If you’re anything like me, you’ll like your coffee strong, smoky and intense. But there’s a fine line between brewing a strong batch of quality coffee and tar-like slop that tastes burnt and overly bitter.
If you have the right combination of quality coffee, grind, water and dose, you’re well on your way to creating the perfect cup of joe. If you take it strong at home, there are a few very simple things you can do to preserve the quality of your coffee.
1. Choose a Dark Roast
The darkness of a particular roast is usually stated on the packaging. Dark roasts and French roasts usually deliver the most intense flavours. Look for dark roasts that are made with Colombian arabica beans for the perfect blend of earthiness and acidity.
2. Use Only the Freshest Beans
To get that deep, dark and smoky flavour of coffee you love without the harsh bitterness and aftertaste, you need to make sure your beans are fresh. I only ever grind beans just before I use them. A pack of coffee beans never lasts more than three or four days in my house, so freshness is never an issue. I’d recommend using beans within two weeks of opening them. But never throw out-of-date beans away, as they can be used for cold brews, composting and cooking.
3. Use Your French Press
Tweaking the strength of your coffee is easy with a French press. Add an extra teaspoon of ground coffee to give your coffee a significant boost in flavour, and brew it as you normally would. You can experiment with different amounts of coffee to find your ideal brew – without ruining the overall quality.
4. Use Salt
Just a pinch of salt in your next batch of French press or drip coffee could be enough to bring out all of those wonderful coffee flavour profiles you love. Again, finding the right quantity of salt will require a little trial and error. The optimum amount of salt will enhance the flavour without leaving a salty taste in your mouth afterwards.
5. Check Your Grind
In my experience, the single most common reason for weak coffee in the home is using the wrong grinder setting. Think of coffee grounds in terms of sand and pebbles; imagine water running through both. The rate at which water flows through them both varies hugely, and the less contact time it has, the weaker the final product is. A good burr grinder will have easy-to-understand settings, so you can choose the right grind for your brewing method.
6. Filter Your Water
Fresh, pure water creates fresh and pure coffee; it’s that simple. If you’re trying to brew particularly strong coffee with poor quality or hard water, you may find that bitterness takes over. If possible, add a filter to your tap. Otherwise, buy a cheap water filtration system, and fill your coffee brewing equipment with that.
7. Get Your Ratios Right
While you can experiment with different amounts of coffee in a French press, you should still be using the standard ration of one to two tablespoons of coffee for every six fluid ounces of water you’re using. Personally, I use four heaped tablespoons of ground coffee in my French press, which gives me two large cups of strong “builder’s” coffee.
8. Don’t Meddle
I’ve said this many times before: don’t destroy the wonderful flavour profiles of strong coffee by adding sugar, milk, cream, syrup or anything other than a little salt. Also, be careful with what you eat whilst drinking your coffee, as rich foods can soften the flavour profiles you cherish. I find that scrambled eggs on toast with a large cup of Columbian dark roast is the breakfast of champions!
It’s important to make the distinction between strong coffee and bad coffee that lingers. Take care and follow these steps with your brews, and your coffee can be intense without being overpowering.