To get an idea of what they might like, I ask them if there’s a coffee they’ve tried in the past that they really enjoyed. More than half the time, they reply that they don’t really know….they just know they like “strong” coffee.
Instead of easily pointing them to their coffee soul mate from there, I have to explain that we’re going to be chatting for a minute or two….
Why is that?
Well, “strong” is not a “flavor” – It’s a degree of the brewed intensity of what ends up in the cup. If you think about it…absolutely any flavor can be “strong”, right?
So then flavor preference is the question we’re trying to answer, right? Yes! Here are some examples:
Do you like the flavor of smoke, as in a dark roast, perhaps from Brazil?
Do you like the flavor of fruit, as in the blueberry taste of an Ethiopian Harrar?
Do you like the flavor of well balanced coffee deliciousness….as in a killer coffee blend?
Oooohh, now it makes sense! Flavor is what we’re trying to hone in on when selecting a roasted coffee, and to what intensity we choose to brew the coffee is a decision we can make at home.
Here’s the little fantasy bubble: Think of yourself at the gym (ok, yeah, I said fantasy): When you do squats, you can use the 1lb weights or you could use the 100 lb weights. You’re still doing squats either way, it’s just that with the 1 lb weights you’re doing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid version, and with the 100 lb weights, well, you’re doing the bad-ass version. Coffee brewing is exactly the same!
Flavor you like= type of exercise you pick
Strength you like = how much weight you decide to use in that chosen exercise
Here’s a quick science-dork moment when it comes to brewing drip coffee:
Generally enjoyable brewed drip coffee is around 98.75% water, and about 1.25% coffee. Yeah, I know, shocker! The optimal flavor zone is reached when we dissolve about 18-22% of the particles in coffee (only 30% can even BE dissolved).
OK, ok, here’s what you’ve been waiting for…
“Just Tell Me How to Brew Strong Coffee” explanation for drip brewing:
Step 1: Always make sure you’re using fresh coffee. Hint: Starting with old coffee is the equivalent of starting a ski race without your skis on! You have no hope, dude. If you want a chance at a medal, start with freshly roasted coffee less than 2 weeks from its roasting date.
Step 2: Use the right amount of coffee-to-water ratio, based on your taste. Generally, that’s 1-2 Tablespoons per 6 oz “cup” of coffee. Yes, you’ve got it – those are the little lines and numbers on the side of your brewer’s water tank. By weight, 1T coffee = 7 grams. So 1T per cup would be mild brew-strength, and 2 T per cup would be more intense brew-strength.
Step 3: Grind before brewing using a burr grinder. Coffee loses flavor sooo quickly once ground. I know – for some, the convenience of pre-grinding just can’t be outweighed. You get to decide how much flavor ends up in your cup, after all, so know the facts: Grinding right before brewing =more flavor & aroma in your cup. Blade grinders make “boulders and dust” coffee grounds, while a burr grinder makes a nice uniform grind, and therefore yummier tasting coffee. For drip, you want a medium grind.
Step 4: Brew using fresh, clean filtered water. Water tastes bad? So will your coffee. Last I checked, the strong taste of chlorine wasn’t on the top 10 list. Your machine should brew between 195-205 degrees F. Water colder than that will result in weak tasting coffee, and over that temp will result in a burnt, bitter taste. Brewing should take about 6 minutes for the optimal extraction (remember, you’re trying to dissolve 18-22% of the ground coffee). Be sure you’ve found a brewer that can actually deliver the right temp from start to finish. Hint: Drip brewers are really made to brew for a crowd. If you’re brewing one cup at a time, you’re better off using a pour-over or press pot.
Step 5: Sip and enjoy the best flavor your coffee has to offer with your perfect balance of strength and extraction. Yummy!