With the current situation1 I’ve been brewing coffee at home much more often. I’ve also really been enjoying the calm, almost meditative2, time it affords me each morning, even if the rest of the world has gone a bit topsy-turvy.
And so, without further ado, I’d like to share how I brew a great cup of coffee.
- Chemex (Six Cup) + Filters3
- Recently roasted whole bean coffee4
- Burr Grinder5
- A scale big enough for the Chemex to sit on, with accuracy down to the gram
- 1L Gooseneck Kettle6
- 2 Coffee Mugs -OR- 1 Thermos
~600ml of delicious coffee
~5-7 minutes brew time
This entire process (not including bringing water to temp) should take about 10 minutes with just a bit of practice.
Heat 700+ ml of water to 96°C9
Once the water has come up to temperature, being sure to reserve at least 600g of water for the actual brew, rinse the Chemex filter12 and pour enough water into your mugs or thermos to begin to preheat them/it.
Briefly return the kettle to heat and begin to grind the beans.13
While the beans are being ground swirl the rinse water in the Chemex a bit to distribute the heat and dump the rinse water from the Chemex carefully through the pouring reservoir with the filter in place.
Once the beans have been ground, dump them into the Chemex filter. Tap the side of the Chemex several times in order to even out the bed of grounds at the bottom of the filter.
Place the Chemex onto the scale and tare the scale.
Pouring in a controlled fashion, starting in the center and pouring in an expanding circle until you reach the edge of the grounds, add 40-80g of water to the bed of grounds in order to bloom them.14
Wait until the bloom is complete. Approximately 30 seconds.15
Pour water into the slurry, employing the same technique as before, until the scale reads 300g.
Swirl the Chemex gently, until almost no grounds are visible stuck to the sides of the filter.16
Allow the slurry to brew after swirling until it looks like ~100g of water has drained into the vase of the Chemex. Approximately 45 seconds - 1 minute.
Pour an additional 100g of water into the slurry, aiming to reach the approximate water level that the slurry was at after the original pour up to the 300g mark.17
Swirl gently again, aiming to see no grounds stuck to the sides of the filter.16
Repeat the process of adding 100g of water after it appears approximately that much water has drained into the vase and swirling twice more, until you have added 600g of water to the brew in total.
Final Draw Down
Once you’ve finished with your pours and the scale reads 600g pour the remainder of the heated water into your cups or thermos, to aid in preheating them.
As the slurry drains watch to see if any grounds have stuck to the sides of the filter. If a significant amount of grounds have, swirl the slurry gently to knock them back under the water level.
As the water level of the slurry drops below the level of the bed of grounds at the bottom of the filter watch closely - Your bed of grounds should be as near to perfectly flat as possible.18
Allow the draw down to continue until the stream of coffee coming from the tip of the filter becomes a steady stream of drops. Once the dripping slows considerably remove the filter from the Chemex by pinching the top corners together and lifting, being sure not to spill any grounds into the vase. Discard the filter and spent grounds.19
Discard the preheat water from your serving vessel(s), pour your delicious fresh brewed coffee into it/them, and enjoy!
Opportunities for Tweaks/Experimentation
Everybody prefers their coffee slightly differently, and different coffees may have different flavors you want to emphasize or de-emphasize. One of the aspects of this recipe that I find really nice is that it’s easy to tweak certain parts of the recipe and examine the results in order to achieve a cup that tastes great to me with each different bag of beans that I get.
Easy tweaks that it’s possible to make in this recipe include (but are not limited to…):
- Water Temperature
- Ratio of coffee to water8
- Grind size13
- “Target” amount of water in the slurry
- Frequency/number of pours
Tweaking different parts of the brewing process obviously effects the end result, sometimes in the way you expect, and sometimes (in my experience) in less predictable ways. Because of this my personal experience has been that when tweaking the brew you should start with tweaking one aspect at a time, and keeping track of the changes in flavor you notice in the final product. To this end, a notebook near the beans with notes like…
- Ratio: 1:15 –> 1:12 - Richer, more chocolate, less fruit
Can pay dividends when trying to dial in your brew to get that perfect cup.
A good of cup of coffee can make any morning just a bit brighter.The act of brewing your own cup can be a fun relaxing hobby with the added benefit of creating something you can enjoy immediately.
I hope this recipe proves useful to you, whether you’re just starting out with brewing coffee at home, or brew yourself a cup every morning.
If you’ve made it this far and haven’t already checked out the footnotes I’d encourage you to. In an effort to keep this recipe short and to the point in the body of the article I’ve opted to include quite a bit of information in the footnotes. They help to provide more detail about certain parts of the recipe, provide links to relevant equipment, and give some more tips regarding the finer points of brewing coffee in general.
Right now we are in the midst of pandemic response measures taken in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and working from home when possible. ↩
I find that performing this kind of morning “ritual” is just engaging enough to keep my mind off of anything else, giving me time to ease into the morning gradually. It also affords me the opportunity to immedietely accomplish something, which helps put me in the right mindset to go about rest of my day productively. ↩
The Chemex is my brewing vessel of choice. I prefer a pour-over to any other kind of brewing method, as I think it produces a cleaner, brighter cup. I opt for a Chemex over something like a V60 or Kalita Wave for several reasons:
- It is large enough to comfortably brew a significant amount of coffee. This allows me to brew enough coffee to last me all morning in a thermos if I’m on the go, or brew enough for me and my girlfriend if I am enjoying a cup at home.
