How to Brew Coffee
How to Brew Coffee
The NCA Guide to Brewing Essentials
Coffee is personal - the right way to make it is how you like it best.
That being said, mastering a few fundamentals will help you perfect your technique. From here, we encourage you to experiment with different roasts, origins, or preparation methods.
Here are our tips to brew a classic cup of coffee.
Make sure that your tools — from bean grinders and filters to coffee makers— are thoroughly cleaned after each use.
Rinse with clear, hot water (or wipe down thoroughly), and dry with an absorbent towel. It’s important to check that no grounds have been left to collect and that there’s no build-up of coffee oil (caffeol), which can make future cups of coffee taste bitter and rancid.
If you’re using a single-serve coffee maker, check our guide for keeping your machine in top shape.
Great coffee starts with great beans. The quality and flavor of your coffee is not only determined by your favorite brewing process, but also by the type of coffee you select. There can be a world of difference between roasts, so check out our roasting types guide.
Some of the flavor factors include:
The country and region of origin
The variety of bean - arabica, robusta - or a blend
The roast type
The texture of your grind
While there are a lot of choices, remember that there’s no right or wrong — for instance, you can choose a dark, flavorful espresso roast coffee and still have it ground to be brewed in a drip system. Have fun trying and enjoying different combinations.
Purchase coffee as soon as possible after it’s roasted. Fresh-roasted coffee is essential to a quality cup, so buy your coffee in small amounts (ideally every one to two weeks). Check out our helpful tips on how to store coffee to keep it as fresh and flavorful as possible.
And please, never reuse your coffee grounds to make coffee. Once brewed, the desirable coffee flavors have been extracted and only the bitter ones are left. Instead, check out these six ways to recycle your old grounds.
If you buy whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible for maximum freshness. A burr or mill grinder is best because the coffee is ground to a consistent size.
A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest. If you normally grind your coffee at home with a blade grinder, try having it ground at the store with a burr grinder - you’ll be surprised at the difference! (Whichever option you use, always follow manufacturers' recommendations when using your grinder, and be mindful of any necessary safety considerations.)
The size of the grind is hugely important to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be over-extracted, or ground too fine. On the other hand, if your coffee tastes flat, it may be under-extracted, meaning your grind is too coarse.
(Check out this simple infographic to help you determine the the best texture for your preferred brewing method.)
If you're having the coffee ground to order, tell the professionals where you purchase your coffee exactly how you will be brewing it. Will you be using a French Press? A flat or cone drip filter? A gold mesh filter? They will grind it specifically for your preparation method.
The water you use is very important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or has a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine.
If you’re using tap water, let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot, and be sure to use cold water. Avoid distilled or softened water.
A general guideline is called the "Golden Ratio" - one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.
Check the cup lines or indicators on your specific brewer to see how they actually measure. And remember that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods.
Safety first! Of course, any time you are working with heat and hot beverages, take all necessary precautions for everyone from those preparing coffee, to those being served, and drinking coffee.
Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, under-extracted coffee, while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee. (However, cold brew does not need any heat.)
If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not over boil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.
Coffee usually cools rapidly after being served, depending upon the container from which it is being served. And, many coffee drinkers may add cream or milk which also has a cooling effect. Ultimately, the temperature at which any individual coffee drinker will prefer their coffee is a personal preference, like so many other things that make coffee special. These are some of the reasons why it is best to serve coffee right after brewing, when it is fresh and hot – typically at a temperature of 180-185F, according to research.
Of course, with respect to drinking coffee, vs. serving, you should always allow your coffee – or any hot beverage – to reach a comfortable temperature before drinking. One study has shown that coffee drinkers typically drink their coffee at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
And again, those preparing and serving coffee need to be mindful of safety, which could include factors such as the location where coffee is being served, and the coffee drinkers themselves, which can only be assessed by those preparing and serving coffee.
The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important flavor factor.
In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a French Press, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso has an especially brief brew time — the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. Cold brew, on the other hand, should steep overnight (about 12 hours).
If you’re not happy with the taste of the final product, you're likely either:
Over-extracting - the brew time is too long
Under-extracting - the brew time is too short
Experiment with the contact time until you get the right balance for your taste.
Enjoy your coffee!
Prepared coffee begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing, so only make as much coffee as you’ll drink. Otherwise, coffee can be poured into a warmed, insulated thermos to be consumed within an hour.
(Don't worry - old coffee probably isn't dangerous, just not very appealing. Always use your best judgement before ingesting anything, no matter what you read on the Internet.)
Try to enjoy your coffee as thoughtfully as it was prepared - take in the aroma, and notice the flavors in each sip. Many people have been instrumental in bringing it to your cup.
