Brewing the Best Cup!
People get their PHD in coffee brewing these days, dedicating their entire lives trying to answer this very question! So this is our attempt to break down the science to help you figure out the basics of brewing a great cup.
If you are searching for instructions based on your brewing apparatus, see the drop down menu on the left.
The differences between good and great cups of coffee boil down to a variety of factors. Most important are:
- Coffee roast level
- The brew method (there are SO many to choose from!)
- How you grind it
- Coffee to water ratio
- Quality and freshness of ingredients
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What Do You Like?
The first factor to consider is, of course, the coffee. Each batch of coffee has the potential to taste entirely different, and you have to decide which combination of flavors and attributes you prefer in order to find your perfect blend. The professionals approach coffee cupping like wine tasting, rating each individual quality of every brew.
This isn't necessary for the home brewer, but there are a few terms you should be familiar with in order to determine the coffee that's right for you:
- FLAVOR: coffee flavor is simply the taste, typically compared to other foods such as fruits, spices, chocolate, nuts, and caramels.
- ACIDITY: the zing in the corners of your mouth. High acidity coffees often have a fruitiness to them, similar to the tartness of an apple or berries.
- BODY: this is how "full" the coffee tastes, how thick it feels, relating primarily to the texture. For example, water has no body and milk has full body.
- SWEETNESS: how sweet the coffee tastes, also used when coffee lacks bitterness. Lighter roasts are generally sweeter, giving way to caramelized notes and a more bittersweet quality the darker the coffee is roasted.
You’ve already chosen to purchase quality organic and Fair Trade coffee…now you get to choose your roast level and favorite blend. Our coffees come in medium roasts, medium/dark blends, and dark roasts. Medium roasts are roasted for less time than dark roasts (even if only by a few minutes), and the differences are huge!
- Medium Roasts: have unique flavors characteristics that shine through. They tend to have pleasurable acidity, more sweetness, and are lower in bitterness.
- Dark Roasts: are bold, robust, and strong in flavor. They have lower acid, higher body, and more "roasted" or smoky and bittersweet flavors.
- Medium/Dark Blends: combine the two for a combination of flavors and characteristics.
Country of Origin
The country of origin that each coffee comes from can also have a huge impact on flavor to take into consideration. For example:
- Ethiopian coffees tend to be quite floral and fruity.
- Central and South American coffees can have hints of chocolate or caramel
- Indonesian coffees (such as our Sumatran varieties) are full-bodied and earthy, which lend themselves well to dark roasts
But within each region (and even elevation) there are differences, too. You can explore each country of origin, and meet the growers here.
Pick Your Perfect Bean
Let's put it all together and find the brew for you!
clean, sweet, high acidity, floral flavor
sweet light to medium body, floral flavor
bittersweet, medium body
clean sugars, low to medium acidity
caramel, chocolate, medium-bodied
full body, bittersweet, dark chocolate
high acidity, light body, flavorful, fruity (citrus or berry)
medium body, flavorful, fruity (citrus or berry)
bold, flavorful, fruity (citrus or berry)
low acidity, smooth, good balance
bold, smooth, dark chocolate, earthy
spicy, bold, dark chocolate, earthy, syrup
You should brew the freshest coffee you can. Fresh roasted coffee should be kept in a cool, dry and dark place in an airtight container. A five-pound bag of whole bean coffee will last up to 3 weeks at room temperature. Unopened one-pound bags, however, are nitrogen-flushed and sealed, and will stay fresh for at least 3 months if left in stable temperatures.
To freeze or not to freeze…that is the question! Although it is not ideal in terms of freshness, we recognize that many of our customers purchase in larger quantities to save money, and need to store coffee for a longer period of time. This is where the freezer comes in.
If you want to freeze coffee:
- Break up the coffee into small increments that will last you one week
- Put the coffee into a freezer safe bag or airtight container
- Keep the first amount out on your counter for immediate use, and stash the rest of it in the freezer
- Replace your immediate stash with one from the freezer whenever you need!
*DO NOT take the coffee in and out of the freezer. The drastic changes in temperatures will cause it to stale much quicker. It should last in the freezer in an air-tight container/bag for up to 3 months.
*Let the coffee come to room temperature before grinding/brewing.
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There are many different ways to brew your coffee, and each method makes for a unique coffee experience. And of course, each method requires different grinds, coffee-to-water ratios and time. The most common brew methods are:
- The Autodrip Machine (your standard Mr. Coffee)
- The Pour Over (including the Chemex)
- The French Press
- The Percolator (including stove top Moka Pots)
- The Espresso Machine
The single best way to improve your coffee at home is by grinding your beans right before brewing with a burr grinder. A blade grinder works alright for French Press or cold brew, but will never match the consistency of a burr grinder.
Different brew methods call for different grinds:
*Moka Pot needs not-quite-fine
**Espresso grind should be close to powder
If ordering ground coffee from us, you have three options – Normal, Coarse and Fine. Normal is a medium grind, so the middle of the range on your home grinder. If you are grinding at home, you will need a little bit of trial and error to figure out how YOUR grinder and brew method work best together. If the coffee tastes weak, grind finer. If the coffee tastes bitter or too strong, grind coarser.
Ratio For Brewing
It’s best to measure by weight if you can (instead of volume – see chart below), which means investing in a kitchen scale. But if you can’t (or don’t want to!), a general rule of thumb is 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of coffee per 8 ounces of water. The difference from 2 to 3 tbl depends on your taste buds and what you like. If you like it stronger, go with more, and less if you like it more mellow. (Again, trial and error until you find what suits you!)
(for 4 cups brewed)
(Size: #2 filtercone)
(Size: 8 cup)
(Size: 8 cup)
(Size: 4 cup)
56 - 84 grams
15 - 17 grams
Enough to fill the filter basket
(do not compact)
(1 ¼ cups)
Fill the bottom base
(Use Heated Water!)
5 - 7 minutes
(your machine will do the timing for you!)
4 - 6 minutes
5 minutes or so
(listen to it; the sound will no longer sound like gurgling)
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Dos and Don’ts!
DO let your coffee “bloom.” Pour a few tablespoons of the hot water you’re using onto your grounds before you start to brew. Let sit for 30 – 45 seconds, and the coffee grounds will expand. This allows for better extraction, and a better cup.
DON'T use dirty equipment. Wash with hot soapy water often, to get rid of coffee oils which can be bitter or rancid after time. For autodrip machines, clean periodically per the machines instructions.
DO use good, clean water. No need to buy bottled water, but make sure its as pure as you can get.
DON'T let people make you feel bad about adding sugar or milk or soy or almond or... It's YOUR cup of coffee. Not theirs.
Most importantly, DO remember to appreciate where your cup of coffee comes from. A good cup is more than just the right brew method + correct grind. Think about the growers and the impact YOU have on their lives when you purchase Dean's Beans.