Brewing a cup of coffee is a combination of a science and an art. Period.
The great news is that it is TOTALLY doable and well within reach!
Very often, the short journey of making a fantastic cup of coffee is just as therapeutic as drinking it (If not more). A few simple basics really help to understand brewing and to summon the confidence to curate personalized recipes at a later stage. From then on, it is smooth sailing.
For a barista (be a home bred one or a professional), understanding the behavior of each component of your cup of coffee, individually, influences the final outcome of your brewing technique. The roast date, roast levels, temperature of water used, grind size and the brewing time are all factors that are bound to mingle in your cuppa. The understanding of these components justify the “science of brewing”. We assure you that an earnest intrigue is sufficient to latch on.
Obviously, the “art of brewing” flows from blending the knowledge with the skillful technique of combining the components that go into that superb cup of coffee. It is something that is learnt, intuitively. Like all art, this stage of brewing is flexible, unique and unarguably depends on each one’s taste and preference.
One of the baby steps taken while venturing into the world of specialty coffee is definitely educating oneself with the types of coffee grinds that you can experiment with, according to your choice of brewing technique and preference of taste. Here are a few common pointers to get you to the other side…
Why Do We Grind Coffee?
An orchestra of flavours lay hidden in a whole coffee bean with potential that is yet to be tapped. Grinding the whole beans increase their surface area and ensure the optimum extraction of body and flavour of the coffee. Uniformity in a grind shows up in how clean your cup of coffee tastes. A perfect grind would mean definitive clarity of taste texture.
So, will an electric blender do? No no, that is sure to be a coffee calamity!
Burr grinders and hand grinders are investments a coffee connoisseur never regrets. These grinders are structured specially to control grind sizes and pound beans into the most ideal texture that is required.
Grind Size, Rate of Water Flow and Brewing Time – A Co-Relation.
It is simple. As a grind gets coarser, water flows easily through it as there is more space between the granules. As a grind gets finer, the water takes a longer time to percolate through, because of the resistance of the powder. Based on this explanation, brewing equipment must be chosen according to the grind size.
By comparing the two extremes i.e coarse and fine, a fair idea of the co-relation of these factors can be gauged.
A grind that is too coarse would mean mild/sour flavours and a thin body. The reason being lesser surface area of beans and under extraction.
A grind that is too fine results in ashy, burnt flavours that can get muddled up in a slushy body/texture, due to over extraction.
It is because of the risk of under/over extraction of a coffee, that careful attention must be paid to estimating the optimum extraction of a particular coffee and its behavior with the water flow and brewing time.
Grind Sizes and Brewing Equipment
A French Press is based on ‘immersion brewing’ wherein the coffee is left to rest for a several minutes (Usually 5- 6 minutes). This is well suited for a Coarse Grind as the flavours are gently and slowly extracted to achieve the optimum quality of the coffee being prepared. The same principle and grind size applies for steeping a Cold Brew.
Those who enjoy Chemex brewing, require a Medium Coarse Grind as it is used to extract a clean cup of coffee with distinctive flavours at a slow extraction rate.
For Pour Overs, Drip Filter Bags and Siphons, the body and flavour of coffee largely depend on the amount of water and temperature used while brewing at a reasonable extraction rate. Medium Grinds are considered well suited for these equipments.
Lastly, Fine Grinds are usually used in Espressos and in our South Indian Filter Coffees.
Espressos are brewed based on “pressure extraction”, meaning that the water is forced to percolate through the grind at a high pressure and optimum extraction of the coffee is completed within a few seconds. To ensure uniformity of pressure on the coffee grinds, a technique called tamping is used where the coffee grounds are pushed down by a tool that looks like a stamper. The technique is used to obtain a compact coffee grind with no air spaces or lumps within.
A South Indian Filter is designed for “percolation brewing”, wherein a circular disc presses the coffee concentrate through perforated holes from an upper container into a collecting container.
With these basic pointers that are meant to make coffee brewing less daunting, you will find a decision or a trace of it which will help you choose your grind.
You can now spread your wings and explore the thrill of manual brewing and single origin coffee!