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Coffee Brew Guide

Our Favorite Brewing Methods

ESPRESSO

If you're like us you love your coffee strong! Here we'll review how to create a great espresso at home utilizing a small espresso machine for that at-home barista experience. First let's check out a few tools needed for this brew method.

Espresso Machines

Breville Bambino Plus. This is a great espresso machine for beginners. Simple to use and extremely efficient. This handy tool comes in around $500 depending on where you shop.

Gaggia Classic Pro. This espresso machine is more affordable but has a tough time frothing milk if that's your thing. It's a more budget friendly option compared to the other two listed, but not by much, which is why our pick is still the Breville. The Gaggia runs around $450.

Breville Barista Touch. It's not surprise that Breville is a frequent option of many espresso aficionados. The Barista Touch is simple to use but comes with some advanced features that'll impress your friends next time you have them over for a coffee date. The Barista Touch will run you around $1,000.

Check out these options and review more. It can be daunting with all the available espresso machines out there today, but keep in mind that if you have other tools, the right grind and great coffee then you'll be crafting espresso at home in no time.

Which coffee to choose?

No matter how good your equipment is, you'll never have a great espresso with subpar, uninspired coffee. Have you ever seen bags of coffee labeled "espresso roast?" You might be surprised to find out that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a good roast for your espresso. Dark roasts are generally used to make espresso. Blends can be great but single origin coffees are typically well suited for the espresso brewing method.

Our goal is to keep coffee fresh, which is why we sell mainly whole bean coffee. It retains the freshness longer. Additionally, letting your coffee sit for a few weeks after the roasting process allows release of Co2, allowing for the coffee to garner more of a pungent flavor. Here at Riot Roasters, we have done most of the waiting for you, so your beans are ready to go as soon as they hit your doorstep. Even better if you have an air sealed container that will keep your beans fresher for longer.

The grind

For espresso, as a rule of thumb, you should grind your beans 'very fine.' The goal is less coarse than sand, but not so fine that your espresso machine can't push water through the portafilter. Depending on which espresso machine you have, this might take some trial and error. Visually review the grind and taste test to find the perfect grind size for your machine. Always remember to "purge" your grinder. This means that you are running the grinder to move any remaining coffee grounds through it so you don't get an uneven grind next espresso run.

The weight

Coffee is all about weight. For espresso your goal should be anywhere from 13 - 16 grams for a standard double shot of espresso. A good scale can be found at any general grocery store.

Time to shoot  your shot

It's time to pull your shot. Fill your portafilter with a double shot worth of grounds (remember to weigh it if you can, if not... gotta learn somehow) and should have a small mound of grounds. Lightly run your finger over the portafilter to evenly distribute the grounds, leaving no gaps or holes for water to seep through. DO NOT pat down the grounds. Let them lay softly.

After you've smoothed the coffee grounds, place the portafilter on a strong, even surface like the edge of your counter-top and tamp evenly. Do you best to keep the pressure even during the tampering.

Time to brew

Briefly run your espresso machine without the portafilter in to clean out any excess grounds that might be stuck. Insert the portafilter, lock it in place, grab your clear espresso shot glass and press start! We use a clear glass when learning so you can watch how the coffee sets in the glass as the espresso brewing process matures.

It can be helpful to time your espresso brew shots. Since we're looking for a more concentrated cup of coffee by using the espresso machine, a good rule of thumb is a 1:2 brew ratio. This is the ratio of ground coffee to hot water. Our goal is to dial in our machine to brew between 26 - 30 seconds. We can actually tell if we need to adjust our grind size depending if the machine brews faster or slower than this range. So, take a taste test then readjust your grinding process a bit to try and nail your timing. Some higher end espresso machines have timers and presets, which you can use and adjust as needed.

Frothing

Interested in adding milk to your espresso? Many people prefer different types of milk today given preference and health lifestyles. Many people recommend full-fat cow's milk because of it's taste and texture, but there are alternative milks out there specifically made for baristas in a variety of options including almond, soy, oat and more. Just make sure to remember that you'll get a different flavor and consistency with each.

