Perfect Coffee

The book Perfect Coffee at Home inspired this page. It is so simple to brew good coffee but most of us don’t know how to do it. We buy poor beans and use haphazard technique leading to predictably mediocre Care American. This recipe leads you out of the Cafe American wilderness.

Tools

I use the following tools to make coffee.

  • Chemex pour over brewer
  • Chemex filter
  • Oxo metric kitchen scale (metric is important)
  • Oxo tea kettle (any kettle will do)
  • Burr coffee mill
  • Artisan roasted whole coffee beans

Perfect Coffee at Home recommends the Hario burr mill and Hario tea pot. The Hario mill is a hand operated burr mill as is my Zassenhaus mill. It is important to use a burr mill to obtain a consistent particle size. Spice chopper style mills produce non-uniform and non-repeatable grounds.

The pot is less critical but it should hold about a liter and a half of water.

A Little About Coffee

Perfect Coffee at Home by Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez promotes their book by that title. Michael and Harrison met at the Marine Corps Basic School and served together in Afghanistan. During their time together, they fell in love with good coffee and set out to learn the art of coffee brewing. Their love of coffee led to the book and life after the Marine Corp. In their book they teach technique, tools, and a bit about coffee.

Coffee is amazingly complex. The variety, soil, microclimate, and post harvest processing all affect the flavor of the beans. The roasting of the bean also has a big effect. A light roast preserves most of the bean’s character. Progressively darker roasting increases the caramelization of the beans. The longer the roast, the less influence the bean has on the product and the more the roast has. This is why Starbucks roasts dark. When the goal is a uniform product in industrial quantity, dark roast is the way to go. Starbucks roasts very aggressively and their product tastes burnt to me.

The second thing Michael and Harrison teach is cooking by ratio. Most professional cooking is measured by weight and uses well known ratios of the primary ingredients. For coffee, there are only two, water and coffee

The third thing Michael and Harrison teach is that the grind matters. The finer the grind, the more soluble chemicals are extracted. A coarse grind is boring; an overly fine grind can become bitter. A medium grind works well for most drip coffees.

 Ratio

The basic technique is to use 1 gram of coffee per 16 grams of water.

  • 1 cup of coffee is 250 milligrams or 250 milliliters of water
  • A coffee mug holds about 12 ounces or 375 milliliters of coffee
  • About 15 percent of the brewing water will remain in the grounds
  • Making 1 liter (3 mugs) of finished coffee requires 3 x 375 / 0.85 grams of water = 1320 grams
  • Making 1 liter of coffee requires 1320/16 or 83 grams of coffee

My daily brew is 1000 grams of water and 55 to 60 grams of coffee. I’ve found that each variety that I briew has a preferred ratio. Because coffee is a natural product, some variability is to be expected. This makes about 2 1/2 mugs of coffee, about right for the day.

Technique

Using the calculations above gives the following technique.

  • Add about 1.5 liters of water to your tea pot and put on medium high heat
  • Measure out and grind 83 grams of beans. This will be about a mug full
  • Put a fresh filter and ground beans in your Chemex brewer
  • Place the brewer on the scale and set the tare weight (zero it).
  • When the water is boiling, pour slowly into the Chemex filling the upper funnel.
  • Add water slowly keeping the upper part full until 1320 grams have been added.
  • All the entire brew to drip to the bottom flask. Stir as needed to keep all of the coffee in liquid
  • Decant and enjoy

It seems odd to measure the water after boiling but I’ve found it best. Putting 1320 grams of cold water in gives some amount less of hot water because a variable amount will boil off. Measuring the hot water by weight eliminates that variability. It also prevents cooling of the water by heat transfer to a measuring cup.

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