By Emma Sage, SCAA
Sometimes it feels like we need a cup of coffee in the morning before we can even manage to brew one. Brewing specialty coffee is not difficult, but can certainly take some effort and experimentation to discover the desired brew strength. For at-home specialty coffee customers, trying to replicate the cup of coffee they can purchase at their local cafe is often a challenge and a pursuit they ultimately give up.
Why does it have to be so hard to make good coffee at home? How can we re-orient our language and strategy to make the brewing process simpler, and enable our customers to enjoy a tasty brewed coffee in their own kitchen? Not all aspects of coffee science are great for consumer-facing conversations. However, when it comes to spreading the basic knowledge of brewing coffee at home, we should be the purveyors of good and reliable information for our patrons.
As the coffee science manager for SCAA, I study the fundamentals of brewing, brew lots of coffee, analyze it both qualitatively and quantitatively, and test home coffee brewers for the SCAA Home Brewer Certification Program. With this experience, I have grown to have great reverence for the basic tenets of the SCAA Brewing Handbook. Below, I’ll outline some of the ways that we can help our customers understand proper brewing practices.
The pillars of coffee preparation (within the six essential elements) are:
- The optimum brewing method choice and operation of that method
- The correct coffee-to-water ratio
- An appropriate coffee grind
- Good water
- The correct contact time between the coffee and water
- The proper water temperature
- A filtering medium
Even the above list seems complex! Let’s break it down for our consumers at home:
- Choose a brewing method and ask your local barista about it! If you’re not interested in learning the intricacies of a manual brewing devices, there is a growing selection of SCAA Certified Home Brewers that you can use to achieve the proper brew strength of your coffee.
- Use enough coffee! The SCAA Golden Cup Ratio is 55 grams of coffee per liter of water, or 9–11 grams of coffee for every (6 ounce) cup they are brewing.
- Adjust the coffee grind depending on how you are going to brew it. For example, for a French press you’ll want a coarser grind than for a paper-filter method. Ask your barista to give you a sample grind that you can use as a reference for grinding your coffee at home. Try to avoid pre-grinding your coffee to ensure peak freshness.
- Filter your water so that it doesn’t give the coffee an off-taste (like chlorine), or use bottled water to brew your coffee.
- The hot water should be in contact with the coffee for between 4-6 minutes, depending on the brewing method (doesn’t apply to single-cup preparation situations).
- The temperature of the brewing water should be between 195°-205°F (hot, but not too hot) when in contact with the coffee grounds.
- The coffee grounds should be filtered out of the prepared coffee beverage. Select the correct filter for your brewing devices to ensure proper functionality of your selected device.
As it turns out, these seven tenets are a lot to grasp and command. This can explain the popularity of single-cup brewers that automate this process with the touch of a button; however, these machines are not always able to achieve proper brewing parameters. If a customer is seeking a specialty coffee experience from their morning cup, it is imperative that we provide them with the tools and arms them with the knowledge they need to replicate this process each day. Luckily SCAA Home Brewers are easy to get the hang of, reliably produce the proper water temperature, and brew coffee utilizing Golden Cup guidelines.
There are currently six SCAA Certified Brewers, all of which have demonstrated the ability to meet the SCAA and ECBC testing requirements for technical capacity and consistency. The SCAA Home Brewer Certification Program is an avenue for SCAA and the entire specialty coffee industry to reach out to consumers and help them make better coffee.
Current SCAA Certified Home Brewers include (in no particular order):
- Technivorm Moccamaster
- Bunn Phase Brew 8 Cup Coffee Brewer
- Bonavita 8 Cup Exceptional Brew Coffee Maker with glass or thermal carafe (BV1800)
- Brazen Plus Customizable Temperature Control Brew System
- KitchenAid Coffee Maker KCM0802
- Bonavita Coffee Maker (model BV1900TS)
Do SCAA Certified Home Brewers remove all thought from the coffee-making process? Of course not! Customers are still responsible for choosing, grinding, and dosing their coffee, and operating the machine correctly.
At SCAA, we hold the belief that properly brewed specialty coffee should be accessible to all. That is one of the key motivations that we have in pursuing and promoting the SCAA Home Brewer Certification Program. We also collaborate with the European Coffee Brewing Center (the ECBC) and have recently realigned our testing protocols.
I hope these guidelines have been helpful and will allow you to better communicate proper brewing practices to your customers.
To learn more about coffee brewing science, order your copy of the SCAA Brewing Handbook from the SCAA Store.
Emma Sage is SCAA’s coffee science manager. Before moving into the coffee industry, she completed degrees in ecology and botany, and dabbled in the wine industry. She enjoys learning all there is to know about the science of coffee (and more importantly, sharing it with you).