Get your milk pitcher and fill it halfway. Remember hearing that hissing sound in cafe's before someone makes an espresso? That's the barista purging the spout before they insert it into the pitcher to make sure and remove any excess condensation. Repeat this process when done frothing to prep the next cup.

Now you're ready to steam. Hold the pitcher with both hands. Place the wand / spout at an angle and insert into the pitcher. Almost touching the inner wall of the pitcher. As the spout starts expelling steam the pitcher will start to heat up. Slight and continuously lower the pitcher until you start to hear a hissing noise. This means air is being shot down into the milk which creates the smooth texture. We're looking for a quiet hiss, not a gurgle or loud hiss. Our goal is to create small, smooth bubbles.

You're one step closer to becoming a barista

You're on your way to impressing your friends with an incredible glass of espresso. The process can be frustrating so remember to continue practicing and perfecting your skills / preferences in your texture and taste.

Now, start making some incredible espresso and drink inspired.

Moka

One of our favorite brew methods right now is the Moka Pot. If you want your entire home to smell like a cafe this is the way to go. This method is perfect for getting a quick brew or having coffee on the go where electricity isn't readily available. All you need is a little fire. This is an easy brewing method to mess up so don't fret if you get a bitter taste your first attempt.

Which coffee to choose?

The Moka Pot is pretty easy to come by these days. In fact, it's great for traveling because of it's compact size. But, when it comes to choosing the right coffee it's dealers choice. Moka brew can be done with your preferred roast. Ours is our Jet Fuel Coffee Roast.

Our goal is to keep coffee fresh, which is why we sell mainly whole bean coffee. It retains the freshness longer. Additionally, letting your coffee sit for a few weeks after the roasting process allows release of Co2, allowing for the coffee to garner more of a pungent flavor. Here at Riot Roasters, we have done most of the waiting for you, so your beans are ready to go as soon as they hit your doorstep. Even better if you have an air sealed container that will keep your beans fresher for longer.

Step 1 - Pre-Heat

Briefly preheat your water in a kettle before adding it to the Moka Pot. The intent here is to keep the temperature of the Moka Pot from getting too hot. If the Moka becomes too hot this can actually cook the coffee and convey a metallic taste from the metal wall.

Step 2 - The Grind

Typically we like to grind our coffee on a drip setting. We don't want to go too far and grind like an espresso (looks like table salt). We should attempt to achieve a bit of a courser grind with this  brew method. We want enough coffee to fill the filter basket inside the Moka Pot, which is about 15 to 17 grams.

Step 3 - Prepping The Moka

First and foremost, make sure your Moka Pot is clean! Coffee remains can actually create a bitter taste in your new cup. Take the hot water from your kettle and fill the bottom portion right below the safety valve. Fill the filter basket with a small mound of coffee then prime it by running your finger over it to evenly disperse the coffee grounds. Then insert the filter basket into the bottom half of the Moka Pot. Make sure no excess grounds are on the rim, which can prevent a tight seal. Finally, screw the top and bottom pieces together firmly. Do not over tighten the top.

Pro Tip: Make sure to grab a towel when you tighten the top and bottom together because the bottom will be hot from the hot water you just poured in.

Step 4 - Brew Time

Place your Moka Pot on the stove top or over a flame. We prefer a gas stove if at home. Use moderate heat and keep the lid open. Now watch as that liquid gold flows up and into the top portion of the Moka Pot.

You want the coffee to continue pouring into the top portion of the Moka until you start to hear a gurgling sound, which means all the water has moved to the top. Quickly remove the Moka from the stove to prevent it from burning and turning bitter.

Pro Tip: While still sealed, run the bottom portion of the Moka Pot under some cool water to get rid of the steam and quickly stop the brewing process.

