The Four Fundamentals of Great Coffee: Water and Proportion (1 of 2)

It is time to talk about the four fundamentals of making great coffee at home.  If you don't know all four, here they are:

  1. Water - Use great water.  It should be a filtered water, ideally.
  2. Proportion - Use the right amount of coffee for the amount of water you're using.
  3. Freshness - Do not use old coffee.  Once you open a bag of coffee, you should use it within seven days of opening.
  4. Grind - Make sure your coffee is ground to the right ground for your brew method.  You'll want to use a fine grind if using the coffee as a shot of espresso.  Use a course grind if you're making a French press.

At the East Olive Way Starbucks, the coffee masters are putting together two seminars on these four fundamentals.  The first one was held on February 4, 2013, and the second one will be February 18, 2013.  In the first seminar, the coffee masters discussed the importance of proportion and water.

I would love it if you would come to an East Olive Way coffee education seminar.  This Starbucks is at 1600 East Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98102.  You can call them at 206 568 - 5185.

Starbucks Coffee Master Megan and Starbucks Coffee-Master-In-Training Jesica led us through tonight's lesson on water and proportion.


From my perspective, this part of the lesson was the most interesting to me.  I have to admit that there are often times I'm a bit lazy about how I make coffee at home.  I have been known to just 'eye ball' a bunch of coffee in a pour over, pour hot water over it, and call it good.

Starbucks recommends 2 tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water.  At tonight's tasting, we compared coffee that was made with one tablespoon of coffee per six ounces of water, correctly made coffee, and coffee made with three tablespoons per six ounces of water.

Even side by side, there was definite difference in how the coffee looked in the cup.  Coffee that too few grounds really is not very good!  The coffee grounds become over saturated, causing the more bitter notes to be pronounced in the cup.  As we tasted the coffees, we noticed that the coffee with too little coffee grounds was also not very aromatic at all.  Too few grounds produces a water, over extracted coffee.

By the way, if you really want a watery coffee at home, tonight's coffee masters suggested that you brew the coffee correctly.  Then, after it is brewed, add a little more water.  Of course, we all agreed that watery coffee is not that great, and "don't try this at home."

Coffee that was correctly made was indeed the best!  Megan and Jesica used Casi Cielo for this "proportion" test, and the correctly made coffee had a nice dark chocolate aroma, and lovely chocolate flavor notes with a slight tartness to it.

The coffee made with three tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water was somehow a little oilier, and just wasn't very good.  It's a bit concentrated.  Actually, this might not be terrible iced, since adding ice weakens a coffee.  Still, don't try this at home.

Here are  the three cups from the proportion lesson.  Can you tell which one is which?

I will say, after this coffee seminar was over, I started measuring coffee at home, and instead of just guessing at it.  You could kind of see a difference in the French presses too:


For the water portion of the seminar, Megan and Jessica made two French presses of Verona.  One was made with Starbucks filtered water.  The other was made with tap water.  Again, there was noticeable difference between the two.  I don't think this was as dramatic though as the proportion part of the experiment.  The fact of the matter is that Seattle's tap water is pretty drinkable.  I have feeling if we did this same experiment in Southern California, the result would be horrifying.  The water in Southern California is horrible.  One customer made a bad face drinking the coffee with unfiltered water.

There was one interesting thing about this part of the coffee seminar:  the coffee made with city water had a noticeable film on the interior of the cup.  The coffee made with Starbucks water was much cleaner in appearance, and the sides of the cup were cleaner too.  In the photo of all five cups, the bottom two are part of the "water" experiment.

Hope you enjoyed this lesson in two of the four fundamentals to great coffee!  You will get the second half of this series sometime after February 18th!  I hope that if you're in the Seattle area that you can come join in.  Lastly, I took a photo of all five cups too:




Promote from within versus outside hire.

Friendly experiences: Pine Street Starbucks