Coffee Brewing Methods
Java, Joe, liquid energy, and brew are just some of the terms used to describe one of the world’s most highly consumed beverages - coffee. One of the most important factors that effects the taste of coffee is the way in which you brew it. Understanding these coffee brewing methods helps to build the foundation for some of the most popular coffee drinks offered in cafés and coffee bars, and will greatly improve your staff’s knowledge and success!
Coffee Brewing Methods
Once coffee beans have been harvested and roasted, it’s time to convert them into a liquid. The most popular methods of doing this include using a drip coffee maker, French press, or espresso machine. Understanding these three processes is essential when running a successful café since each variation produces a different flavor, brew time, and caffeine level for your customers’ favorite drinks.
Drip Coffee Maker -Coffee that comes from a drip coffee maker is brewed through a filter containing the ground, coarse coffee beans as boiling water is “dripped” on top. The filter leaves behind the ground coffee beans as liquid passes through and into a decanter or coffee pot that is then used for serving. Making drip coffee takes more time compared to using an espresso machine since hot water is in contact with the ground coffee beans for a longer period. When comparing drip coffee to pressed, drip coffee vs. French press can produce coffee in a faster amount of time since water doesn't need to be steeped.
How to Brew:
- Place a new filter in the drip coffee maker.
- Add ground coffee beans to the filter in a ratio of 2 tablespoons to every cup of water.
- Add filtered water to the reservoir container.
- Program the machine to brew at a certain time, or press the brew button to start working immediately.
French Press - French pressed coffee is intended to be consumed immediately after brewing. Some coffee drinkers believe that making French press coffee produces a beverage that contains stronger flavor compared to a drip coffee machine since it allows the oils from the ground coffee beans to mix with the water. A French press features a cylindrical glass carafe with a mesh filter inside which separates the ground coffee from the hot water. When it’s time to pour and serve, a lever is pushed down which strains and separates the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee, leaving the grounds on the bottom and liquid coffee above the filter. Before brewing with a French press coffee maker, coffee grounds should be a medium or coarse grind to obtain the best flavor possible, and to prevent them from passing through the filter.
A benefit of using a French press compared to a drip coffee maker is that you’re able to regulate the temperature of the water so your beans reach the maximum potential flavor possible when brewing. Also, filters aren’t needed since a pressing screen is used at the very end to separate the grounds from the liquid coffee.
How to Brew:
- Add ground coffee to the bottom of the French press carafe. Use a ratio of 1 tablespoon ground coffee to 4 oz. of water.
- Bring water a boil (about 195 degrees Fahrenheit) and add to the French press carafe. Stir to mix with the coffee grounds.
- Place the lid and filter on top of the press and steep 90 seconds to 4 minutes depending on your desired flavor. The longer you let your coffee steep, the stronger the flavor will be.
- Press down on the French press “plunger” with a firm, yet slow motion to strain the beans from the liquid brew.
Espresso Machine - Besides the method of brewing, another difference between dripped, French pressed coffee, and espresso is the texture and size of the types of coffee grounds used. Espresso beans are ground much finer than drip and French pressed coffee, and resemble the consistency of powdered sugar, which are then brewed using an espresso machine. The ground coffee beans are placed into a portafilter, which is the handled part of an espresso machine that attaches to the machine’s gasket. Next, the brewing process begins when water is pressurized through the beans to produce a liquid.
Espresso machines are designed to force a small amount of hot water through the coffee grounds at a very fast speed, and a single shot of espresso can take as little as 20 seconds to brew. Espresso is stronger in taste than the other two brewing methods, and is also creamier due to the creamy froth called crema that is produced.
How to Brew:
- Grind coffee beans to a consistency of powdered sugar.
- Pour filtered water into the espresso machine’s water chamber. Use 1 oz. of water for every shot of espresso desired.
- Add espresso grounds to the portafilter.
- Use a tamping tool to pack the grounds into the portafilter.
- Place an espresso cup underneath the espresso machine’s spout to catch the liquid.
- Place the portafilter into its holder and lock into position.
- Press the “start” button and espresso will be extracted in as little as 20 seconds.
Types of Coffee Drinks
Now that you understand the various methods of brewing coffee, you can create a wide variety of coffee drinks ranging from cappuccinos and lattes to breves and mochas. Depending on the ratio of espresso, coffee, milk, and other flavorful ingredients, there is no end to the combination of drink varieties that baristas can tailor to their customers’ tastes. Some of the more notable and most popular types of coffee drinks include:
- Black Coffee- Coffee served with no cream or sugar.
- Espresso- Contains no milk. A strong concentration of black coffee made in an espresso machine by forcing steam through coffee beans under pressure. Espresso is the foundation for many coffee drinks.
- Black Eye- Coffee with a shot of espresso.
- Americano- A single shot of espresso added to a cup of hot water.
- Breve- A latte prepared with half and half instead of whole milk.
- Café Mocha- One part espresso, one part chocolate syrup or powder and two thirds steamed milk.
- Cappuccino- 3 equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.
- Café Latte- One part espresso with three parts steamed milk with froth on top.
- Chai Latte- Chai tea mixed with a single shot of espresso.
- Café au Lait- Single shot of brewed coffee or espresso mixed in a 1:1 ratio with steamed milk.
- Cortado- Equal parts espresso and steamed milk.
- Frappe - A cold espresso drink blended with sugar, milk, and other flavorings into a thick drink, similar to a milkshake.
- Iced Coffee- Brewed coffee served over ice with sugar and milk.
- Irish Coffee- Coffee spiked with whiskey and cream added on top.
- Macchiato- Espresso with a dollop of steamed milk added in a 4:1 ratio.
Whether you run a busy coffee shop, bakery, bistro, or diner, understanding the various coffee brewing techniques is essential to running a successful coffee service. With this basic knowledge, you and your staff will be able to adequately determine which type of coffee and technique is best suited for your business, as well as your customers’ needs.