Bonus Step - Moka Pot Latte

If you want to test your barista skills, heat up some milk and grab your French Press. After your milk has heated enough add it to your French Press. Froth it several times and pour it into a creamer and add it to your freshly poured Moka brewed coffee. Viola, Moka Pot Lattes. 

Pour Over

If your into coffee you've probably heard of the infamous pour over method. The pour over method simply involves pouring hot water through coffee grounds but we're going to focus on why we love this  brew method, what equipment you'll need, grind profile and more.

The equipment

The nice thing about the pour over is you don't need to spend a lot of money to produce a quality cup of coffee. The list of available equipment can be daunting but we're going to lay it out for you to make the best decision for you financially.

You'll also need a nice kettle. Why use a kettle instead of a cup or regular glass? You can really use anything but an elite coffee drinker is using a strong kettle to make their pour over. A kettle keeps your water at a solid temperature, you get consistent extraction, and the gooseneck design easily controls the outflow of water. It's simply required in our eyes.

Hairo v60 Dripper. Although the V60 launched over 10 years ago, it's still one of Hairo's premiere inventions today. Hairo has received various design awards and continues to be used in many homes and cafes today. What sets the V60 apart from other pour over equipment are it's spiral ribs which allow air to escape during the pour, which maximizes the expansion of your coffee grounds.

Kalita Wave. Kalita Co. is a Japanese company that's been crafting coffee equipment since the 1950's. This is very similar to the V60 from Hairo but offers a different design. The V60 and Chemex drips through a single, centralized hole. The Kalita Wave bodes a flat bottom with three separate extraction holes, thus eliminating the chance of water channeling in the coffee bed. When using  a filter with the Kalita Wave it hardly touches the edges, allowing for airflow similar to the V60 in a different style.

Chemex. You've probably seen the Chemex used quite often in the coffee world. It's design is one that bodes an eloquent status as a coffee drinker. The Chemex was designed by a German chemist named Peter Sclumbohm, which has been in production since 1941. What's nice about a Chemex is that it produces a very clean cup of coffee because the filter papers are thicker than normal filters, which allow them to retain more impurities and oils during the brew process.

These are our favorite options when it comes to pour over equipment. We're big fans of the Kalita Wave right now due to it's small form factor and durability while traveling. As our business continues to grow we plan to partner with these brands to sell their products on our site! 

The filters

You might think it's not a big deal when it comes to choosing filters. Couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, there's quite a debate on what filters are best or if it even matters.

What types of filters are there?
• Paper
• Cloth
• Bleached
• Unbleached

As mentioned above, certain filters are made for certain equipment. For example, the Chemex has thicker paper filters that allegedly support a cleaner cup of coffee. Some coffee lovers state that paper leaves a certain "papery" taste in the coffee. Upon our research and preferred methods, we've seen cloth used more commonly to prevent any deviation to the taste of the coffee. Another benefit to cloth is that is has less of an environmental impact on the planet, and we need mother nature to produce more coffee. We like it that way. You could also go biodegradable.

The main goal is to make sure you have a filter that's specific to your equipment for the best result.

The scale

Get yourself a good digital scale. It'll save you time and create a better tasting cup of coffee when using the pour over method. Hairo makes a great scale that's sleek and precise.

What coffee to choose - Roast Profile & Grind Size

Roast Profile
Most baristas recommend using a light roast coffee for the pour over method, because a good pour over brings out the aromas and flavor notes of the coffee. It's a subtle hint but it truly does. The darker you go the more robust the flavor is going to be. Light roast beans have the brightest and most acidic flavors.

Grind Size
As we've mentioned in other brew methods the grind size is important because it affects the rate of extraction. It's about balance of coffee and water with a pour over. We recommend starting with a medium grind while you're trying to figure out your preference. A cup that is watery / sour may require a finer grind, and a cup that is bitter requires a coarser grind. A quality grinder is key - check out blade grinders and burr grinders - because you want control over your grind for consistency in every cup at home.

