.
3. My total brew time is roughly 3 minutes and 45 seconds. After this time elapses I’ll take off the plunger and use my spoon to remove and discard as much of the grounds from the press pot as I can. Don’t spend too long doing this as the coffee is still brewing in a sense. Just take about 15 seconds scoop out the grounds that you can. After scooping, place the plunger back on top and plunge. I prefer not to brew over 4 minutes so if you finish right around that time you should be good.
This previous step is probably one of the most noticeable things you can do to enjoy the most from your fresh roasted coffee. By scooping the grounds out you won’t get as much coffee grit in your cup and this can make a huge difference! I know some people love a bit of the coffee grit in their cup so to each their own!
If any of these French press tips help you in your daily coffee ritual as you enjoy fresh roasted coffee–or if you have a question (or have your own French press tips)–please feel free to let us know via Twitter or Facebook.
During my time in the coffee world I have witnessed the battle of the roast preference. I have heard about every debate out there, from light roast coffee is acidic to dark roast coffee is burnt. Everyone has their favorite place on the roast spectrum, and with a patriotic spirit they will rise up to defend their roast preference if anyone dares to attack it. We are creatures of habit and if we came into the gourmet coffee world liking one roast over the other, then that’s probably where we have remained. I hope to challenge your favorite roast preference and shed some light on why you may appreciate that roast you happen to look down upon.
I will take on the light roast first since this is all the rage in the specialty coffee industry. Light roasted coffee is often praised because you can taste more of the coffee’s true characteristics. It offers sweet, juicy, and vibrant flavors with a clean finish! Sounds tasty, right? While some of us sip our lightly roasted coffees and proclaim how magnificently sweet it is, others are simply noticing that the liquid in their cup is acidic and makes their tongue tingle. We cannot convince people they should drink a coffee that they obviously do not enjoy, but many a coffee drinker miss out on some really nice flavors that come about as a result of the lighter roast.
Now for Dark roast…and I can already see the coffee nerds cringing. The biggest complaint I hear about dark coffee is that it’s “burnt”. While this may be true in some cases, most of the time, it is not burnt if you’re dealing with quality, small-batch roasted specialty coffee. Dark roasts usually have prominent flavor notes like dark chocolate, and caramel hints with a heavy, lingering finish. Sounds like a delicious dessert to me! As a roaster, there are some coffees that simply lends themselves better to a darker roast and some work better as a lighter roast. I like to experiment and test to find the right roast balance and make a coffee taste as good as it possibly can.
Let me sum it all up by saying I believe most of our taste for a particular coffee roast profile developed as we made our respective journeys to the world of specialty coffee. Going from that “stuff” in a tin can that was ground 18 months ago, all the way to where we are now, we have developed our likes and dislikes. So why should we base our roast preference off of the sludge that we all used to drink years ago? There are actually some light roasted coffees that are smooth and lingering that I have let “dark roasters” try and they thoroughly enjoyed them! On the flip side, there are sweet and complex dark roasts that a light roast drinker will definitely appreciate.
The point of all this is that we have access to some of the finest fresh roasted coffees in the world, so why should we limit ourselves to what we consider to be a “better” roast? I know this because I was one of those people who stuck by their roast with pride! Our palates change over time and we could be missing out on the best coffee we have ever experienced, so don’t be afraid to get outside of your roast profile comfort zone. Drink deeply…and enjoy!
I have come to notice that one of the biggest factors in getting great tasting gourmet coffee is the water to coffee ratio. Previously, I was satisfied people were simply brewing with Utopian Coffee regardless of the ratios they were using, but now I am more focused on proper water to coffee ratios. I hope this doesn’t come off as snobby, but I have started to see that people enjoy their coffee so much more when brewing with the correct proportions.
The most common mistake in brewing is over-extraction, mainly caused by using way too little coffee compared to water. This produces a very bitter cup, which most of the world has come to recognize as the normal taste for coffee. That’s also why cream and sugar are so popular! We describe coffee in terms of “strong” or “weak” as opposed to the natural flavor of coffee because we came into the coffee world only knowing those two options. I believe all this stems from using incorrect brewing ratios, so together we can start to solve the world’s specialty coffee quality problems!
You may have heard or read about people tasting anything from blueberries to cedar in their coffee without having added any flavored cream. For the most part, those of us who taste these seemingly odd flavors in our coffee are not crazy…we just use proper brewing ratios so that all the potential flavor of that coffee is in our cup. The way I explain it is that coffee only has so much “good” flavor it can give, and it takes so much water to extract all the “good” flavor. Altering the coffee and/or water ratio means that potentially the coffee can produce “bad” flavors.
I urge you to try it for yourself: Brew gourmet coffee using 10 g (2 tbsp) for every 6 oz of water. If you have a small scale, you are awesome! Brewing by weight is much more accurate than volume, but that is another topic for another time. For most of us who don’t have a scale, I will just give you a quick ratio; use 4 cups of water and 10 tablespoons of coffee. The resulting brew may taste “stronger” than what you are used to, but it should also be much more flavorful!
Carefully measuring out your fresh roasted coffee and water may seem like more work than you are used to, but the results are worth it! Drink deeply…and enjoy!
The best way to improve your coffee experience at home other than using fresh roasted coffee and proper water to coffee ratios is to use a quality burr grinder. If you are are not already using a burr grinder, hopefully I can win you over! Coffee loses most of it’s aromatics within 10 minutes of being ground. By the time you brew pre-ground coffee, most of the olfactory components have escaped and the result is a flat, but still fairly decent, brew.
If you’re like me, you have decided you need something to simply chop up the beans. Easy enough, right? Once I was told that my coffee would taste much better if I ground it fresh, so I did what anyone would do and immediately got one of the $15 Mr. Coffee blade grinders. The problem with this, as I later found out, is that the blade grinders will “chop” beans into extremely inconsistent particles. This in turn results in inconsistent extraction (*see more detailed (“coffee nerd”) section below, as well as the Brewing Ratio blog for further explanation).
As a new customer to Utopian Coffee, I was still just discovering how to brew great coffee. Thankfully the Utopian crew was able to help me get a quality burr grinder, which is when my coffee experience completely changed. I was brewing with fresh roasted coffee, using a proper water to coffee ratio and finally had a serious burr grinder. Could one piece of equipment actually make that big of a difference? At the time I was a total novice in the new world of gourmet coffee and even I could tell a very significant difference in the way my coffee tasted! There was so much more aroma as it was brewing and the flavor in the cup was just outstanding!
The difference between the burr and blade grinders is that the burr grinders crunch the beans which results in very even, consistent particle size as opposed to chopping it into random, inconsistent bits like the blade grinders do. Blade grinders also operate at high speeds which can transfer heat into the grounds, resulting in additional decrease in quality due to the degradation of the coffee before water even touches it.
Our personal recommendation if you are interested in getting a burr grinder for your home or office is Baratza. They make absolutely fantastic burr grinders and I have been using one for more than two years at my home and we’ve been selling them to our customers and they couldn’t be any more pleased. Baratza has a variety of models and we sell some through our site, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions or to request help in getting a certain Baratza model. As a disclaimer, we do not get paid or receive any benefit from promoting them. We just think that they are a stellar product, we use them at home, and want you to know.
*We grind coffee to expose surface area so that the soluble solids can be extracted. Basically we grind it to get the tasty flavor out of the coffee. By having different sized particles what happens is that when the water comes into contact with the grounds it is not able to efficiently extract the flavor since there are a variety of particle sizes.