Coffee | Ultimate Guide
A Brief History
Types Of Coffee
How To Brew
French Press Brewing
Diagnosing Brew Quality
A Brief History
In many parts of the world, coffee has been around longer than the written word. You may have heard the story of the 9th-century goatherder discovering the coffee plant after remarking that his goats were pretty jumpy post-consumption, but there is no actual evidence proving this anecdote. The true origins of coffee are unknown, but reliable documentation dates back as far as the 1400s in Yemen. It was here, on the Arabian peninsula, that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed. By the following century, the rest of the Middle East was drinking coffee and the coffee trade between Ethiopia and Yemen was in full-swing.
Nearly two centuries later, in the mid-1600s, coffee was introduced to Europe and immediately touted for its energizing effect as well as its utility against stomach ailments. Though considered a “muslim drink” at first, Pope Clement VIII eventually declared it Christian, probably at the urging of the Dutch East India Company (no evidence to suggest this, but we’re just sayin’... they had a lot of money to make). Coffee had also been banned in Ethiopia for the same religious reasons, and, in the 17th century, was also banned for political reasons in Turkey.
North American coffee demand increased significantly during the Revolutionary War, presumably because the British had cut off the tea supply to the colonies. As the United States formed and developed, coffee became the preferred morning drink. So if you love coffee, you can thank our forefathers who fought for this great country and for the freedom to have a coffee shop on every corner.
Where Does It Come From?
We’re glad you asked.
Today the top five exporters of coffee are (in order): Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Colombia, and Ethiopia. In Brazil alone, the coffee trade employs more than 5 million people.
Fair trade certification was created in 1988, after coffee supply drastically exceeded demand, causing the price of coffee to tank. The certification artificially raised coffee prices to ensure that growers could continue to earn a modest living.
Coffee beans as we know them come from several species of shrub. These shrubs produce berries, which are picked and sorted by ripeness and color. From the berries, the seeds are then removed, fermented, and dried. At this point, the seeds are what is known as “green coffee.” Green coffee can be decaffeinated via a solvent that kills caffeine-containing oils. Or, it can undergo a process known as the Swiss Water Process. In this procress, green coffee is partially extracted to remove the caffeine before being added back into the caffeine free “flavored water” to regain its delicious coffee taste. Whether caffeinated or not, the green coffee is then roasted. This produces the whole coffee beans we are familiar with. The beans can be sold as is, sold ground-up and ready-to-brew, or sold freeze-dried (for instant coffee).
Roasting is rated from light to dark. The darker the roast, the more time the beans have spent roasting, and the less acidic taste they have.
Good For You, Too
Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, coffee has numerous health benefits. It’s full of antioxidants, for one. According to this Huffington Post article, coffee can relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, reduce stress, and can combat cirrhosis of the liver (so take special note of that, you lushes out there).
Coffee is also believed to keep your brain sharper, longer. And we all know it gets us through the daily grind (get it?). Without coffee, we wouldn’t have had the brainpower to write this sentence.
What’s the Difference?
Types of Coffee Drinks
The most prevalent coffee in the US is drip coffee. From your parents’ old Mr. Coffee machine to the fancy pour-over device your sister’s hipster boyfriend likes to bust out to much fanfare, drip coffee is simply the product of pouring hot water through a filter full of coffee grounds.
This is the term used to describe coffee that is unfiltered. Water and grounds are boiled, often together, and then transferred to a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle at the bottom before drinking. Because Turkish coffee is simply a method of preparation, there is no special bean required. Out of filters? Impress your girlfriend’s parents with your ~fancy~ new drink, Turkish coffee.
A drink made by pushing hot water through very finely ground coffee. More on this below (see Demystifying Espresso).
Espresso + hot milk + steamed milk foam. A classic Italian concoction, cappuccino is perfectly complemented by a vintage Vespa.
A cappuccino with additional hot milk in it. Sometimes a latte doesn’t have milk foam on top. Otherwise, a latte and a cappuccino are pretty close to the same drink.
A cappuccino with chocolate syrup in it, often served with whipped cream on top. True story: Mocha is a port city in Yemen central to the historical coffee trade. Coincidence? We think not.
Mocha can also refer to a type of flavorful coffee bean grown exclusively on the Arabian peninsula.
A scoop of ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it. Yes gawd.
Folgers in your cup, if you like that sort of thing… actually, if that’s your thing you probably wouldn’t be taking the time to read this webpage. Nice knowing you.
Again, just get outta here.
Espresso is both a beverage and a brewing method. With the help of water pressure, the normal water-to-coffee ratio (see “Brewing” for more on this) is dramatically reduced, as is the time commitment. Where brewed coffee uses a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water, espresso’s ratio is between 1:1.5 to 1:2; the brew time is almost instantaneous once you’ve heated up the water.
