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Sat Jan 26, 2013, 01:27 PM

Coffee 105: Putting it all together

This is the last in the Coffee 100 series. The rest may be found here:

Coffee 101: Brewing devices
Coffee 102: Grinders
Coffee 103: Water
Coffee 104: Coffee Beans

If you've followed the series so far, you now should have your brewing device, your grinder, a good source of water, and some freshly roasted coffee beans. Now it's time to put everything together and make the perfect cup of coffee. I'm not going to explain the methods required to brew the perfect cup with all brewing devices. Instead I'll cover the method I use most often at home and you may be able to modify this method to suit your own brewing device or at least pick up some tips to improve your own method.

The method I use most often at home for brewed coffee is the Clever Coffee Dripper. I love this little device. It only brews enough coffee for one large mug or two polite cups, but it does it extremely well, it's very simple to use, it's very easy to clean, and it offers a fine degree of control over the brewing process. If you click on the link, Tom (the owner, president, manager, worker, etc. of the company) offers a complete list of instructions for using the device, along with a couple of videos demonstrating its use, so I'm not going to detail the whole procedure and will instead clarify a few things and explain how the process works and how you can modify the procedure to suit your own tastes.


Water temperature:
Water temperature is very important. I can't stress this enough. That's why I hate most drip coffee brewers. The vast majority of them do not brew hot enough and the ones that do almost never offer you any control over the water temp. 195-205 degrees F is the temperature range usually quoted for optimum coffee extraction. Even within this range you can get some considerable variation. The coffee I am currently drinking is Columbian Microlot 159 from Dodd Coffee Roaster in Houston. I've tried brewing this coffee at 205 and much prefer it brewed closer to 195. There's a significant difference. Different coffees have different temperatures in which they produce the best results. A few premium roasters even list the recommended brew temperature on their coffee when you buy it. Some electric water kettles have a temperature set and hold point. This would be quite nice to have, but they are fairly expensive and I already had a great electric kettle before these came out, so I just use a thermometer with my kettle.

Grind level:
With a burr coffee grinder, you can vary the size of the grind via an adjustment on the grinder. Varying the grind level produces different results. A finer grind will extract faster, while a coarser grind will tend to favor longer extraction times.

Extraction time:
The normal extraction time for brewed coffee is usually quoted at 4-6 minutes. I generally prefer staying on the short end of this range and use a somewhat finer grind, however some coffees may favor a coarser grind and longer extraction times.

Coffee/Water ratio:
Now certainly some people like 'stronger' coffee and some like it weaker. In order to get these results they will typically vary the grinds to water ratio. This method doesn't really work that well as it generally leads to over or under extraction. If you like weaker coffee, brew it at the recommended levels for that brewing device and then thin it down after the fact with hot water. If you like stronger coffee, get an Aeropress. Most people are going to prefer coffee somewhere in the middle. For the Clever Coffee Dripper, I use the 33g of coffee per 530ml that Tom recommends. I weigh both the coffee and the water on a digital scale.

Preparred Coffee Storage and Serving

After you brew your coffee, unless you have just made enough servings for the amount of people you are serving, you're going to need to store the brewed coffee for a period of time until everyone is ready for another cup. Most drip coffee brewers have a hot plate, and most people who have ever used one figures out that coffee left on one for too long becomes absolutely horrid. At home, I use either an insulated glass carafe, or an airpot if I'm making a lot. A good airpot that is properly preheated will keep coffee at acceptable serving temps for up to a whopping 10 hours with virtually no reduction in quality. For home use, I like coffee storage devices that are glass lined. Anything that uses metal will impart off flavors into your coffee, however glass is not that great outside the home where things tend to get banged around, so I use stainless steel in this instance. I once bought a thermos that was stainless steel lined with tephlon. I don't recommend this as it tended to impart even more off flavors than stainless alone. If someone wants specific recommendations, you can reply here and I'll tell you which devices I use and why. I've wasted a lot of money on various coffee paraphernalia that just didn't work that well.

