Brewing

Coffee Questions: Why Temperature Matters by Caleb Savage

Ever tried to make a cup of coffee with water that isn’t hot enough? I didn’t intend to, but the downside of having a variable-temperature kettle is, if you make tea the night before at 175ºF and don’t change the temperature back, you’ll end up with a muddy mess that takes too long to draw down, tastes aggressive and sour, and barely qualifies as a hot cup of coffee.

But why does brewing temperature matter? More specifically, how does temperature affect coffee brewing and how hot should my water be to make a good cup of coffee?

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Coffee Brewing Basics

The goal of coffee brewing is to extract from the coffee beans all of the good flavor characteristics with none of the bad. Using tools like time, temperature, coffee to water ratio, coffee grind size, and agitation, we can adjust extraction until we get a coffee that is balanced, with a bright and clear tasting note, pleasant mouthfeel and body, and a sweet, clean finish. 

Trying to make decisions about five different variables is way too complicated, especially since it’s likely before you’ve had a cup of coffee. Too make it easier, we recommend using brewing recipes. A good brew recipe is straightforward, easy to replicate, and does a good job of balancing all of the variables for you to create a great cup of coffee. So how does temperature affect brewing?

Water Extracts

Water quality is important. We use the variables mentioned earlier, including temperature to control how water extracts the goods from the coffee. Adjusting temperature determines how quickly the water will be able to extract coffee compounds. As with cooking, the hotter the temperature, the faster the desired change will occur. This is one of the reasons why a shot of espresso can be brewed in thirty seconds while cold brew can take up to sixteen or eighteen hours to brew.

Brewing an AeroPress with a Bona Vita Kettle

Brewing an AeroPress with a Bona Vita Kettle

Slurry vs. Kettle

So water temperature matters, but water temperature at what point? 

It’s always been easiest to measure the temperature of the water in the kettle. Whether using the off-boil method of a stovetop kettle or using an electric kettle, it’s been fairly common to recommend your kettle be within the SCA brewing guidelines of between 195ºF-205ºF. However, just because your kettle reads 200ºF, it doesn’t mean that the coffee is actually being extracted at that temperature.

When the water leaves the kettle, it travels 4-6 inches through 70-75ºF air, into a brewer that has (hopefully) been preheated, and a bed of room temperature, dry coffee grounds. If you start out at 200ºF, you may end up at 195ºF or 190ºF by the end of your brewing. To counteract this, we recommend setting your kettle at a higher temperature and making sure to thoroughly preheat your brewer. We recommend starting with 210ºF on an EKG kettle. However, coffees tend to become more soluble the darker they are roasted, so if you’re drinking darker roasted coffee than what you find here, you might benefit from a lower temperature.

Brewing a 10 Cup Chemex with a Stagg Kettle and Acaia Pearl Scale

Brewing a 10 Cup Chemex with a Stagg Kettle and Acaia Pearl Scale

Temperature Experiment

Since temperature isn’t the only variable we use to brew coffee, we can adjust the other variables to adapt to lower brewing temperatures. Slowing down your pouring can keep the water in the kettle longer as long as you make sure to keep the coffee bed saturated, grinding your coffee more finely, or incorporating some stirring into your brewing can all increase extraction.

No one wants to drink a bad cup of coffee, so instead of suffering through a pourover at 175ºF, try making a cup of coffee at five degrees cooler than you normally would, but adjust grind to a slightly finer size. These variables should offset each other, and you should end up with a similarly tasting cup of coffee!

Let us know what other coffee questions you have!

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Coffee Questions: Brewing That Works by Caleb Savage

NOT JUST HERE FOR THE CAFFEINE

“What’s the best way to make coffee at home?”

Coffee making can be pretty frustrating. We want good coffee. We want to make it in a way that’s both fun and relatively easy. We don’t want it to break the bank. Why? Because we want coffee to be both utilitarian and pleasurable. We want it’s caffeine, but we want also want it to be sweet, well-balanced, and enjoyable. We want it to help us wake up in the morning so we don’t want a setup that requires us to be alert to be able to do it well.

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So how do we balance making great coffee without having to have the best equipment or follow a complex set of rules to get your first sip of caffeine?

The best cup of coffee is a coffee you like to make and drink.

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The Balancing Act

We can divide home brewing into a couple areas to determine the best setup for anyone: Interest, Time, and Cost.

Interest

Do you enjoy learning about where coffees are from? Do you follow recipes when you make coffee? If you want good coffee, but don’t have a lot of interest in the details, there are some great automated brewers that make Specialty quality coffee at home!

Time

Are you looking for a coffee setup that allows you to start a cup and be out the door five minutes later? A stovetop kettle might not be the best choice. Also, avoid hand grinders. If you have the time and interest, you can sip slowly and think critically about the coffees you make and make slight adjustments to your recipe until you’ve found the program that works best for you.

Cost

Sometimes we have a lot of interest and time to make great coffee but are missing the budget to have the “perfect” setup. Don’t sweat. Sometimes small improvements to things like water, coffee quality, or temperature can have dramatic results on the finished product!

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THINGS WE LOVE

“What equipment should I get?

The equipment we sell comes from companies we believe in. We use and sell Acaia scales, XF brewers and kettles, Chemexes, and Baratza grinders. If you are considering a new kettle or brewer, ask us about why we love the gear we use.

We also love helping you make the best coffee you want to make. Our team loves finding the gear or solution you need the balances your interest, time, and budget. Stop by the shop and chat with your baristas about the best set up for you.

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Acaia by Caleb Savage

Good news! We just received a fresh restock on our favorite scale: the acaia pearl!

Who is acaia?

Creator Aaron Takao Fujiki launched his Kickstarter for acaia (pronounced ah-kigh-ah) in October 2013 after nearly a year of research and development. His goal was to marry the needs of the specialty coffee brewer to a device that was sleek, precise, and could be integrated into the growing apps and systems for measuring and tracking coffee brewing. Four years later, acaia is the industry leader in beautiful scales that lead to quality brews.

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We use the acaia pearl in the shop for pourovers, syrup-making, and drink-building, and before switching to the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle, we used the acaia lunar on bar to weigh all of our shots.

Basic Functions

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All scales weigh. Many weigh well. Few do things outside of being an accurate scale. We like acaia because they do everything we need them to in a way that makes sense. The acaia pearl works in two modes, having a scale option that measures up to 2000 grams in either grams or ounces in increments as small as .1g, or a second mode optimized for brewing with a stopwatch and whole gram scale visible on the display. This allows us to use the scales interchangeably for making a pourover with our Chemex brewers and then measuring ingredients for a syrup or drink.  

Connected Brewing

For the home brewer obsessed with making the perfect cup, acaia’s scales are all bluetooth-enabled to allow for tracking and comparing the quality of each pour, measuring yield and flow-rate to enable the user to better understand what’s going on in each cup and how to improve their brew.  

We love our scales because they do exactly what we need them to while being simple to use, flexible enough to be used for almost all of our measurement needs, and look great while they do it. If you’re in the market for a scale that can help make you a better home-brewer, acaia is absolutely your best option.

Coffee Questions: What is Coffee? by Caleb Savage

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Let’s talk about coffee. Not coffee the plant, nor coffee the seed; coffee the drink. When we talk about “just a cup of coffee,” what are we referring to? Is espresso a coffee? Is a Chemex a coffee? Confused? So are the professionals. Today, we’ll explore coffee the drink in the context of the shop.

Brewing Culture

Coffee’s desirability as a stimulant as well as its widespread cultivation and consumption by way of the age of exploration and colonialism has produced a variety of cultural styles of coffee brewing. Various methods of brewing have been designed and refined over the years to match the demands in price, style, and culture of the people who demand it. Old methods like Turkish coffee remain culturally popular; Italian espresso revolutionized coffee consumption; English consumption led to a long string of improvements in home coffee brewing.

Strength, Body, & Brewing

What makes a strong cup of coffee?

For some, it’s a dark and robust drink that is both bitter and sweet like a dark wine. For others, it’s about being able to feel your heartbeat after the first sip. If we’re talking about caffeine, our pourovers have generally the same amount of caffeine as standard brewing recommendations for home coffee pots. Two “scoops” or tablespoons is around twenty grams; our dose for a single pourover on the Stagg XF Dripper.

When we talk about the taste or body of the coffee, factors like origin, roast, brew method, extraction come into play. Just like apples grown in different regions or different varieties, coffee can vary in flavor depending on country of origin, coffee cherry variety, or processing method.

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Just like a specific coffee on pourover might taste a little different than what it tastes like on espresso, there can also be a difference in flavor between your usual brewing method at home or work versus a cup from the shop.

A lighter bodied cup doesn’t necessarily mean less caffeine or a weaker cup. Further, home brewing options like a French Press, Aeropress, or Moka Pot, might give you the style of coffee you’re looking for at home!

Coffee, extracted

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As a drink in any form, coffee is a solution in which certain soluble particles are dissolved from the roasted coffee bean by water. Extraction, the process of pulling out those water-soluble coffee particles from the ground coffee bean, is the chemical process of making coffee. The goal of coffee-making, whether espresso, coffee pot, or pourover, is to extract as much of the good tasting coffee particles while also not extracting as little of the not so good tasting coffee particles as possible. We use variables like water temperature, grind size, and time to manage the extraction process.

While there are a variety of different brewing methods and desires for flavor in coffee; coffee made well or evenly extracted, should also be the goal. In our desire to serve really good coffee, we make each coffee by the cup to ensure freshness, quality, and consistency. Our friends over at Modbar & Fellow help us provide these standards.