I love brewing coffee for people. I often bring coffee to work for my coworkers, brew coffee during my breaks, and pull espresso shots for anyone and everyone who comes to my house. When people inevitably love my brews, I am often asked about practical ways for improving their brewed coffee. Besides buying high-quality, specialty-grade coffee (which I have covered in a previous blog), here are my three simple (but incredibly effective) ways of improving your brewed coffee. From Espresso to Pour-overs to French Press to everyday Batch Brewers, these tips help with all brewing methods.
TIP # 1: Create Consistency In Your Brewing Process.
You must create consistency when brewing your coffee. If you get a new coffee and it does not taste good after your first brew, what do you do? You need to remember exactly how you brewed that coffee, to make any changes to make that brew better. The best way to accomplish this is create consistency in your brews. By establishing a solid baseline for making coffee you make it a lot easier to find, and tweak, any variables resulting in your bad brew. This leads me into my next point.
TIP # 2: Only Change One Variable at a Time When Adjusting Your Brew.
Only change ONE variable at a time when adjusting your brews. This is so important, let me explain through a long story of when changing two variables bit me in the behind.
I had a close friend ask for some help with dialing in a new coffee he recently purchased. It was an exceptional honey-processed Colombian coffee, so I really did not want to mess it up. My only worry was that I haven’t done this for someone else on someone else’s equipment before. When I went over, I got setup and just pulled a shot with his existing grind size and grind time (he had a dedicated espresso grinder that used time to dose out shots). Of course, the shot was gross, so I needed to do some adjusting. But what happened next, doomed me to be at his house for HOURS. He changed the grind setting and the grind time without remembering where his baseline was. I spent so much time trying to just find a good time for a dose, then had to try so many shots to try and dial in the flavor. By the time it was all said and done, the coffee was gone and we were wiped out.
The moral of the story is to change one variable at a time. Changing the grind size is the first variable you should look at. Grinding finer for brews that are tasting too hollow or empty or watered down. Grinding coarser if your brew is sour or tasting too strong. When you change two variables at one time you make it hard to isolate what made your brew taste better or worse. If I change my grind finer and change my brew temperature to be hotter, then I wouldn’t know which variable made my brew taste astringent because it could be both.
TIP # 3: Make Coffee That Tastes Good To You!
The final way to improve your brews, is to make brews that taste good to you. There are a ton of brew guides, how-to’s, and coffee recipes out there telling you how to use different brew methods with different equipment or coffee. The problem with those guides is that there are so many variables are not accounted for. For instance, using tap water in your brew will give you a wildly different tasting cup of coffee than someone using strictly bottled purified water, or even someone who makes their own water with their own custom blend of minerals. If there is a brew temperature in the recipe, there could be elevation differences that affect taste. Even two of the same brand and type of grinder can give you two different grind sizes and consistencies, based on alignment, amount of burr seasoning, and calibration, etc. These are a few of the many, many, variables that can make a huge difference in your final cup. On top of those, maybe one way of making coffee tastes good to one person but might not taste good to you. So do not be discouraged when the “ULTIMATE V-60 BREW METHOD” does not taste that good to you. Do not give up on a French press because a YouTube coffee expert’s recipe doesn’t suit you or your coffee. My biggest advice to anyone making coffee is to just focus on making coffee that tastes good to you. If it tastes good, repeat that process. If it tastes bad, change it up (one variable at a time, duh).
Take this advice, or don’t. Just make good coffee.