The espresso process starts with very finely ground coffee, finer than most home grinders and many professional grinders can offer. The grounds are then compacted into a small, precisely constructed basket with extremely fine holes no larger than the thickness of a strand of hair. Water is then forced through the finely ground coffee, producing about 2 ounces (for a standard double shot) of thick, creamy, and intensely flavorful coffee that contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee.
If a coffee bag is labeled “espresso,” that typically means the beans have been pretty darkly roasted. This is because the darker roast, and stronger
How to Make It
Tips For A Little Bump n’ Grind
- If you want to buy a home grinder, avoid single-blade devices at all costs. They work fine for grinding spices and seasonings, but cannot produce a consistent grind for coffee. They also can spin so fast that the beans heat up and oil leaches out, compromising taste. Burr grinders come in a variety of price points, but even the cheapest burr grinder will outperform a single-blade grinder every time.
- Before diving in, ask your friendly Heritage barista to grind you a coffee sample for your brewing device. Take the grounds home and try to replicate.
- Grind your coffee immediately before brewing it. As soon as you grind coffee, aromatics start to dissipate, which means you are losing the more compelling flavors.
- If you don’t have a scale, use your hand. Start with a handful of whole beans, grind them, brew them, and taste the coffee. If it’s too weak, then you know you need more than a handful of beans; too strong and you need less than a handful.
Let’s Spend a Minute On Water!
One of the biggest differences between a coffee shop and a home brew is water quality. There is a marked difference between filtered water and water straight from the tap. Consider investing in a water filter before throwing down your money on that fancy grinder or kettle.
Chicago boasts some of the best tap water in the country, but unfortunately it is also some of the hardest, which impacts the taste of your final brew. If you are truly serious about the best homemade coffee you can possibly make, invest in water softeners or a reverse-osmosis unit to purify your water.
When making coffee, you want to get your water as hot as possible. While the coffee “steeps,” it of course loses heat. Also, always preheat your kettle and brew equipment, because once the boiling water hits the coffee grounds, the water cools nearly 10 to 15 degrees. In order for coffee to really open up and give its full flavor, you need as much heat as possible.
A good ratio brewed coffee (that is not espresso):
- 1:16 , or 1 gram of ground coffee to 16 grams of water
- This means if you want to brew an 8-ounce cup of coffee, you should use 15 grams of coffee grounds coffee to 240 grams of water. For 12 ounces of coffee, you want 26 grams of grounds and 416 grams of water, etc.
- However, if you make your coffee with the 1:16 ratio and something is off, adjust accordingly:
- Does the coffee taste watery and weak? Add more coffee.
- Does the coffee taste thick, tacky, or like soot? Subtract some coffee.
- 1:16 is just a good starting point, use it as a baseline.
Most Popular Pour-Over Coffee Systems
Brewing Pour-Over Coffee
These steps work for all pour-over coffee systems.
- Set up your system and place your empty filter into the dripper.
- Pour a small amount of hot water into the empty filter, to pre-wet it. This will also pre-wet and preheat the vessel under the dripper. Discard the water.
- Using your scale, your hand, or another method of your choosing, select the appropriate amount of beans for your cup.
- Grind your coffee. (Do not do this until you are ready to brew!)
- Add your ground coffee to your brewer; check the weight of the coffee.
- Bloom the coffee: gently pour just enough hot water to wet the grounds. The grounds will expand and bubble up, which is a process called “degassing.” Elements like CO2 escape from the coffee, improving flavor and avoiding a dull-tasting cup of coffee. Wait 1 minute.
- Slowly add the rest of the water, to completely submerge all of the coffee grounds and so that the water is always in contact with coffee. Maintain the water level by adding hot water slowly, until all the water is gone.
- Finish your pour with a pulse brew (your pulses are are the same as your bloom, so if your amount of coffee is 33 grams, your bloom is 66 grams, then your pulses should also be 66 to 70 grams). The standard interval is: pour for 10 seconds in a slow circle, stop pouring for 10 second, and repeat. But, as stated above, keep the water level with the coffee grounds.
- Once the water streaming out of the bottom of the filter turns to a drip, the brew is done.
- Remove and discard the filter, stir the coffee pot in a back-and-forth motion, and serve!
Brewing a 12-ounce Coffee with the V60:
A V60 also makes great 8-, 16-, and 24-ounce cups, but 12 ounces is the recommended amount
- Weigh 26 grams of coffee beans and set aside.
- Set the V60 atop your carafe/pot. Add a filter.
- Boil a kettle of water.
- With the hot water, moisten your filter. Swirl the water through the carafe, then discard.
- Medium-grind your coffee. It should be about the coarseness of table salt.
- Add the grounds to the V60. Shake it a bit to level the grounds out.
- Gently pour 52 grams of water in a clockwise fashion, starting your bloom (see the section Brewing Pour-Over Coffee for more info on blooms).