Some brew masters will recommend a fine grind to improve the body / aroma of the coffee. It helps you make a faster cup of coffee if you plan to make it for a small group or go through a few cups on your own.

We're ready to brew

Now you've got your equipment, you've selected your coffee and finished grinding and we're ready to start brewing.

For this example we're using the Kalita Wave.

Step 1: Heat your water. Roughly 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or just before boiling.

Step 2: Select your favorite selection of beans

Step 3: Weigh your beans out on your digital scale. Roughly 25-35 grams.

Step 4: Grind your beans, fine if you're feeling like the masters. Consistency similar to kosher salt.

Step 5: Get your Kalita Wave out and toss a filter inside. Take your kettle and pre-wet the filter.

Step 6: Empty your glass so you only have the wet filter.

Step 7: Dump in your grinds, make sure to even them out in the Wave

Step 8: Put your glass on a scale and start pouring in your water - use a circular motion and stop when about 60 grams of water is reached.

Step 9: Pause and let the coffee bloom from 20 - 30 seconds or until the water has settled - the bloom is the little bubbles created while extracting the coffee.

Step 10: Continue pouring to about 200 grams of water.

Step 11: Lightly stir the coffee to ensure all the water is filtered down.

Step 12: Continue to pour until around 300 grams is met.

Step 13: Pour into your cup and enjoy.

Key tip: If brewing for 2 cups of coffee in a Chemex a good ratio rule of thumb is 37g of coffee to 500g of water. You can measure two 250g pours to keep things super simple.

French Press

If you're looking to make an incredible cup coffee look no further than the French Press. This brew method is not for those in a hurry. Our method will result in an incredible cup of silt and sludge free coffee from your French Press. This process takes some patience but the reward is oh-so good. 

The equipment

The first thing you'll need is a French Press coffee maker. You've probably seen this in your local grocery store or even some cafes. There are various sizes and styles. Here are a few basics on Amazon for you to check out.

The Recipe

What is your water to coffee ratio?
A good rule of thumb from baristas is typically 15:1. Something like 500 grams of water to 30 grams of coffee. A great rule is 60g - 70g of coffee to 1L of water.
Water temperature:
Similar to the Pour Over method, we want our water temperature to be around 202F. Just before boiling. If your water begins to boil just take if off the heat, swirl it around and wait for the bubbles to dissipate.
Brew time:
This method will take roughly four to four and a half minutes.
Grind setting:
You'll want to set your grinder to a 6-6.5 setting. The grind should be a medium-coarse and have the consistency of sea salt.

The Technique

Step 1: Start heating your water.

Step 2: Grind your favorite coffee. As mentioned above, go for a medium coarse grind. Avoid the typical super coarse grind.

Step 3: Grab your French Press and add your coffee.

Step 4: Pour in your water. Remember to weigh and your ratios!

Step 5: Let the coffee sit. We're going to hangout for about 4 minutes. Check your email or something.
• Here we're letting the coffee and water work together so we get a smooth cup of coffee.
Step 6: Take a small spoon and stir the top "crust." Then spoon out the bits that are at the top and dispose of them. We don't need them.

Step 7: Wait another 4 - 5 minutes.
• Now, we know what you're thinking. 5 more minutes?! Yes. You'll thank us later. Your coffee is most likely too hot to drink anyway. Think of it as we're slow cooking the coffee.  The extraction process is slow with a French Press, which is why the reward is so delicious. Once you come back to the French Press you'll notice many of the grounds have fallen to the bottom of the cafetiere. This is our goal. Let the coffee settle in the liquid.

Step 8: Plunge the coffee. The key is to move slowly here! Since most of the coffee has settled we don't want to disturb it and bring more back up, which could result in coffee grounds in our cup.
• The key here is to not plunge all the way. Plunge until you're just above the coffee grounds that have settled.

Step 9: Gently pour your cup of coffee and enjoy.

Tips & Considerations

Always keep a scale around to measure your coffee and water. Dialing in your settings is key to a great cup of coffee with any brew method.

