To each coffee lover, the perfect coffee is a personal matter, yet the general notion is an ideal still unreachable. So many blends, and roasts, and ways to prepare it, with so much cultural backing and no way to single out one type above all others. In fact, I would argue each cup is a journey in and of itself; a new experience with each new drink. But what if we picked a few standards to analyze on a purely empirical basis, with scientific backing and proper argumentation? Well, we’d still have favorites, but we might get a better appreciation for the many processes that help create the “journey”.
First off, it’s very important we pick a few criteria that apply to all kinds of coffee-making. For this purpose, we’re going to take a look at the degree of the grind, the water-to-coffee ratio, and water temperature. We will disregard brewing time, since we cannot recommend cutting corners, particularly as far as specialty coffee is concerned; you should always take your time with the coffee-making experience.
For the sake of an easier grinding process, we’ll assume you’re using Arabica coffee, although the method won’t change until we have to deal with the taste. When we brew coffee we try to extract as much as we can out of the bean. If the grind is too coarse, the extraction process will be hindered and delayed, meaning we’ll run the risk of burning the coffee and end up with a very weak drink anyway. Should the grind be too fine, we’ll have a harder time controlling what we want to extract from the beans because the process will happen much quicker and it might result in extracting bitter chemical compounds. We recommend the finer grind, since the taste can be managed post-brewing, whereas with a coarser grind, the risk of lacking taste is much harder to deal with.
One of the most important of the criteria we have chosen is the water:coffee ratio. This comes back to the same extraction process we have mentioned above. If we use too much water for our coffee, the drink will naturally be weak and dull-tasting; if we use too little, we’ll have to extend the brewing process and, again, extract more than we want to out of the beans. The recommended ratio for a proper espresso is 60g of coffee for every liter of water, but depending on whether you prefer coffee that’s stronger or weaker than an espresso, we recommend staying within the 40g to 70g range.
The water temperature is yet another point of debate among coffee lovers, and while the is no clear-cut answer, there are suggestions for optimal conditions. When talking about extraction, the preferred temperatures are between 90 and 96˚C (194-204°F). If we go higher than that, we run the risk of extracting those pesky bitter chemicals. Any lower, we might not extract the aromas and taste that we want in our drink. Note that the cold-brew method will extract these aforementioned good aromas much better than low temperature pot-brewing, but it does take much longer to do so.
While these criteria might not be sufficient for an exhaustive answer, they do provide a good framework. Indeed, all of these fall within the spectrum of weak to bitter taste, and that is because all three determiners work hand in hand in order to craft your perfect drink of coffee. And yes, it all comes down to taste, so the most crucial element of coffee-making is knowing what taste you aim to get out of coffee beforehand.
If you think you’ve mastered all these simple techniques and want to move on to more difficult challenges, come and read about all the different recipes and coffee facts on Goffee.co. We guarantee it’s going to be worth it.