September 19, 2012

How Artisan Coffee Shops Make the Perfect Brew…& We Can Too. ~ Dawn Gilbert

If you’ve spent any amount of time drinking coffee at artisan shops, you know that brewing is an art form.

What you may not realize, however, is there’s also a good bit of science in there, too. A good cup of brew isn’t only about the talent of the barista, it also has a lot to do with the ingredients, as well as the brewing process itself.

Using some basic principles, you can make a perfect brew at home too. Here are some things to keep in mind as you create your own artisan coffee to compete with the local barista:

>> The most important aspect to your coffee’s taste is the type of coffee you choose. 

Brewing methods can greatly enhance the flavor of your brew; in fact, it’s brewing methods that tend to be the hallmark of a great artisan coffee.

Having said that, it’s still the beans that make the most difference. In this regard, you’re facing a highly-specialized choice. Beans from different regions have different tastes.

Not only that, some coffees are a blend of beans from several regions, or of several types. You need to determine whether you like a dark roast, a light blend or something that falls between the two.

>> The best artisan coffee fits the occasion.

Good coffee is good coffee, to be sure. Yet, there are different coffees that are better for certain occasions. A full mug to wake you up in the morning will taste very different from a relaxing cappuccino in the afternoon. Espresso is especially appropriate with dessert, but you’d rarely start your day with it.

>> Choose the right equipment.

You’re going to need a quality grinder and a quality coffee pot. Watch out for all-in-one solutions that grind the beans, brew the coffee, and froth the milk for your cappuccino. These products tend to excel in one area or another. But, for artisan-quality coffee you need to buy the best-of-breed for each.

>> Use only fresh roasted coffee.

Whenever possible, you want to create your coffee work of art within two to three weeks of it being roasted. Depending on where you live, that can be a challenge. The fresher the roast, the more pronounced the coffee’s natural flavors will be.

>> Know when to grind. 

If you want true artisan coffee shop quality coffee, you need to grind your own beans. You need to grind them as close to the time of brewing as possible. Ideally, you’ll choose a burr grinder or a mill grinder rather than a blade grinder.

A blade grinder leaves some of the coffee ground not as finely as the rest. If you’ve never used a burr grinder, you should consider having some ground at the store and bring it home for immediate brewing. You’ll be surprised just how different the taste is.

>> Ground size matters, too.

If your coffee is too fine, it will be overextracted and bitter. If your coffee is too coarse, it will be underextracted and flat. The grind should match the preparation method. You need a different grind for a gold mesh filter than you do for a cone drip filter, for example. Talk to your coffee provider about what grind is best with your equipment, or check your equipment’s manual.

>> Water is important.

The water you use to make your coffee should be filtered or bottled for your artisan coffee. Tap water should be run for several seconds before you brew. Always brew with cold water.

During the brewing process, your water should stay between 195 and 205 degrees. This results in the best possible extraction. Too cold, and the coffee will be flat, hotter and you’ll lose some taste quality.

>> Pay attention to brewing time.

A plunger pot will take between two and four minutes, while a drip system will be about five minutes. Espresso should have contact with the water for only about 30 seconds. Miss these times and you’ll wind up over or underextracting.

>> Don’t forget the add ins.

The creamer and sweeteners you choose (if any) to add to your coffee make a huge difference. Make sure to choose brands you absolutely love, and to add them to your cup in the right amounts.

This will get you started toward making your own favorite artisan coffee at home. With a little bit of trial and error, you may even surpass the expertise of your favorite barista.


Dawn Gilbert is a coffee connoisseur and Social Media Coordinator at NJoy. When Dawn isn’t tweaking her coffee roasting tactics, she enjoys traveling with her husband.



Editor: Nikki Di Virgilio

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