Most people have a favorite coffee cup. Mine is a ceramic one made by the Victor Insulating Company. This particular one is somewhat popular among coffee geeks. They are no longer made, but thanks to ebay you can still find them on the used market as hundreds of thousands of them were made between about 1940 and 1980. The Victor Insulating Company originally made ceramic insulators for the electrical distribution market. During the depression, they started trying to figure out how they could diversify their products and discovered they could make coffee cups from the same ceramic insulation material. Coffee shops quickly discovered how great these cups were and soon they were in use all over the country. A genuine one is stamped "Victor" on the bottom. They are much heavier than even heavy ceramic cups. As such they have excellent heat retention. You can find them on ebay from about 6oz size to about 10oz size. I guess for a time they were quite popular with Navy guys because many of them are stamped with logos from various Navy ships. The first one I got I found in the back of a cabinet in the break room at work. It hadn't been used in years and we were about to throw it out. I instantly recognized I had something really special. I've been using that cup for the last 15 years or so and it still looks like brand new. It was probably close to that old when I got it. It's very similar to this one.

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Reply Coffee 105: Putting it all together (Original post)
Major Nikon Jan 2013 OP
Teamster Jeff Jan 2013 #1
Major Nikon Jan 2013 #3
dixiegrrrrl Jan 2013 #7
BlancheSplanchnik Jan 2013 #8
Phentex Jan 2013 #2
antiquie Jan 2013 #4
Duer 157099 Jan 2013 #5
IcyPeas Jan 2013 #6
Major Nikon Jan 2013 #9

Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 01:34 PM

1. Thanks for these coffee posts

I am a big coffee drinker but by that I mean mostly by quantity not quality. Your posts give me some good info and things to try. While at home anyway.

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Response to Teamster Jeff (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 01:49 PM

3. I enjoy good coffee on the road too

I have a little Kyocera coffee grinder and I take my Aeropress. All I need is a source of hot water. I even do it when backpacking.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #3)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 06:16 PM

7. Another AeroPress fan here.

Got mine last year, it is still working good, and I love that it makes one cup of super strong coffee in such a short time.
I dump my cup of coffee into the blender and add cream and sugar and whiz it up for a couple seconds,
pour out nice thick rich cappuchino type coffee.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #7)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 11:09 PM

8. aeropress here too.

And an antique stovetop percolater for when I need a larger amount.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Cawwwwwwwfeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 01:48 PM

2. I have a few favorite coffee mugs...

One has a monkey face with an arm for a handle and raised paw. Another is a Tervis insulated mug with my son's basketball picture when he was 5. Another is a Beauty & the Beast mug used only on Sundays which was a wedding present more than 20 years ago!

I drink coffee entirely too fast for anything to make a difference.

Love these threads!

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:17 PM

4. Thank you for all this great informaiton.


We have a used Cuisinart Grind and Brew we were "loaned" when our vacuum seal quit sealing (major bummer for me).

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 03:47 PM

5. Bookmarking!

Did anyone see the episode of Shark Tank a few weeks ago with the two guys that developed these items called Joules, that you use to regulate the temperature of hot liquids? Apparently, they are stainless steel shells in the shape of very large coffee beans and are filled with a phase change material that absorbs extra heat above (140?) and then keeps the liquid at that temperature for hours. I'm tempted to buy some to try.

Only thing is they are so large that they 1) displace significant liquid and 2) seem heavy that I'd worry about chipping/cracking the glass/ceramic cup.


Great thread(s) BTW!

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 04:56 PM

6. love the information.

I too use the clever coffee dripper. PEOPLE, listen to us and go out and get one of these. You will thank us.

You're welcome.

I have been buying whole bean Dunkin Donuts coffee. It's pretty good, a little expensive. I also buy Kona beans from Trader Joes. My favorite concoction now is combining these two in a ratio of 1:1. It is my perfect cup of coffee. Not cheap, but I don't care.

Sometimes I sprinkle Vanilla Powder into it (like the kind they have at Starbucks). It makes it taste like a vanilla latte. The powder is all natural... a little sweet. I find this in a supermarket called Gelson's here in los angeles. Other markets don't sell it, but you can also buy it online.

Enjoy your coffee everyone.

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Response to IcyPeas (Reply #6)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:20 PM

9. The same company also makes a device for tea which works on the same principle

They call it the Smart Tea Maker. I don't have one, but I saw one at a coffee shop and I thought it was a great idea also.

It's amazing that nobody came up with the idea for their coffee dripper before. I like pourover coffee makers in general, but this one adds the element of full immersion, which is brilliant.

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