Pro Barista Brewing Tips For Your Best EVER Coffee

Welcome to our coffee brewing tips area. You can improve your coffee brewing technique quickly with just a few of these simple tweeks.

You can rely on our advice as our extensive knowledge is based on many years of experience of roasting, brewing and drinking amazing coffee. 

Let's start with some general information about the basics of coffee brewing that apply no matter which method you use. Further down you will find links to individual, more detailed pages relating to almost every coffee brewing method. 

Remember that brewing amazing tasting coffee is principally about four main factors; the quality and freshness of the coffee, the correct grind for your brewing method, water temperature and brewing (extraction) time.

If you use an espresso machine then water and tamping pressures are also important considerations.   

Let's start with the grind:

If you have ever read "Ground for all coffee makers" on a pack of big brand, supermarket coffee, you ought to know that's a bit of a fib, because the correct grind for, say, cafetière (AKA French Press) is very different than for espresso, filter, or Aeropress. 

We need to expose our lovely coffee to hot water for the correct amount of time to dissolve only the flavour compounds we love and the size of the grind is vital for getting this right. 

Too short an exposure and the flavour may, generally speaking, tend towards sour because the lovely chocolatey, nutty smooth flavours haven't had time to dissolve. This can be caused by the coffee being ground too coarsely. 

Too long an exposure and the flavours will tend towards bitter because the least soluble flavour compounds, ie the last to dissolve, tend to be bitter in nature. This can be caused by the grind being too fine. 

As a rule  of thumb, the longer the brew time, the larger the grind should be. For example, a typical brewing time in a cafetière will be around 4 - 41/2 minutes and so requires requires a fairly large grind size to prevent the least soluble (bitter) compounds being extracted. On the other hand, brew (extraction) time for espresso is relatively very short at around 30 seconds and a fine grind is needed to release the lovely flavours quickly.

As a rough demonstration of why grind/particle size matters, imagine going to the beach and you happen to have two buckets. Each bucket happens to have a similar size hole in the bottom. You half fill one bucket with pebbles and half fill the other with sand. Then, for some reason, you decide to fill both buckets to the top with water. The bucket of pebbles will empty of water almost straight away, pretty much unimpeded by the pebbles. Whereas the bucket of sand will take ages to drain because the fine sand is packed together which prevents the water flowing straight through.

Examples: Cafetière grind should be around the coarseness of table salt or fine sand. You will be able to see the individual grains. For espresso, a general grind  test is to pinch the ground coffee with your thumb and two adjacent fingers to form a pyramid shape. If it won't hold the shape, it's likely the grind is too coarse.  

Buying whole beans and grinding them as you need them is always best as the delicious flavour and aroma compounds are kept inside the whole beans and only exposed to air and water once ground. If you can afford the outlay and the space on your kitchen or counter top, I can recommend this small Krups burr grinder. We've had one for a few years now - it's simple to use and produces a good consistent grind. Ours comes on holiday with us and is available online for around £45.00.


A Bit About Extraction - what is it?

The hot water we pour on to coffee starts to dissolve the many hundreds of compounds in the ground beans. Those that dissolve first tend to be sour; often really tongue-curlingly sour. Next come the lovely nutty, chocolatey, fruity compounds, followed finally, if we overdo it, by the unwanted flavour we're all familiar with in so much coffee... bitterness!

Did you know......most people who say they don't like strong coffee, don't like bitter or sour coffee? And who would blame them? A lot of coffee is brewed poorly because it's often under or over-extracted and I promise you, when made well, your cup will be fully flavoured, smooth and delicious. The bitter/sour thing will be a thing of the past (unless you insist on buying rubbish coffee or ignoring these precious tips!).

So What things affect the extraction?

Water Temperature - 93 degrees ºC

When you're using any method other than an espresso machine, bring fresh water to the boil and let it sit for 15-20 seconds before pouring onto your ground coffee.

Boiling water will scold the coffee and spoil the flavour. It will likely cause over extraction and lead to bitterness too. 

Too low a temperature and the water will not be hot enough for a full extraction of the flavours and you may have sourness. 

If you use an espresso machine, it should be serving up its water at 93 degrees. 

Remember that lighter roasted beans are denser than darker roasts so may take a little longer to give up their lovely flavours so a little more brewing time may be needed - say, 5 minutes instead  of 4, or 41/2. Experiment and you will find the flavours you love. 

Brewing (Extraction) Time

This is about the time the coffee is in contact with the hot water and well worth experimenting with. I recommend brewing small-ish amounts to gauge it properly. You'll know when you've got it right. As a rule of thumb, if it's sour it needs more time and if it's bitter it needs less. If it's delicious and smooth it's bang on. Again, do bear in mind that lighter roast coffees tend to be denser than dark roasts so might need a slightly longer brew time to get the extraction just right.

Pro Barista Tip: When you have a lighter roasted single origin beans, such as our Colombia Medellin Excelso or Brazil Santos, it may take an extra minute or two.

For example, espresso extraction time will be between 25 and 30 seconds. Your machine may have a snazzy 'Pre-infusion' setting - I don't use it on mine - just a straight 27 seconds is perfect.

For filter or pour-over, pour enough hot water slowly and evenly all over the surface of the ground coffee just to wet it. Pour it evenly over the surface to try and wet it evenly so you don't get, so called, channeling - a big hole in the middle for the water to run straight through). You may see the surface of the coffee begin to bubble and possibly dome upwards slightly. This is called a bloom, which is very desirable because it's a strong indicator that the coffee is fresh, and occurs because the coffee is releasing the residual carbon dioxide that was produced during the roasting process. Continue carefully pouring water slowly and evenly over the surface.

The whole pour will ideally be four minutes and the rate at which the water passes through the coffee is determined, largely, by the fineness/coarseness of the grind. 

Brewing Tips for Your Brewing Method

Click the relevant link below or from 'Brewing Tips' on the main menu to learn simple way to improve your coffee. Please bear in will only ever make excellent coffee when you buy excellent coffee!

Hey you're in the driving seat!

Remember: When you buy your coffee from us, it will be roasted freshly to order and we will grind it free of charge.