- Gently start your pour, focusing on the center of the V60, in an area about the size of a quarter. Pour in a clockwise motion, in 70- to 100-gram pulses (i.e., fill it up, wait for it to drain a bit, repeat). Your stream can hit the edge of grounds as necessary, just keep all the grounds wet until you hit your target water amount of 415 grams.
- Let it drain.
- As the stream of coffee becomes a series of drips, your brew is done. Remove the filter if coffee grounds and discard.
- Serve in a preheated mug. Enjoy!
Brewing a 16-Ounce Coffee with the Chemex:
A Chemex also makes great 8-, 12-, and 24-ounce cups, but 16 ounces is the recommended amount
- Weigh out 33 grams of coffee beans and set aside.
- Boil a kettle of water.
- While the water is heating up, insert the filter into the Chemex so that three sheets of the filter are bracing the spout. Pour a small amount of the boiling water into the filter, making sure it gets completely moist.
- Swirl the water about in your Chemex, to warm the bottom, and then discard.
- Grind your coffee beans a few notches coarser than medium. You want a consistency slightly coarser than table salt.
- Add the grounds to the Chemex. Shake it a bit to level the grounds out.
- Gently pour in 66 grams of boiling water, in a clockwise fashion, starting your bloom (see the section Brewing Pour-Over Coffee for more info on blooms).
- When the bloom is complete, start your pour, focusing on the center of the Chemex. Pour in a clockwise motion in 70- to 100-gram pulses (fill for 10 seconds, stop for 10 seconds, repeat). Your stream can hit the edges of grounds, just keep all the grounds wet until you hit your target water amoung of 525 grams.
- Let it drain.
- As the stream of coffee becomes a series of drips pull your filter, your brew is done.
- Serve in a preheated mug. Enjoy!
Cold-Brew Iced Coffee
Iced coffee is both delicious and remarkably simple, and the cold-brewing method is absolutely the best way to achieve a low acid, high flavor beverage.
Toddy and Filtron are both great brands for cold brewing. Both feature a vessel for brewing and a basin to filter the coffee into. OXO has a slightly more stylish and clean cold-brewing system.
The cold-brew process uses a different ratio from other brewing processes. At Heritage, we brew a ready-to-consume iced coffee, using a 1:8 water-to coffee ratio, but most shops do a cold brew concentrate, with a 1:4 ratio. This guide will be with the ready-to-drink brew in mind, but if you add lots of milk to your coffee, it might be worth your while to double your dose.
The concentrate picks up a bit more acidity than the ready-to-brew method, but it stays fresh longer, and you get more servings out of your final brew. Experiment and pick the brew that works for you.
Brewing a 32-Ounce Cold Brew
This takes 12 hours, so plan ahead.
- Start with coarsely grinding 105 grams (3.75 ounces) of coffee. You can use the same grind setting you would use for a French press—essentially, you want to go as coarse as your grinder allows.
- Measure out 30 ounces of chilled water and set nearby.
- Into a 32-ounce container, like a mason jar, pour the coffee grounds.
- Add about a quarter of your water to the mason jar without agitating (stirring/swirling) the coffee. Let it sit for about a minute.
- Add the rest of the water. Do not agitate, let the coffee grounds settle.
- After the coffee has settled, take a spoon or other blunt instrument and gently massage the grounds until they’re completely submerged.
- Seal your mason jar and leave it on the counter for 12 hours. Do not refrigerate!
- Pat yourself on the back for your incredible patience! Take your brew and pour it through a strainer into another vessel. At this point, you might want to filter it again through cheesecloth to catch any additional particles that made it through the strainer.
- Add ice, and enjoy!
French Press Coffee
The French press is probably the most common manual coffee maker in the world. It’s charming in its simplicity: throw in coffee, add water, and voilà, you have a cup of coffee.
Brewing with an 8-cup French Press
- Preheat your French press by adding a little hot water and giving it a swirl. Discard the water.
- Coarsely grind 56 grams of coffee beans. As always, grind immediately before brewing.
- Boil a kettle full of water. Let the water sit for 30 seconds.
- Fill the French press halfway (450 grams) with the hot water. Let the coffee bloom for 1 minute (see the section Brewing Pour-Over Coffee for more info on blooms).
- With a wooden or plastic spoon, give the coffee 3 quick stirs.
- Add the rest of your water, another 450 grams.
- Let sit for 4 minutes.
- Push the press down, smoothly and swiftly.
- Pour out the entire pot into a new vessel, so the coffee doesn’t continue brewing.
- Enjoy your freshly made, correctly brewed coffee!
When making coffee, try to keep everything as consistent as possible so that you don’t have too many variables to consider when your coffee tastes bad. Heritage uses a standard water weight and water temperature on every pour, so the only variables are bloom, grind, and dose (amount of grounds). Bloom time is determined predominantly by visual cues. If your coffee looks dry after your bloom, for example, it bloomed too long.
For grind and dose, consider the below chart: