Coffee Brewing For Beginners – Coffee Made Better

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This is a guest post from Tom Saxon, the Co-Founder of Batch Coffee.

There is far more to coffee than water and coffee grounds. 

If you are looking at upping your coffee game or you are completely new to coffee then let us highlight a few simple steps to brew coffee and why it is so important to pay attention to each variable. 

With the coffee industry growing year on year and much more emphasis now put on quality coffee, the technique of brewing coffee has never been so relevant. 

And depending on your chosen brew method you may find that after a little bit of practice you are rivaling the coffee that you purchase from your local coffee shop. 

First of all though, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. 

Understanding Coffee Beans

Coffee starts off as a fruit and is harvested once or twice a year. The coffee is then processed which involves stripping back the fruity layer and then drying the beans which is commonly referred to as green coffee. This raw form of coffee bean is then sold and exported around the world to coffee roasters. Here the coffee is heated in a large revolving oven (called a coffee roaster) where roast profiles highlight the specific flavors in the coffee bean. 

When you purchase coffee, particularly specialty coffee beans you will usually find details about the origin of the coffee (find out about Guatemalan coffee production), the type of coffee varietal and other factors including altitude, processing method and region. All of this information alongside the roast profile will add to the flavor notes present in the coffee which you may also find on the bag. 

Another important factor to look out for if you are purchasing coffee is the roast date. Coffee is usually at its optimal freshness around 6 to 28 days after the roast. 

Coffee Brewing equipment for beginners

Now, there are a few main brew methods that require various coffee equipment. However, there are 2 pieces of equipment that I recommend anybody purchase that wants to brew better coffee.

A Coffee Grinder

Probably the most important piece of coffee equipment there is. Of course, you will be able to purchase pre ground coffee, however as soon as the coffee is ground it starts to depreciate in quality and the complex flavor notes start to break down. Grinding coffee right before you brew is a complete game changer and you will see the quality of your coffee dramatically increase. 

Coffee Scale

A coffee scale is also an incredibly important piece of equipment. It doesn’t matter whether you are brewing espresso or French press, weighing your coffee correctly so you brew with the correct water:coffee ratio is incredibly important.

Choosing the Right Brewing Method:

Choosing the best possible brew method is important for beginners. There is no right or wrong answer here and each brew method has its own pros and cons and really depends on your preference of coffee and lifestyle. Here are a few of the most popular brew methods for beginners and what we consider a good fit:

Espresso

Pros – Milk based espresso drinks (lattes, cappuccinos), quick extraction and brewing, darker flavor notes. 

Cons – Expensive to start, have to learn a new skill.

Aeropress

Pros – Great filter coffee, Cheap, robust, fun (checkout the extra large Aeropress)

Cons – Only one coffee at a time, no really short coffee like espresso.

Moka Pot

Pros – Short full bodied coffee, Cheap, Easy to use

Cons – Can over extract coffee easily.

Pour Over

Pros – Great for high quality coffee.

Cons – Requires time and patience.

French Press

Pros – Easy to use, brew a few cups at once

Cons – Can easily over extract coffee.

When selecting your brew method, take into account how you prefer to consume your coffee and then how much time you would like to put into brewing your coffee each day. 

Tips for beginners when brewing coffee

Grind size

The grind size of coffee is really hard to quantify and always changes between different coffee beans and grinders. 

When you choose your brew method you will be faced with how coarse to grind your coffee. It doesn’t matter which method you have opted for, you will always battle with the grind size. However as you become a more experienced coffee brewer you will be able to better tweek the coffee grind size for your method.

I would advise you to select a grind level that you think best fits your brew method, once you have brewed your coffee (with the correct coffee to water ratio) evaluate whether the coffee is over extracted (bitter tasting) or under extracted (sour tasting). If it is over extracted then adjust the grind slightly coarser and if under extracted adjust the grind slightly finer. 

Coffee Blooming

If you are brewing your coffee as a French Press, Pour Over or Aeropress then blooming the coffee first is incredibly important. This is the process of pouring a small amount of water (usually twice the weight of the coffee grounds) onto the coffee grounds and waiting for a short amount of time to let the coffee soak up the water which helps release carbon dioxide in the grounds. 

Water Quality

If you have particularly hard water, then I recommend using filtered water. Water makes up the vast majority of the cup, so always use as high quality water as possible. Checkout this article on water quality for baristas. 

Water Temperature

The temperature of the water is an important aspect of the coffee brewing process. If the water is too hot, it will over extract the coffee grounds leaving you with a bitter tasting brew. Too cold and the coffee will taste sour and weak. 

The correct brew temperature ranges between each brew method but is generally around 204F (96C).

Coffee Storage

Whether you have opted to buy a coffee grinder and are now purchasing coffee beans or you are purchasing pre ground coffee I recommend storing your coffee appropriately.

Oxygen is coffee’s worst nightmare and the longer the coffee is in contact with oxygen the quicker the complex flavor profiles breakdown. Always store the coffee in a sealed container or bag and in a room temperature cupboard. 


Try to figure out exactly how you enjoy your coffee and if you have any specifics around the particular type of brew method.

If you still have no idea which to opt for, try one out. You can own more than one brew method and it’s fun to experiment with different coffees.

Tom Saxon, Batch Coffee Club
Tom is the co-founder of Batch Coffee. He has been working in the specialty coffee industry for over 10 years throughout the world and in many parts of the supply chain.

 

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