Home brewing guides are easy to come by, but in the age of Google the trick is not to locate information but rather to separate the coffee from the chaff. We decided to help you by providing general guidelines for home brewing which reflect our philosophy and draws from the best sources in the business.
A good cup of coffee need not cost you an arm and a leg, and the basics are easy to understand. If you follow our 7 golden rules you will be amazed by the flavour in your cup (and you’ll be able to impress the pants off that pragmatic friend of yours who scoffs at your cultured, artisanal approach to life).
The 7 golden rules:
1. Earth: One of the defining moments in the natural history of this wonderful planet of ours, was when the first coffee plant sprouted somewhere on the slopes of a mountain in Ethiopia. After centuries of natural and artificial hybridization and cultivation, you owe it to mother nature, horticulturists and yourself, to be satisfied with only the best: buy good coffee.
2. Water: The existence of water on planet earth is, arguably, an even greater miracle than the existence of coffee. Bearing in mind that life is impossible without water, the fact that a cup of coffee is 98 % water strikes me as quite poetic. Don’t settle for the chlorine cocktail that flows from your taps at home: invest in a water filter.
3. Fire: The third miracle and essential to the coffee brewing process. Harnessing this gift in the correct way has a big influence on the flavour in your cup: do not use boiling water. Boiling water burns the coffee and kills off all the wonderful flavour compounds in your freshly ground coffee. So boil the kettle and let the water cool down for a few minutes. (However, if the temperature is too low the coffee will taste sour or “raw”.)
4. Grind: Thanks to the industrial revolution we do not have to rely on the mortar and pestle to reduce roasted coffee beans to the magical dust that interacts so beautifully with water anymore. Avoid cheap blade grinders – they smash the coffee beans into a 1000 different particle sizes, causing over-extraction of the small particles and under-extraction of the large particles. Buy a quality grinder. Severin makes a good, affordable, automatic grinder. Don’t settle for anything cheaper. Porlex is the manual equivalent. It yields enough grinds for one cup of coffee, and is ideal for those who savour the ritual as much as the result.
5. Brew Tool: Thanks to the above-mentioned revolution, not to mention inventors and pioneers whose passion for coffee matched their engineering talents, we now have a plethora of brewing methods and machines on the market. Again the challenge is to separate the coffee from the chaff: Don’t buy a cheap espresso machine. It is impossible to pull a decent espresso on anything less than a Nuova Simonelli “Oscar” or an Expobar “Office/Leva”, the former will set you back about R15 000 and the latter about R18 000. But don’t despair, if you follow the golden rules you can prepare an excellent cup of coffee at home with the following simple (and affordable!) brewing methods: the plunger (French press), the mokapot (stove top espresso maker), the Aeropress, and the pour over (Hario V60, Chemex, etc.). Email us for quotes on the above equipment.
6. Storage: In the fridge or the freezer? The answer is neither! To preserve the optimum flavour, light, air, heat and cold should be kept far away from your coffee, so an air-tight container in the cupboard is perfect. If you’re using pre-ground (because you’re only half way down the road to the perfect cup of coffee) make sure the packaging has a one-way valve.
7. When? After 5 days at the least. After the roasting process coffee emits CO2. That is why coffee brewed from beans that were roasted less than 5 days ago often contains a charcoal note or two in the bouquet. Optimum degassing time varies for coffee from different countries of origin but a good rule of thumb is to allow feshly roasted coffee to “rest” for 5 days.
Written by Herman Botha (Editor by day, Coffee aficionado all the time).