- Its thicker filter accentuates the clean and bright flavors that the pour-over method is already producing.
- The Chemex itself is also the decanting vessel.
Great coffee beans are the most important part of brewing a great cup of coffee. Ideally, you’re looking for beans roasted very recently, between a couple of days ago until up to about two weeks ago for optimal flavor. You also want to get whole beans, rather than pre-ground. The chemical compounds in coffee that produce flavors begin to break down and change when exposed to oxygen, resulting in changes in the flavor to the brewed coffee.
If you only have older or preground beans you can still use the same methodology in order to brew your coffee, but be aware that improving the quality of your beans, and minimizing the amount of time they are roasted and/or ground for before being brewed will likely result in distinctive improvements to the flavor of your end result.
You should store your coffee beans in an vessel that prevents them from coming into contact with as much oxygen if possible, but be careful when using airtight containers with freshly roasted beans, as they will naturally off-gas. If your container doesn’t include something like a one-way valve the gas could dangerously pressurize the container. ↩
Really any decent burr grinder will do here. I personally use a Baratza Encore, which I found to work excellently for my purposes and be firmly “middle of the road” in terms of price.
You definitely want to use a burr grinder, rather than a blade grinder, as the grinding action of a burr grinder produces evenly sized grounds, a key component in a consistent brew and therefore a consistent cup. ↩
There is quite a bit of room to play around here. For most pour-overs a gooseneck kettle is essential in order to more accurately control the pour, but this method minimizes the importance of pour control.
My personal kettle is a 1L Bonavita Variable Temperature Kettle. Having the ability to accurately control the water temperature is very nice, and makes water temperature a variable that can be easily tweaked in the recipe.
The “Hold” functionality on some electric kettles is also nice for some mornings when you want to start your kettle, but may not have time to brew a cup right then. ↩
Another spot in the recipe with quite a bit of wiggle room. If you have a strong water preference use that water.
If you’re using water out of the tap (which I do) avoid filling your kettle with hot water.
Hot tap water sits in the water heater - where it picks up more solutes. These solutes can:
- Affect the flavor of your final product
- Result in significant more build up in your kettle, meaning you would have to descale your kettle more often.
For the same reasons you should also avoid re-boiling already boiled water. ↩
If you have an electric kettle, set it to 96°C.
If you don’t, bring water to a boil an immedietely kill the heat. Wait approximately one minute after the water has stopped boiling. ↩
You should never store coffee beans in the hopper of your grinder. The oils from the beans will slowly leach down onto the burrs, reducing their lifespan. ↩
When placing the Chemex filter into the Chemex you should separate the leaves so there are three on one side and one on the other. The side with three leaves should go against the side of the Chemex with the pouring reservoir, to provide a bit of extra strength so when the filter is wet it doesn’t collapse into it. ↩
Rinsing the filter serves to carry away any stray paper particles that might be hanging onto your filter and also wash away any “papery” taste the filter might impart to the final product.
Use a bit more water here than what would be required to just wet the filter, as this water is also pre-heating the Chemex itself. ↩
Perfectly dialing in a grind is dependent on a multitude of factors and has effects on both the mechanical processes of the brew as well as the flavor of the final product. Generally speaking, on my own Baratza Encore, I find a grind of setting between 18 and 28 (leaning towards the lower end of the scale) is usually about where I dial in at when brewing with the Chemex. ↩ ↩2
The objective when pouring water into the slurry is two-fold:
1) To saturate all of the beans as rapidly as possible. 2) To disturb the underlying bed of grounds as little as possible.
Thus the method of pouring gradually in circles.
Note however that you should never pour water directly onto the filter when pouring into the slurry - as it will much more quickly run through the filter, not extracting the desired flavors/compounds from the grounds. ↩
The objective of the bloom is to saturate all of the grounds, forcing out gases caught within them which would otherwise inhibit extraction of the compounds you are after, potentially cause grounds to float, and increase the likelihood of channelling in the bed of grounds.
Note that beans that were more recently roasted will contain more gases, which makes the bloom “larger” and also more important. As beans age they naturally off-gas, which will cause the bloom to shrink.
Grounds have been completely bloomed when bubbles stop appearing after they have been submerged in water. ↩
Swirling the slurry at this point allows all the grounds to come to rest at the bottom of the filter, and also serves to flatten the bed of grounds. This makes for a more consistent flow rate through the bed of grounds. ↩ ↩2
The goal here is to keep the slurry as consistent as possible in terms of temperature, water/coffee ratio, and the rate at which the water is passing through the bed of grounds. Keeping the slurry consistent minimizes any changes which would occur in the final brew that aren’t driven by the more easily controllable variables discussed in the “Tweaks” section. This also contributes heavily to consistent extraction. ↩
Consistent extraction is the key to producing a uniform, delicious, repeatable brew. Consistent extraction in this case means that you want all the water (or at least, as much as possible) to be in contact with the coffee for a similar amount of time. You also want all the water to pass through the same amount of coffee as it moves through the bed of grounds. Seeing a flat bed of grounds at the end of your brew means that chances are much greater that all of your water has passed through the bed of grounds in a relatively uniform fashion. ↩
Used coffee grounds can be recycled for a variety of purposes (though you definitely do not want to brew coffee again with them). ↩