Brewing Fundamentals: Water and Grind
If you want to make a consistently good cup of coffee there are two things that you need to get right:
- The water you are brewing with
- The grind of the coffee beans
The thing to keep in mind when making coffee is that water makes up 98.5% of the volume of a cup of brewed coffee. There are standards laid out for what is acceptable water for brewing coffee but here are some general pointers.
- If you have hard water it is best to buy a filter to remove some of the minerals from the water
- If you live in a major metropolitan area, like Los Angeles, you probably want something with a little more firepower to remove all of the chlorine from your water
- I have taken to buying spring water in bulk because I obsess over the quality of my coffee
Check your local water supplier to see what sort of water you have and to check if tap water is OK for you to use.
The ideal temperature range for water when it comes to brewing coffee is somewhere between 195-205 oF. For all methods of brewing, other that French press, I would strongly recommend a goose-neck kettle as it will really help you while making your coffee. I have two setups which can both be easily purchased off of Amazon:
- A bonavita variable temperature gooseneck kettle. This is great but it can be a little unwieldy while pouring
- A kettle and a takahiro goose-neck kettle. Very precise and easy to use but there is no insulation on the handle so use some caution when going to grip it
When I go over specific brewing methods I will give pointers on how to grind the coffee for the best results.
For now, you just need to understand why grind size is important. Making coffee is all about extracting the caffeine and flavor compounds that are stored within the beans.
The grind size determines the amount of surface area of the coffee which will be exposed to water over the brewing time-frame. So espresso has an extremely fine grind because it has a short brew time whereas French press has a coarse grind because it is a long brew time.
Grind consistency is very important to making a good cup of coffee. A blade grinder is better than buying preground coffee but it will give you an inconsistent grind which will yield a bad cup of coffee.
Next are the burr grinders. These are the grinders I use as they are consistent and adjustable so I can easily keep track of where I need to set them to use the different brewing techniques that I enjoy.
There are two grinders within this category: flat burr and conical burr.
There is a lot of argument over which is best. Some people think flat burrs are better because they have a more consistent grind while others say conical burrs are better because they generate less heat when the grind.
I personally use a conical burr grinder. I don’t make espresso so there is some toleration for inconsistency in my grind. I use a Breville and I have had great results with it. Compare these three grinders on Amazon and choose the one most suitable for your needs.
Over the next couple of weeks I will cover different coffee brewers and why I prefer some over others. Hopefully, you will find that taking a little more time with making your morning cup of coffee will make your whole day a little bit better.