Advice on Good Coffee?

Created by ThomasBates on July 24, 2013, 7:39 a.m.
  • Hello!

    I've been slowly going from certain kinds of beverage to another. About a year ago, I switched from drinking gallons of Lipton tea (literally, a two gallon brew with two cups of sugar, extremely unhealthy I'm sure), to loose leaf tea (usually a vanilla/hazelnut mix, either black or with a tsp. of sugar if blackberry). Given that I've really enjoyed switching to loose leaf tea, I figured I'd do what I've always wanted to and switch to a whole bean coffee.

    So, I purchased a Hario Skerton grinder and an aeropress (I use the same kettle that I use for tea to boil the water, though I usually only go to about 180 F). The first coffee I purchased was a French Vanilla from CBTL (http://www.coffeebean.com/french-vanilla/d/1076_c_106_cl_624), I didn't realize at the time it wasn't whole bean (I didn't read as well as I should have), but I still really enjoyed it. I would make a cup and add a teaspoon or two of sugar and was quite pleased. For reference, before this I would drink Folger's French Vanilla with three tablespoons of sugar + milk (again, very bad, I'm sure). I've been assured that such an advanced amount of alteration shouldn't be needed.

    Then, I purchased an actual whole bean, a Sumatra Mandehling Dark. I tried to prep it in much the same way as I did the French Vanilla (I used one aeropress scoop of beans to grind, then brewed from that), but I found it to be so bitter (black) that it was undrinkable. I tried to add some sweetener, but it was fruitless. The whole process was nowhere near as precise or measured as I usually am, (I do have a scale, but I sort of flew by the cuff on this one). Can anyone offer me some advice on water temperature, grind weight/coarseness (I used one revolution of the Hario's grinder), I'm completely at a loss. I'm sitting on a pound of very dark coffee that I'm not sure I'm going to enjoy much. It could just be that my tastes don't match up to what I have.

    Thanks!

  • Ah, yes, this is probably more an issue of dark roast not playing nice with your taste buds in terms of flavour than any particular issue with your brewing process. I'm not a big fan of dark roasts either. You will likely see the biggest results from just switching over to a medium or light roasted bean. Since you enjoy sweetened coffee, I think light roast might actually be your best bet for a more subtle taste. No need to spend too much money when experimenting with different roasts. A sealed bag of local grocery store beans is plenty adequate for this purpose.

    Regarding grinding and brewing, couple things you can do to get more consistent results:

    1. Use your scale to measure the quantity of beans you are using as well as the quantity of water. General rule of thumb I use is about 20grams of beans to about 300grams of water (you measure both in grams just to make things simpler).

    2. For aeropress, I like to use medium to medium coarse grind, sort of depending on the bean I am using, how quickly water flows through it etc. Here's a picture:

    coffee grounds

    Nevermind the writing on the bottom, I'm just using this picture for reference sake. With aeropress, you probably want a grind size similar to the pile on the left or a little bit coarser than that. Experiment with it and you'll notice changes in taste depending on grind (all other factors being constant), then you can get a better idea what you're preference is in that regard.

    Also look up the various aeropress brewing methods. They all produce slightly different sorts of flavour and texture.

  • Cool, thanks for the help! I presently live about four hours south of Chicago (I'll be moving up there in three weeks), so presently I don't have any shops around that sell coffee (an atrocious place, this is), but I'll be sure to get a light roast and try it out.

    As for brewing methods, I presently use the inverted, but I'll experiment with that a bit as well.

    Thanks!

  • Good luck on your brewing endeavours. :)

    I personally blame Will for ensnaring me into the manual coffee brewing zeitgeist. One day I saw a video on Tested about the Aeropress and I ordered it just to see what all the fuss was about. Now a couple years later I do both aeropress and pourover and have a burr grinder and a scale and have become quite fussy about the freshness of the beans. Terrible rabbit hole this is.

    I'm chasing the dragon because of you, Will! D:


  • The best coffee I've ever had has been in Melbourne.

    The strongest coffee (6 times stronger than average coffee), tastiest, full flavoured with a little bit of milk. I think everyone should try this very strong coffee :)