Brew Guide 202!
Most of the more advanced techniques when it comes to preparing coffee can be boiled down to paying extra attention. If you love the ritual, and the craft of making coffee we want to reward that with stuff we've picked up over the years! It's also not for everyone, nor are we the final authority on anything! If you have something you're passionate about and think we missed email us! is always happy to chat.
This is a very simple concept that helps make brewing coffee more intuitive. While each brew method may require different mechanics, the amount of coffee over the amount of water can remain fairly consistent. The commonly held starting point is 1:17, which is for every 1 gram of coffee you add 17 grams of water. So, if you're brewing 24 grams of coffee on your Chemex, all ya gotta do is pour 408 grams of water. Now, how you pour the water and for how long will make a difference but you have an excellent starting point. It also holds up pretty well across most brew methods, from french press's to Chemex's to drip machines.
Why use a brew ratio? Every cup is a delicious experiment with two constants, coffee and water. By making those two variables consistent across everything you do, you can focus on the technical aspects of a brew method. For example, it makes it much easier to plan a trip if you know where to start and where you'll end up. It also helps you figure out how much coffee to use if you want to make more than one cup of coffee. If you want a big thermos of coffee to last you all morning you can do a little bit of math and figure that 20 ounces of coffee is about 590 milliliters of coffee which is a super easy conversion to 590 grams. So, 580/17 is 34g of ground coffee. Piece of cake. Much easier than just winging it and getting way too much coffee or a disappointing cup to start your day off. It also becomes pretty intuitive as you go, but to help you out here's a chart with common serving amounts and their resulting in and out weights with 1:17 as a brew ratio.
8oz- 236g water to 13.9g coffee
10oz- 295g water to 17.4g coffee
12oz- 354g water to 20.8g coffee
16oz- 454g water to 26.4g coffee
20oz- 567g water to 33.3g coffee
24oz- 680g water to 40g coffee
32oz- 907g water to 53.3g coffee
48oz- 1360g water to 80g coffee
As always though these are guidelines! Coffees will extract differently, your taste preference can evolve, always be open to messing with stuff. Brew ratio's are just a tool to be more consistent, and not a doctrine. In brewer competitions many a great cup has been brewed on ratio's of 1:12 to 1:14. There's no rules, you brew you :)
One more advanced way to see if your daily brew was well extracted is monitoring your brew bed. If you notice it pitting out, or looking scooped instead of flat and even, you may be pouring too hard or inconsistently. An even brew bed indicates that the water you poured flowed evenly through the coffee, resulting in an even extraction. If there is a raised area the thought is that water flowed slowly through that spot, and more slowly through the lower spot. Having a water pitcher with a finer spout or even a flow regulator will help with having less intense pours. Also, figuring out how and where to pour for each brew method can make a big difference. Cone filters (Chemex, v60, etc.) benefit from pouring near the edges steadily and moving your way towards the center in a spiral motion. Avoid pouring along the edges though. Flat bed brew methods like the Kelitta wave are a little more forgiving, simply pouring steadily in a circular motion tends to be the most effective.
In the first brew guide, we mentioned the best tool you have to brew coffee is yourself. More specifically it's your noodle, the ol' brainpan, that is incredibly effective at recognizing patterns and changes. Keeping track of brew parameters is one great way to perfect the mechanics of your brews, but it's also very helpful to note any changes in flavor you notice. Flavor is also a great big, mystical word, but in regards to coffee can be broken down into component parts. There's endless amount of research behind how we taste what we taste in coffee, what causes us to taste it, and how to effect those things, and if you'd like to read more about the science, Barista Hustle has some great resources available. We're going to talk a bit more about practical ways to develop your palate, identify flavors you enjoy, and how to bring them out.
First up, time. It's easy to forget about, and just as easy to think way too intensely about. Like it or not though, it's a thing and when it comes to tasting, it's very easy to forget the part it plays. Simply taking the time to understand when you're tasting certain things can make a world of difference. A coffee's 'finish' was how I best learned to understand extraction and make adjustments. Let's start with over and under-extraction as a way to understand how a cup was brewed, and what to do as a result. Depending how long you've been interested in coffee, you may have done over/under cuppings, tried over/under shots, or even just made very over extracted or under extracted cups. The reason it's a great thing to demonstrate is how pronounced the flavors become. If you haven't tried this, you can do it home! Make a cup of coffee in your preferred brew method, but instead add 150 grams more for an overextracted cup, or a 150 grams of water less for an underextracted one.
Over and underextraction can be reduced to too much flavor or too little. Flavor is the result of solubles in coffee being extracted by the water. What you're tasting in each cup is thousands of chemical compounds so don't feel bad if you're overwhelmed. Coffee researchers are overwhelmed by how complex it is too :) As a starting point, pick one of these aspects to focus on, sweetness, body, acidity, or finish. I like to start with finish, because it's very forgiving. Sweetness is often an initial aspect of the flavor, so that can be a great entry point as well. So for the next cups you brew, take a second to note one of those components. Is the sweetness more pronounced or subdued than last time, is the finish annoyingly lingering on your palate, is it just a dope as last time. Each thing you note can help you make your next cup of coffee hella fucking tight.
The most important thing about taste is that you already know how to do it. You do it all the time, figuring out if you need to add salt to that spaghetti sauce you're making, or lime juice to your tacos. Those are all choices you're making to effect flavor, and are often intuitively right. You like good things, and can make them good. Taking the time to trust yourself and your ability to make dope shit is key. You're simply trying to acquire a better fluency for your own intuition. It will translate to other areas of your life as well, meditating on your cereal's sweetness, noticing the smell of the cherry blossoms. Coffee is a product of life, and life is pretty darn spectacular. Enjoy it, and enjoy your coffee.
Sources and further reading!