Although brewing coffee seems simple enough, to get the most out of your brew and to make sure each cup is consistent to the taste you love, you need to use the correct amount of water to coffee ratio.
“How do I know how much water to use?” I hear you cry. Fear not, as today, we are going to dive deeper and answer the question ‘what is a coffee brewing ratio?‘
Why Are Brew Ratios Important?
Imagine baking a cake. If you add too much or too little of one ingredient, it will have a huge impact on the cake as a whole. This is precisely the same with coffee and water. Add too little water and the flavours won’t have extracted enough, but add too much, and the flavours will be washed out, resulting in a weak tasting cup.
What Ratio Is Best for Each Brewing Device?
Firstly, let’s look at making an espresso at home. When brewing espresso coffee using an espresso machine at home, you will be using a fine grind of coffee, along with a short extraction time. This, in turn, means you will use very little water.
Your brewing ratio for an espresso will be somewhere between 1:1 and 1:4, depending on your desired strength. To look at these further, a ratio of 1:1 is known as a ristretto; meaning restricted espresso. A ratio of 1:2 is a traditional espresso, and a ratio of 1:4 will result in a lungo or longer espresso.
As an example, if you were to use 15g of ground coffee in your portafilter, you would be looking to see 30ml of extracted coffee in the cup in the desired time frame of usually 18-24 seconds; a ratio of 1:2. Often, if you are using an espresso machine at home, most settings are taken care of for you, maybe leaving you just the grind size to play with. If the grid is finer, the coffee will extract slower and vice versa. This may help you achieve your desired ratio.
Devices like a cafetiere or Aeropress use an immersion method to extract the flavour from the coffee. The grounds are covered with the desired amount of recently boiled water and left for the allotted time.
When brewing coffees using an immersion method, choose a coarser grind of coffee as the immersion method will have a longer brewing time. We recommend a grind size similar to that of caster sugar. If your coffee was ground too fine, the outcome would be an over-extracted coffee which would taste bitter in your cup.
To avoid bitter notes with pre-ground coffee, reduce the brew time accordingly.
For a cafetiere, we find that a ratio of 1:20 is a great starting point. For instance, 50g of coffee in a 1-litre cafetiere.
With an Aeropress, we recommend slightly more coffee, as the extraction time is usually shorter. Start with a ratio of 1:16 and tweak to your preference.
Gravity methods, such as pour-over, Chemex or filter require a slightly coarser grind still. For a gravity method, we recommend a grind size similar to rough sugar. Using a ratio of 1:16 is a super place to start too.
The ratios mentioned above are a great place to start! Coffee is very much a personal taste thing, however.
For instance, some like it so strong that it bends the spoon while stirring, and others like the flavours to be a little more subtle. Whatever you prefer, experiment with how much coffee and water you use.
It’s Not Just About Brew Ratios
Coffee not tasting as you would like? There are several factors which can also affect the way your coffee tastes. The hardness of water, grind size, the temperature of the water and the way you pour the water are all things to take into consideration.
If you find that your coffee is quite sour and doesn’t have much body, grind your coffee finer. Doing this will increase the contact area, which will allow more to be extracted in the same timeframe. This means that more of those sweet flavours will get into your cup.
On the other hand, if your coffee is bitter, try grinding coarser. This will slow down the extraction rate as the contact area will have decreased. This means that less of those nasty bitter flavours will end up in your cup.
If you live in a hard water area, try purchasing a water filter. After all, your cup of coffee is mostly water. Better quality water will certainly help.
You don’t want the water to be too hot, either. We recommend allowing 30 seconds for the kettle to cool slightly before pouring. When pouring commences, make sure you soak all of the coffee grounds evenly too. If some grounds see no water, these won’t be extracted at all. This will result in a thinner than anticipated cup of coffee.
A swan neck kettle is a great way to control the flow of water. This will result in a more even extraction. It is the smallest things that make the biggest differences.
As mentioned, it’s all about experimenting to find what suits you best. Experiment with different coffees and brewing devices to see which you prefer. With this in mind, all of our coffees have been crafted with particular brewing devices in mind.
Currently, ‘Welcome To Another Day’, ‘Round Hole, Square Peg’ and ‘Isle of View’ have all been crafted for a Filter or Cafetiere.
Whereas ‘Organised Chaos’, ‘Box of Frogs’ and ‘The Kittens Onesie’ have all been crafted for an Espresso, Moka Pot or Aeropress.
It’s only our suggestion, however. Brew what you want and as you wish.
Now that we’ve answered ‘what is a coffee brewing ratio?’ – start experimenting today!
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