A good grinder with the right settings will prevent any potential fine grounds to pass through the plunger filter. Too fine of a grind can actually result in a "muddy" sludge like coffee.

Quality water is key. You may not think it, but a quality filtered water will result in an even better cup of coffee. This is with any brew method.

If you actually "pre-heat" your coffee mugs and French Press, you'll get a better cup of coffee. Pouring hot coffee into a cold cup kills the extraction process. You're just getting more out of each cup if you do this. Not really a necessity.

If you have more time, pour a small amount of water over the grounds in the French Press and let it bloom. Then after about 30 seconds add in the remaining water.

Always thoroughly clean your French Press after every brew. Any leftover remnants could get in the next cup making it taste bitter.


Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is pretty simple to make and you can make a great cup at home!

Is it trendy? Maybe. Is it delicious and worth it? Absolutely.

The method we prefer is actually called Japanese Iced Coffee. Some coffee aficionado's believe that immersion cold brew - coffee left in a container like a French Press - to steep overnight dulls the flavor and doesn't grasp the full experience of a great iced coffee. You're likely to lose the aromas and flavor notes. It's not that the coffee is bad, but we can actually get more out of the method below.

If you've heard of the slow drip cold brew method, this extracts a vast range of flavors. But this process can be extremely labor intensive and take several hours. Quite honestly, most of us don't have time for that, which is why the Japanese Iced Coffee method is much more preferred.

So What Is Japanese Ice Coffee?

It's simply coffee brewed with hot water directly onto ice. If you've read the other brew methods, this should be pretty simple. We get to brew the coffee hot so we can maximize the extraction of the coffee while preserving the qualities of your specialty coffee.

The Technique 

For this example we're going to use the Pour Over method with a Kalita Wave.

Step 1: Grab your glass, Kalita Wave and a filter.

Step 2: We need about 25g - 30g  coffee. Think roughly 5g more than you would usually use.

Step 3: We're going to grind the coffee a bit finer than we usually would. This is going to help maximize our extraction when pouring.

Step 4: Because we're placing ice in the bottom of the decanter, we're going to use roughly 40% ice and 60% water. For this example we'll use 180g of ice and 270g of water.

Step 5: We want to water our filter paper and Kalita Wave in the sink with warm water. Unlike the pour over, we don't want to wet the paper with the hot water because it will cause the decanter to heat up and prematurely melt our ice.

Step 6: Pour in roughly 75g of hot water in to let the coffee bloom. Make sure and let the coffee bloom for 45 - 60 seconds. Don't rush it!

Step 7: After the initial bloom we want to time out the remaining pours. At 1:00 slow pour to 100g of water for about 30 seconds then pause again. At 1:50 slow pour to 180g of water then pause at 2:00. At 2:30 slow pour to 270g of water and let the remainder drain until 3:30. While the remainder is draining make sure to light stir the coffee in a circular motion again, opposite of the previous stir.

Step 8: Remove the Wave and swirl the decanter a few times. We're trying to get rid of any remaining pieces of ice. A perfect Japanese Ice Coffee would result in no ice in the decanter. So continue to test your ice to water ratio depending on how cold your ice is from your refrigerator.

Step 9: Grab a glass. Add fresh ice. Pour in your freshly made Japanese Ice Coffee and enjoy.

Tips & Considerations

We're using a little more coffee because we want to up the intensity a bit given that ice is going to slightly dilute the coffee as you drink it over time. This doesn't mean we can add a lot more coffee because we still need to consider the extraction process since we're using less water than usual. How are we using less water? The ice in the bottom of the decanter will melt and we are considering that as water in the initial brew.

Because all ice machines are not the same temperature. Aim for 35% - 45% of ice accounted for as your brew water in a total of 500g.

We're giving the coffee more time to bloom because we're allowing a longer extraction. Again, since we have less water we want to maximize our extraction period to get the most out of our coffee.

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