In addition to the way you grind your coffee, there are a few easy things you can do to get the best cup possible. These apply across the board, except for when you’re brewing espresso.
#1: Water to Coffee Ratio – Coffee Strength
The ideal ratio of water to coffee is between 18 to 1 and 15 to 1 by weight; in other words, one ounce of coffee is enough to brew 15 to 18 ounces of water. This ratio will allow the right amount of extraction – the water will dissolve enough solids to not taste weak, but won’t dissolve so many that it starts pulling bitter oils out of the grounds.
And yes, measuring by weight *is* important! Remember, brewing coffee is cooking and cooking is chemistry. Because different coffees have different densities between light and dark roasts, and even from one source to another, the volume of coffee needed changes with each different coffee. A scoop just won’t cut it.
Kitchen scales aren’t expensive and they have uses besides coffee. Before I got my scale, I also didn’t think it was really that important. I was very surprised when I took my first sip after brewing with the right ratios, the right water temp, and the right method. These little things all make huge differences to the flavors.
This simple scale is inexpensive and can be found on Amazon.
#2: Water Temperature
There is an optimal water temperature you’ll want to use to extract the best flavors. Using water between 195-205 degrees will allow the coffee solids to dissolve best. If you use water hotter than that, the coffee can pick up a scalded or burnt flavor. Using water cooler than that won’t allow the most flavorful solids to dissolve. Darker roasted coffee is more tolerant of cooler water, which is a common reason why people believe they like dark roast more than light roast. Most counter-top brewing machines don’t have the ability to get water hot enough to properly extract lighter roasts.
Coffee makers capable of heating water hot enough do exist, but they’re definitely more expensive than the Mr. Coffee you can find in your local Target. Check out our Brewing page for more info!
#3: Blooming the Grounds
This step isn’t as important if you’re using coffee you bought in a grocery store (especially if it’s pre-ground), but if you’re brewing freshly roasted coffee, this will make a BIG difference to the flavor. Blooming your grounds is simply pouring a small amount of water over your freshly ground coffee to pre-soak it. About 30 seconds of pre-soak will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide and aid in flavor extraction. (It’s also pretty cool to watch, especially if you have a Chemex or similar pour-over equipment!)