Brewing ‘Not So Bad’ Coffee At Home

Home brewing v60

 

Brewing (Not-So-Bad) Coffee At Home

 

I often get asked questions along the lines of “How do you brew your coffee at home?” Or “What’s the best home set-up?”

 

Working in a coffee roastery I am spoilt from the choice of brewing equipment available on a daily basis. Which means when I brew coffee at home it’s never quite as good as at work, hence the title of this post. While it would be easy to list off the best equipment available on the market, it would also be pointless; unless, of course, you have €2k+ to spend on it.

 

I think the best set-up is one that performs to a desired standard for a comfortable price. 

 

In saying that, what do we need to brew at home?

 

  • Grinder 
  • Filtered water 
  • Scales 
  • Stirrer 
  • Timer
  • Coffee 
  • Brewer

 

Grinder

The most important part of the set-up is the grinder. This is where most of the budget should be spent. You want to get a burr grinder, NOT a blade grinder.

 

The quality of the grinder is important because of how coffee and water interact. Coffee is 30% soluble, meaning 30% can be dissolved into a solvent (water). Coffee tastes best when around 18-22% of the dissolvable solids are extracted into the water (we know this because a great man, Dr Lockhart, did a lot of extensive research back in the day). To extract 30% from a whole coffee bean in water could take days. However, if we grind it up, the water has more surface area to interact with, so it extracts quicker.

 

Grinders have different grind sizes which we use for different methods. What makes a good grinder? That would be how uniform the grinds are. Let’s say our grinder has grind sizes 1 through 10. If we want to grind at setting 5, our grinder isn’t perfect so it will give us some particles finer, and some larger (coarser). How does this affect the brew? The finer grinds will extract quicker, and the more coarse ones will extract more slowly. You can be left with an over AND under extracted brew. Sour and bitter…D.E.Lightful. The better the grinder (burrs) the more uniform the grinds are.

 

Saying all this, I have one of the more affordable domestic grinders on the market. It isn’t perfect, which is okay, because I don’t expect it to be. The grinder is the Krups GVX231 electrical grinder. It set me back €50, so I forgive it for the odd imperfect brew. I find the brews I can achieve are pretty similar to ones I get using the Baratza Encore grinder which costs €180. So it really is a bargain. If you have a bit more in the budget I would recommend going for the Beville Smart Grinder Pro, which would cost around €200. Anything less than that and I would just go for the Krups as it is far cheaper but performs similar to grinders under the €200 price range. If you won the lotto and have the money to buy any grinder for home brewing you would have to by the Mahlkonig EK43.

 

krups- Grinder

Krups X1 Grinder

You can aid the grinder and minimize the amount of bad brews you get by being strict with the other parameters and finding a brew ratio you like. If you don’t have a grinder and are not in a position to buy one just yet I would recommend buying it from a coffee shop who can grind it for you on the spot for the specific brew method you are using. The closer to the brew the coffee is ground the better though.

 

Water

Water makes up roughly 98% of your filter coffee. So it is quite important. If you are in an area with bad water you should 100% buy filtered water for your brew. Below is a recommendation of water standards for brewing coffee.

 

Characteristic Target Acceptable Range
Odour 1 Clean/Fresh, Odour free
Colour 2 Clear colour
Total Chlorine 0 mg/L
TDS 3 150 mg/L 75 – 250 mg/L
Calcium Hardness 4 grains or 68 mg/L 1-5 grains or 17 mg/L – 85 mg/L
Total Alkalinity 40 mg/L At or near 40 mg/L
pH 7.0 6.5 – 7.5
Sodium 10 mg/L At or near 10 mg/L

 

Never in a million years did I think I would be in a shop reading the mineral content of bottled water, but here we are. One of the main things to look at is the hardness. Hard water means water which has high amounts of dissolved natural minerals present such as calcium or magnesium. Hard water is bad for brewing and can often lead to a dull flat cup. Soft water is okay but it is good to use water within the above recommendations. If you would like to nerd out and measure the hardness of your water at home it can be easily done by using one of these kits.

Hardness test

Testing Hardness of Water

The other items listed above are way more forgiving. You can splash out and get super fancy scales which have a timer feature, these scales can set you back a whopping €60. Or you can get any one which weighs to the nearest 0.1g and use your phone as a timer. Whether or not you go fancy with these they are essential for being able to be constant and replicate the brew recipe you like

hario scale

Hario Scale

You can get bamboo stirrers to use instead of spoons, or you can just use a teaspoon. To be honest I do feel way more professional using the bamboo stirrer.

Coffee is all down to personal preference, I prefer light roasted bright coffees for filter.

Finally the brewer. This can have a big impact on the final cup. Here are some key points on some brewers and what they have to offer.

French Press:

  • Heavy mouthfeel
  • Easy to use
  • Can manipulate brew time easily
  • Can make several cups
  • Stainless steel reusable filter included

V60:

  • Clean cup.
  • Grind size determines brew time
  • Paper filters which ads clarity to the cup.

Aeropress:

  • Good mouthfeel
  • Can manipulate brew time easily
  • Only make 1 cup
  • Paper filters which ads clarity to the cup.

Each brew method offers a unique quality to it. It’s fun playing around with different brew methods and figuring out what recipe works best with each for you.

In summary you should allocate most of your budget to the grinder. The other parameters are pretty easy to control once you have the equipment which is pretty friendly on the pocket. Using the v60 as your brewer, it would cost you around €80 to get all the equipment listed above including the Krups grinder. Which is great for a home brew set up. If you are left unsatisfied and wanting more from your grinder you can always upgrade!

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