Coffee 101: Temp & Time
We’ll continue our discussion of the Golden Rules of coffee by focusing on the the general recipe-rules of the brewing process… that two-to-six minute time frame where your coffee is transformed into the beverage you love.
Follow this maxim: coffee must be brewed using water heated to an optimum temperature range and within an optimum time range. Both factors will vary depending upon the brewer and/or brewing method you use.
In this entry, we’ll discuss only the importance of time-temp consistency. Time and temperature cannot be separated because they both influence the outcome of coffee as it brews. Assuming you have a consistent grind, the heat of your water must be matched to the duration of your brewing process.
TEMPERATURE — The correct brewing temperature range is between 195 degrees and 205 degrees. Water that’s just boiled, taken off heat and held for approximately 30 seconds will fall within that range. Water that’s too hot can damage the essential flavors of ground coffee and result in “off flavors.” Water that’s too cool (unless you use a cold-process method) will result in sour, under-extracted and “unsatisfying” coffee. A lot of research has confirmed this principle. Sadly, most commercial drip coffee brewers are incapable of delivering water at the correct temperature during the entire brewing process.
TIME: Excluding the 30-second brewing process of most espresso machines, the majority of brewing methods take between two and six minutes from start to finish. Starting with water temperature, you can make adjustments in time to obtain the most flavorful cup.
You have an advantage if you brew your coffee manually (pour over, Chemex, french press), because you can control the temperature of the water and the brew time. In that case, start with a water temperature of 200 degrees (an inexpensive culinary water thermometer is helpful) and adjust your brewing time until you’re satisfied with the taste and consistency of your coffee.
Many automatic brewers, despite their convenience, do not allow you to adjust time and temperature. That means you may have to adjust your coffee grind to match your brewer. Sometimes grind adjustment won’t work. That’s when you might have to ask if your ‘convenient’ automatic brewer is brewing your coffee correctly. Sadly, we have found that the huge majority of auto-drip brewers on the market have severe problems with both water temperature and time of brew.
In fact, of the hundreds of automatic coffee brewers on the market, the Specialty Coffee Assn. of America (scaa.org) only certifies one brand, Technivorm, for its ability to match water heat to brew time correctly.
Over the years, we at Hunter Bay have learned that there are many manual brewing methods that are just as convenient as auto-drip brewers, and the coffee they deliver is infinitely better. We suggest a variety of methods including: paper/cloth cone filter brewers like Chemex or Melitta; any of the bistro pot/French press methods; a quality vacuum pot brewer; some of the new Hario brewers, and; a stainless steel version of the classic moka pot brewer.