Brewing Coffee

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There’s no shortage of opinions and recommendations on the Internet for brewing coffee.  The goal with this guide is to provide you with some assistance using more common brewing methods so that each cup of coffee is a pleasure to drink.

Let’s assume that if you are making coffee using a method most people don’t recognize, you probably already know what you are doing and have developed your favorite process.

For the rest of us who use more common coffee preparation methods for sheer convenience in the morning, we’ll start there.  

Water Temperature

According to the National Coffee Association (NCA) the ideal water temperature for brewing coffee is between 195⁰-205⁰ F.  The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) recommends a water temperature of 200⁰ F, +/- 5 degrees.  Higher temperatures tend toward bitterness, lower temperatures won’t extract the full flavor of the coffee.

Ratio of Coffee to Water

Good coffee starts with, uh, good coffee (ahem).  Remember though, too little of a good thing is disappointing and too much of a good thing is, well, too much!  The NCA recommends one to two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water.  The SCAA recommends 55g of coffee to 1 L of water, roughly equivalent to 1.6 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water.  For the best flavor we recommend 2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water, however you should adjust to produce the desired outcome for your taste. 

Drip Coffee Makers

First off, make sure you do your research and purchase a model with solid reviews.  Just because it’s on sale doesn’t make it a great deal.  Look for a product that has a distributed water output, like a showerhead, so the heated water touches more of the grounds. Why is this important?  A single stream of water can pass through the same grounds during the brewing process and miss the grounds on the outside edge.  This can change the coffee flavor significantly, often causing it to be more bitter.  Also, a flat bottom filter basket (and filter) will work very well with this showerhead design ensuring an even distribution and saturation of water through the coffee. 

The drip coffee maker you select should also have good temperature control that aligns with the NCA and SCAA recommendations. 

One curve to throw at you – your drip coffee maker says it is 8 cups right?  Well, that’s eight 6-ounce cups, not eight 8-ounce cups.  You can test this with an 8-ounce measuring cup and the coffee maker to verify.

Fill the reservoir with water, put a filter in the basket, add your coffee, make sure the coffee pot and basket are in their proper place and press start.  Go sit down and stare into the emptiness until the brewing cycle is complete.

We use a Bonavita drip coffee maker.

French Press

Another common brewing method is the French press.  Nothing more to add here with regard to the ratio of coffee to water, or the water temperature.  One suggestion that results in more flavor from a French press is to soak the coffee grounds before filling the press with water.  Simply pour enough water over the grounds to saturate them and let sit for 30-45 seconds.  Then add the rest of the hot water, stir and let steep for four minutes.  Press the coffee and enjoy.

We use a Bodum thermal carafe Fench press to keep the coffee warm after pressing.


The pour-over method of brewing combines the advantages of the drip and French press methods.  Similar to the French press, pour-over brewing delivers an even saturation of all the coffee grounds.  Like the drip method the water passes through the grounds and doesn’t stay in contact with them, reducing the risk of strong bitter flavors. 

We use an Asobu pour-over with a thermal carafe to keep the coffee warm when the pour is complete.

Grind Size

Lastly, if you grind your own coffee make sure you are grinding to a size that is applicable to the brewing method you are using.  If you are using a French press, grind using a more course setting.  If a drip or pour-over method, grind to a more medium setting.  Be sure to consult your grinder user manual to find the best setting to use.  If you are using ground coffee from Cairn you’ll find it performs well with drip, pour-over and French press methods. 

There you have it, some opinions from a coffee roaster who doesn’t like to spend a lot of time fussing over his coffee preparation first thing in the morning.  Everyone’s different, but I need coffee to concentrate, complex coffee preparation requires concentration, I don’t use complex methods in the morning.  Later in the day?  An espresso with milk (1:1 ratio for me) is a nice afternoon break.

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