First thing to do is to boil your kettle. Temperature doesn’t matter at this stage. Fill the base of the moka pot up to the top mark with the hot water
Add your coffee. This needs to be a fine/medium grind. Coarser than espresso, but finer than filter. The water needs to be able to flow through the coffee freely. We use the filter basket as a guide to how much coffee to put in rather than sticking to a specific brew ratio. Just fill it up and put your faith in the Italians.
Level the grounds off with your finger, but remember not to pack down or tamp the grounds. Leave them loose.
Carefully place the filter basket in to the base.
Using a tea towel to hold the base, screw on the top chamber.
Turn your heat on. We recommend a medium heat to start with. Using hot water in the base allows the water to reach brewing temperature more gradually.
The next bit is key. Lower the heat when you hear the water start to boil in the base. You’re aiming for the coffee to ooze out of the top spout like honey (and yes, you can keep the lid open!). You do this by controlling the heat. There’s a knack to it, but when you nail it you’ll know. If the coffee comes shooting out and spluttering it’s too hot and you’ll burn the coffee.
Keep controlling the heat to keep the coffee flowing out smoothly. As the bottom chamber starts to empty there will be some spitting and spluttering. This is normal.
Once you hear a hissing sound and the top chamber is full take the moka pot off the heat and serve immediately. Leave to cool before drinking as it will be hot!
While the water is heating, grind your coffee. French press coffee calls for a coarse, even grind. We recommend starting with a 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio. If you're using 350 grams of water, you’ll want 30 grams of coffee.
To start, gently pour twice the amount of water than you have coffee onto your grounds. For example, if you have 35 grams of coffee, you’ll want to start with 70 grams of water.
Give the grounds a gentle stir with a bamboo paddle or chopstick. Allow the coffee to bloom for 30 seconds.
Add the rest of your water and position the lid gently on top of the grounds. Don’t plunge just yet. Let the coffee steep for four minutes. Four. Don’t guess.
Gently remove your French press from the scale and place it on your counter. Press the filter down. If it’s hard to press, that means your grind is too fine; if the plunger “thunks” immediately down to the floor, it means your grind is too coarse. The sweet spot, pressure-wise, is 15–20 pounds. Not sure what this feels like? Try it out on your bathroom scale.
When you’ve finished pressing, serve the coffee immediately. Don’t let it sit, as this will cause it to continue brewing and over-extract.
texture slightly finer than sea salt.
Use some of your hot water to wet your filter and cap. The water serves a dual function here: It helps the filter adhere to the cap, and heats your brewing vessel. This can be challenging as the water is hot and the cap is quite small: Hold the cap by its “ears” and pour the water very slowly so it can be absorbed by the filter.
Assemble your AeroPress. Make sure the entire assembly is dry, since any residual moisture can compromise the device’s seal.
Place it on your scale with the flared end up, then tare the weight. The numbers should appear upside-down. It’s possible to attach the black filter cap and place it right side-up, but this tends to cause leakage and make accurate brewing difficult.
Add your ground coffee. Be careful not to spill any grounds into the ring-shaped gutter at the top of the AeroPress.
Start a timer. Add twice the weight of water than you have grounds (e.g., for 15 grams coffee, add 30 grams water). The water should be about 200 degrees F.
Make sure the coffee is saturated evenly, tamping slightly with the paddle or butter knife if necessary, and let it sit for 30 seconds.
Use the remainder of the hot water to fill the chamber.
After a minute has elapsed, stir grounds 10 times to agitate.
Fasten the cap, ensuring it locks into the grooves tightly. Flip the whole assembly over with haste and control. Position it atop your brew vessel and begin applying downward pressure. You will experience about 30 pounds of resistance here. If the pushing feels too easy, your grind is likely too coarse; if it’s very hard to push, chances are the grind is too fine. Your coffee is fully brewed once it begins to make a hissing sound. This means there is no more water to push through the device.
Once you’ve unscrewed the cap, you can pop out the filter and the puck of condensed grounds by simply pushing AeroPress’s interior section a final inch.
Note: The amount of coffee and water varies depending on the type of coffee you are brewing and your preferred strength. As a starting point, we recommend using 50 grams of coffee and 700 grams of water (about 25 ounces), and then adjust according to your taste.
Weigh out the coffee and grind to a coarseness resembling sea salt.
Fully saturate the filter and warm the vessel with hot water. Discard this water through the pour spout.
Pour your ground coffee into the filter and give it a gentle shake. This will flatten the bed, allowing for a more-even pour.
There will be four pours total, and this is the first.
Starting at the bed’s center, gently pour twice the amount of water that you have coffee into your grounds (for example, 50 grams of water if you have 25 grams of coffee). Work your way gently outward, and avoid pouring down the sides of the filter. You’ll notice that adding this amount of water causes the coffee to expand, or “bloom.” Allow it to do so for 45–55 seconds. A solid bloom ensures even saturation.
