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brewing essentials

-essentials for an excellent cup of coffee-

1) high quality freshly roasted arabica coffee beans

2) a high quality burr grinder

3) a quality scale

4) a temperature programmable water kettle

5) high quality water

6) brewing method/filter

7) proper bean storage



1) high quality freshly roasted arabica coffee beans-




The most simple way of telling the quality of coffee is to look at the information about the bean origin.  Generally speaking, the more information given, the better the quality of coffee.  Look for specific region, plant varietal, altitude and farm name for a start.  Then look or ask for the roast date of the coffee you're looking to purchase.  You want the most freshly roasted coffee you can get.  That being said, freshly roasted coffee should release CO2 for at least 12 hours before brewing as coffee and at least 5 days before using as espresso.  If you can get coffee you NEED to let rest you’re on the right path.  I find that beans for coffee brewing don't reach their peak until about 5 days after roasting and beans for espresso don't reach their peak until about 8 days after roasting.  I find that peak lasts about two weeks before the flavors start to lose their specific origin flavors.  Experiment with your brewing and coffee resting to decide what you find to be the best amount of rest before brewing your coffee.


as coffee ages two things happen:


-the beans release CO2-    as the beans degas (release the CO2 built up inside the beans from the roasting process) they slowly lose the flavors specific to the origin that any high quality roaster is trying to bring out. The more CO2 lost (after the initial rest period), the more the coffee tastes like just plain coffee; not bad per se, but not interesting either.

-the beans oxidize-     this is the staling process which has a DEFINITE negative effect on the taste of the coffee.  If you buy medium to light roasted coffee there should be NO oils on the outside of the bean.  If there are you are buying stale coffee and wasting your money.


2) a high quality burr grinder-

The MOST important component, and not just a grinder but a GOOD grinder!

Relegate that blade grinder to chopping nuts! Coffee needs to be ground, not whacked by a whirling blade and heated up by a hot motor and blades.

The advantage of a high quality burr grinder is better flavor. The better the grinder the more even the grind particle size. The more even the grind the less an average of over and under extraction the brewed cup of coffee has (over extraction leads to bitter, astringent flavors while under extraction leads to green, grassy, hay like flavors). I recommend the Baratza Encore as the best entry level quality conical burr grinder.

Keeping your coffee in bean form helps preserve the flavors of that bean.

Grind your coffee RIGHT BEFORE BEWING for the best flavor.

ground coffee loses the same amount of CO2 in ½ hour that it takes 16 DAYS for beans to lose!!!


ground coffee goes stale/oxidizes much more quickly than beans do!!!

If you are having your coffee ground where you buy it your coffee is 16 DAYS older when you get home.

you have lost 16 DAYS worth of flavor!!!


3) a quality scale-

The second MOST important component (maybe even AS important as the grinder).  Without knowing and being able to get a specific coffee/water ratio you will not be able to brew a consistent cup of coffee. It is better to have one scale that you can weigh your grounds to .1 gram (resolution) AND still able to weigh the amount of water you’re using, say 2000 grams (capacity). Unfortunately a good scale is NOT inexpensive. That being said, it is worth the price of admission! Check My Weigh, US Scales, Jennings and Citizen scales for a good balance of capacity, resolution and price.


4) a temperature programmable water kettle-

Coffee should be brewed at a specific temperature, about 200*F.

If you don’t know what temperature you’re brewing at you will not be able to brew a consistent cup of coffee.

Here in Colorado we are fortunate enough to have water boil at about 202*F so pulling the kettle off at a rolling boil and using it immediately is the perfect setup. By the time you pour the boil will have stopped and your water will be at about 200*F. If you are not at altitude I cannot stress the importance of a temp programmable kettle enough.


5) high quality water-

Coffee is about 98.7% water so if you use bad water you will have bad coffee. Distilled and reverse osmosis water is NOT good for brewing coffee either! Neither has ANY TDS (total dissolved solids, ie. mineral content) to properly extract the essential chemical compounds that make a good cup of coffee. The accepted ideal TDS for brewing coffee is 150ppm (or mg/L), 100-200ppm being the acceptable window. There is much more to talk about water quality but TDS is the most basic, easily understood and reported aspect of water from water companies/treatment centers.


6) brewing method/filter-

I find manual methods are the best for cup quality as YOU control all the variables.  The three main methods are:

steeping-          french press, a thick and heavy cup which uses a metal mesh filter and leaves a muddy silt in your cup. Love it or hate it . . .  (the ESPRO french press, on the other hand, uses a dual filter system and makes a much cleaner cup although it uses silicone seals which can add an off flavor to the coffee)

With this method YOU chose the length of time to brew which is totally dependent on how fine or coarse you grind your coffee (the more fine the grind, the shorter the brew time and the muddier the cup)

pourover-      think drip and take out the automatic part. There are many styles to choose from and many different filter choices that will change the end cup from very clean and light to somewhat clean and heavy. The thicker the paper filter the cleaner and lighter the cup. The paper type will have an effect on taste as well, brown/natural paper will generally add a paper flavor to the cup even when rinsed and drained thoroughly before using. All paper filter should be rinsed thoroughly before being used. There are also metal filter options for almost every manual drip method as well which tend to produce a slightly cleaner cup than a french press with more pronounced flavors.

With this method YOU must find the correct grind for your filter medium to get the right brew time. The more coarse your grind, the faster the water flows through the grounds and the thicker the filter (Chemex filters for example), the slower the water will flow through it.

vacuum- ONLY FOR THE HARDCORE, this is the trickiest method of the bunch, generally producing a clean but fairly heavy cup. They generally come with cloth filters but metal and paper filters are available as well.

with this method YOU chose the length of time to brew which is totally dependent on how fine or coarse you grind your coffee (the more fine the grind, the shorter the brew time) with the added variable of the draw down time. Water is heated in a lower chamber and, when boiling, the pressure generated pushes the water up through the filter into the brewing chamber. Coffee is then added into the brewing chamber and steeped, all while the lower chamber is being heated to keep the water in the upper chamber. When done steeping, the heat is removed and as the lower chamber and brew cools it is pulled back down through the filter into the lower chamber ready to serve.


ease of brewing-     1) french press         2) pourover                3) vacuum

ease of cleaning-     1) pourover            2) french press             3) vacuum

7) proper bean storage-

To keep beans from getting stale an airtight or vacuum sealed container is important. This will keep oxygen from making the beans stale. For beans that are being used regularly the container should be put in a cool, dark location.

For actual storage of beans that won’t be used for a while coffee put in the freezer in an airtight/vacuum sealed container is an excellent option. This will slow down the degassing process and help preserve the flavor. The colder the freezer the slower the degassing.

Coffee beans MUST be brought up to room temperature BEFORE being unsealed and exposed to air and once thawed should NOT be refrozen!


Refrigerators are moisture laden and are not good for coffee storage whatsoever! Freezers, on the other hand, have no moisture content to speak of and are excellent for coffee storage.