Having really high-quality specialty coffee beans is only half the battle in the process of making an amazing cup of coffee. Assuming the coffee ready to be brewed is optimally roasted in a way that brings out its natural flavor profile, there are still any number of mistakes someone can make while brewing that can turn a potential magical cup of coffee into something truly terrible.
One tried and true process that has been around since the 1950s and upheld by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is the Golden Cup Standard. This standard provides specific guidelines based on scientific research conducted to develop a baseline for quality. But even before I get into the specifics of the Golden Cup Standard, there are other important measures that also must be followed in order to ensure quality, including the water quality, freshness of of the coffee, grind size, and cleanliness of the brewing equipment.
The quality of the water that you use when brewing coffee is very important, as it will greatly affect the flavor. It’s recommended that the water follows the SCA water quality standard, which stipulates that the water used be clean, fresh, odorless, free of chlorine, but also retain the presence of certain minerals and compounds to properly bring out the natural flavors of the coffee.
Freshness of Coffee
How fresh the coffee you are using is also a very big factor in how the coffee will taste when brewed. After coffee beans have been roasted, they become highly perishable and need to be stored properly and consumed as quickly as possible. Once coffee has gone stale, it will lose much of its original flavor profile and taste very flat. Store whole coffee beans in an airtight container away from light and moisture in a cool, dry location. Roasted whole beans are said to stay fresh for approximately three weeks, but coffee that has been ground only retains its freshness for a little less than an hour.
Additionally, once the coffee has been brewed, it should only be kept if in a glass carafe for approximately 30 minutes or up to one hour if in a thermal carafe. After that, the coffee will no longer be fresh and will not taste the same.
The size of the coffee grind corresponds to the length of time it takes for it to be extracted using a particular brewing method. Based on whatever method you prefer to use, it will dictate how fine or coarse the grind you use should be. For example, by brewing using the drip method, the coffee needs to be more fine because the extraction time is much shorter than a French press, which requires a more coarse grind because the coffee is extracted by steeping. Always use a burr grinder so that the coffee grinds are even, as blade grinders chop unevenly which cause the coffee to extract unevenly as well and will result in undesirable flavors.
Clean Brewing Equipment
Coffee grinders, brewers and carafes must be cleaned properly and on a daily basis in order for the old coffee remnants to not interfere with the flavor of the coffee being brewed. Old coffee grinds will have a very negative impact on the flavor if they mix with the new coffee and will make the entire pot of coffee taste sour, burnt and bitter.
Golden Cup Standard
For all of you who are interested in following the Golden Cup Standard, I’ve included the full explanation of the standard below as described by SCA.
Coffee shall exhibit a brew strength, measured in Total Dissolved Solids, of 11.5 to 13.5 grams per liter, corresponding to 1.15 to 1.35 “percent” on the SCA Brewing Control Chart, resulting from a solubles extraction yield of 18 to 22 percent*.
*See full explanation of standard, below.
BREWING BEST PRACTICES
Coffee-to-Water Ratio: To achieve the Golden Cup Standard, the recommended coffee-to-water ratio is 55 g/L ± 10%.
Coffee Preparation Temperature: To achieve the Golden Cup Standard, water temperature, at the point of contact with coffee, is recommended to fall between 200°F ± 5° (93.0°C ± 3°).
EXPLANATION OF STANDARD
- Measurable elements:
- Water: valid when brewing water meets SCA water quality standard
- Ratio of Coffee-to-Water (55 g/L ± 10%)
- Grind/particle size distribution: matches the time of coffee-to water contact
- Equipment/brewing device:
- Time of Coffee-to-water Contact: 1-4 minutes Fine, 4-6 minutes Drip, 6-8 minutes Coarse
- Temperature: 200°F ± 5° (93.0°C ± 3°)
- Turbulence (mixing action of water flowing through & around the coffee particles to achieve a uniform extraction of soluble material)
- Filter media (least affect to brew flavor, body, time of contact & sediment less than 75 milligrams per 100 milliliters)
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Certified organic from day one, Laurie founded Cafe Virtuoso in 2008 with the vision of bringing a level of quality to coffee and tea previously unavailable in San Diego. Her passion and dedication ensures each business decision is based on being socially and ethically responsible and is acutely involved in every aspect of what it means to be truly sustainable.