Pour water in a circular pattern starting in the center. Spiral out toward the edge of the slurry before spiraling back toward the middle. Avoid pouring on the filter. Allow the water to drip through the grounds until the slurry drops 1 inch from the bottom of the filter. You should use about 200 grams of water for this pour.
Repeat the same pour pattern as in Step 6, adding water in 200-gram increments. Repeat once more, allowing the water to percolate through the grounds until the slurry drops 1 inch from the bottom of the filter before beginning the next pour.
Allow the water to drip through the grounds entirely.
The brew should have taken between 3.5–4.5 minutes. If the brew was too fast, consider using a finer grind or a slower pour rate next time. If the brew was too slow, consider using a coarser grind or a faster pour rate.
STEP 1 UNFOLD +RINSE
Unfold the filter into the V60, and rinse well. Carefully press the top edges of your filter paper down while pouring near boiling water into the center circling slowly your way towards the outside edge. This step makes sure you have good contact in-between the filter and the ribs of the V60 while also rinsing the paper flavor out of the filter and preheats your vessel. After the hot water has made it through the filter discard it by dumping your server out.
STEP 2 WEIGH
Weigh out of whole bean coffee. Using your favorite grinder, grind the coffee on a medium-fine setting. (Keep in mind that altitude plays an important role in your grinder settings. As you move up in altitude you will find that you will need to grind your coffee finer). To read more on the grind click here.
STEP 3 GRIND
Dump your freshly ground coffee into the V60's filter. Lift the V60 up and shake the grounds to evenly distribute in the filter. Then place V60 back on your brewing vessel. Set the brewing vessel and the V60 on the scale and turn it on. If the scale doesn't read 0 press the tare/zero button.
STEP 4 BLOOM
Now that everything is set up, you can start the timer on the webpage, pour the hot water into the center of the coffee grounds. Slowly pour in a circular motion until your scale reads . Wait 30-45 seconds for the water to saturate the grounds, allowing the CO2 to escape and giving the coffee time to release its identity into the water. Pour Master Tip: "Having trouble with the bloom seeping out? Create a crater in the center that will cradle the water on an uneven surface.
STEP 5 HAND DRIP
After taking in all that sweet aroma you can start your timer/stopwatch shooting for the scale to read in about minutes, keeping your pours to about every 20 - 25 seconds. When pouring always pour into the center and spiral your way out making sure not hit the paper filter. After reaching on the scale, let the coffee make it's way slowly out of the V60. Once it stops dripping remove the V60 and discard the paper filter.Pour Master Tip "If you overshot the brew target time then your grind may have been too fine. If it finished too quickly then you grind was too coarse"
STEP 6 ENJOY
Close Your Eyes...
Tune out everything around you, but the dizzying aroma of the coffee.
Try to identify and describe the aroma in your own words. Chocolate? Nutty? Floral? Sweet?
The Moment Has Finally Come, Taste The Coffee!
Slowly focus on the flavor, let the coffee evenly coat your tongue. When does the bright dazzling acidity hit? What does it taste like? Is there sweetness? Is it more caramelized or like candy? A well prepared coffee will not be overly bitter, nor will it be astringent. It will instead display an amazing array of flavors brought out by many carefully controlled steps, from planting the seed to your finished cup!
After soaking your filter in a warm water bath for at least five minutes, drop it into the bottom of your siphon’s top component, or “hopper,” and hook to the bottom of the hopper’s glass tubing.
Fill your siphon’s bottom component, or “bulb,” with 300 grams of hot water (about a 12-oz. cup’s worth).
Insert the hopper, filter and all, into the bulb. You don't have to press too hard; just make sure it's securely and evenly in place. Position the entire assembly above your heat source.
While the water is heating, measure out between 20-25 grams of coffee and grind it just little bit finer than you would for regular drip coffee.
Soon, the water in the bulb will begin boiling and rise up into the hopper. For some physics-related reason we don’t fully understand, a little bit will stay in the bottom. Don’t worry about this little bit.
Once the water has moved into the hopper, turn your heat source down so that the water is between 185-195 degrees F.
Add your coffee, and gently (but thoroughly) submerge it with a bamboo paddle or butter knife.
In one brisk motion, remove your siphon from its heat source and give it ten stirs with a bamboo paddle.
Your coffee should take another minute or so to draw downward and finally rest in the bulb. You'll know it's ready when a dome of grounds has formed at the top of the filter, and when the coffee at the bottom has begun to bubble at approximately the pace and strength of a kitten’s heartbeat.
Remove the hopper and serve. In order to guarantee the most complex cup, give the coffee a few minutes to cool.