What a Connoisseur Does That Most Don't
Step 3 – The Water With Which You Brew
One of the biggest challenges you might have faced in making coffee at home is repeating an experience that you had elsewhere.
Or even repeating a brew that you’ve made yourself!
You go to a cafe, and have a really great coffee…
It’s so great that you just have to get a bag the stuff to make at home.
The next day try to brew that coffee.
The cafe/roaster even gave you very precise and easy to follow directions which you stuck to perfectly.
But for whatever reason, the coffee just isn’t even close to tasting right.
Here’s what went wrong.
You might have blamed your brew method, your grind, your lack of knowledge/experience in brewing technique…
But the one thing you probably never considered was the water that you used.
I actually made a big mistake with my approach to water for a long time.
I used to think that if the taste of your water is just fine, then it’s fine to brew with.
Oh, but how wrong was I.
Differences in your water which you may not even be able to taste…
Can have such an impact on your coffee brewing as to take what could be a delicious coffee,
and make it taste sour,
or even just like nothing.
That’s right, your bad coffee experiences can come down to factors you can’t even see or taste sometimes (until it’s too late).
I explored this from the perspective of a home brewer alongside my colleague
Jesse Nelson (Owner/Roaster of Conduit Coffee) in a joint Coffee Lovers TV and Coffee Lovers Radio episode.
In the show, we talk about the importance of water.
And compare live what a brew is like…
Using tap water, filtered water, bottled water, and a special water product made precisely for coffee.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy special water …
But you absolutely should at least filter through a charcoal based water filter.
Because no matter how good everything else is…
If your water isn’t right, your coffee won’t be.
There’s one more hidden aspect to your water which can completely change how your coffee tastes.
Before I got into hand brewing my own coffee…
I would usually get brewed coffee from the coffee machine at work.
We would even get coffee from the same cafe where I would often go get brew as well.
Yes, even though we had the coffee at work…
We could never get it to taste as good as I could get it at the cafe.
I always figured there was just some big mystery, technique, or whatever as far as brewing your own coffee.
But the problem was almost certainly something we had no control over.
That is, the temperature of the water at which our machine brewed the coffee.
Without getting into the science of all this (a topic I’ll jump into in a later segment)…
What is happening when you brew your coffee is that the hot water is interacting with the ground coffee to “pull out” (pro term: extract) the part of the coffee that gives it’s taste and aroma (as well as the caffeine).
Most of the best taste and aroma bits actually require heat – and they require a certain level of heat – in order to end up in your cup.
If your water isn’t hot enough, then you are going to miss out on a HUGE amount of flavor.
The Specialty Coffee Association (the professional group which manages worldwide conventions and standards for all things coffee) has a standard temperature range of 195-205 degrees F at which you want to brew your coffee.
Now, before you worry about all details, or feel like you are getting overwhelmed,
All you need to do right now – at the beginning – is simply this:
When you brew your coffee, first boil your water, and after it’s boiling set it off the heat for 1 minute.
Then brew your coffee.
That part there is the most important takeaway from everything here.
Also, despite what general convention says, it’s not going to hurt your coffee to brew with the water boiling – it’s just not arguably optimal – so sit the kettle off the heat for a minute, and then get to brewing!
I’ll dive into more of the technical aspects of brewing coffee at a later time.