5 Tools For The Coffee Nerd
Posted by hookcoffee on Oct. 22, 2016, 10 a.m.
Brewing coffee really only requires two things: coffee and water. Yes, it works a lot better if you use certain tools and techniques, but those two things are where it all begins. For some, the simple combination of coffee and water in a french press or a drip pot is enough to satisfy. For others, it’s not even close to enough. Here are some of the tools we coffee nerds rely on to brew our delicious, balanced coffee.
Precision is the key to consistently good coffee, so it’s no wonder that coffee shops and enthusiasts swear by using gram scales. Volume is unreliable. Coffee beans take up different amounts of room and rarely weigh the same. It can be difficult to tell how much coffee and water you’re using when you just eyeball it. Scales take the guessing out of coffee and water ratios, making it a piece of cake to land right in that sweet spot of 1:15 and 1:18. Measure by volume, and there’s no telling what ratio you’ll land in. Measure with weight (mass), and you'll hit the bullseye ever time.
The generally agreed upon range of ideal water temperatures for coffee brewing is 90 to 96 degrees Celsius. This is the point where water extracts coffee at a rate that doesn’t take hours to brew a good cup, but also not so fast that you end up with a bitter mug every time. It’s a healthy sweet spot. Even within that range, a careful coffee brewer can achieve different results. Some like their brew heavier and more extracted and use a higher temperature. Some prefer to slow the extraction just barely with a lower temperature to achieve a smoother, brighter result. Knowing the exact temperature of your water gives you the power to make more decisions about how you brew your coffee, and enables you to get even closer to your perfect cup. There's also some fun to be had with brewing coffee at odd temperatures. The 2015 World Aeropress championships revealed that some wacky recipes can still produce amazing results. The 3rd place winner from The Philippines used 79 degree Celsius water, for example. With a thermometer, you can see what all the fuss is about these odd recipes.
If you’re one to sample lots of coffees side-by-side or want to become better at tasting coffee in general, you should consider a cupping set. These small bowls and spoons are designed to enable tasters to get a strong idea of how multiple coffees taste next to each other. Coffee cupping is a practice used by professionals around the world to evaluate bean and roast quality, but the coffee nerds among us can also benefit from this style of tasting. One of the greatest benefits of this practice is the development of your palate. Learning to taste coffee can be done one cup at a time, but things get going quickly when you can assess several coffees all at once and compare them to each other. This can be done alone, but tasting with friends is another great way to accelerate the growth of your tasting ability.
Coffee Ground Sifter
The coffee grinder is the most important tool in any coffee brewing equipment arsenal. Without a strong burr grinder, you are left to the mercy of unevenly sized coffee particles, which don’t brew at the same rate and can throw off a great cup. Even with a well-built burr grinder, there are always coffee particles that come out a different size than the rest. We call these “fines” (micro-particles) and “boulders” (extra-large). Using a sifter, you can isolate a specific particle size and remove the fines and boulders. This gives you the ability to brew a balanced cup that cannot be compromised by multiple coffee ground sizes.
The gooseneck kettle is a funny looking thing, but it is an empowering tool. When you’re brewing with a pour over cone, it’s very important that you pour slowly and saturate all of the coffee grounds evenly. If you splash a giant flow of water into the brewer and finish pouring in two seconds, you’ll end up with an unbalanced, underextracted cup of coffee. Gross. The slow, steady poor is what causes pour over coffee to extract evenly and sufficiently. This tool is slowly becoming less nerdy. Even coffee barely-nerds are adopting the slow, steady pouring technique that a gooseneck kettle can offer. There’s no debate that this is a necessary tool for pour over brewing.
Will You Continue To Dive In?
The rabbit hole goes deep, and these brewing tools are what it takes to reach that next level of precision and balance. Will you explore further into the mysterious and incredible world of coffee? Have you already joined the ranks of the coffee nerds without realizing it? We’re an excited group of folks at Hook Coffee and nerd out in every step of our coffee journey. To experience the rewards of our nerdiness, try some of our coffee. You may feel compelled to join us in the rabbit hole. Happy Brewing. The Hook Coffee Team