Using less coffee

October 09, 2011

Less can be more, quality over quantity...

When I first started making coffee at home, I'd use a lot of coffee. I saw a video of Blue Bottle's owner giving a talk. He likened a cafe's coffee dosing practices to a good restaurant's butter praxis--the less you know the better.

And if you take a look at Blue Bottle's preparation guides, you may be shocked to learn of the doses they apparently use in shop. They use a lot of coffee. Their nel drip--which produces something like a 200mL final beverage--uses an absolutely crazy coffee ratio. But it can work and work well, especially with beans that are darkly roasted and have funky characteristics, as Blue Bottle's beans tend to have.

I also took my cues from a shop that specializes in manual brew methods. They dosed--and still dose--their vacuum pots at close to double the standard 60/L ratio. Heady stuff.

I came to suspect that doses that high compensated for either poor technique or recalcitrant equipment. Vacuum pots and Hario v60s and Nel Drippers are really hard to work with; compared to the alternatives at least. They become easier to work with if you use a high dose. You're extracting a lower % so you're less likely to get bitter notes. And unless you completely mess up, you're going to end up with coffee that's got a big syrupy body. 

Nowadays, I dose at 60/L--and even less sometimes. With good technique and equipment, I don't have to compensate through dose. I don't lose much in body and I gain a lot when it comes to flavor clarity. Sometimes after brewing, I'll pour a little bit of extra water--say 10% of the final beverage's total weight--to lower the TDS and open the drink up even more. It works best with floral, tea-like coffees. I've got Stumptown's Injerto right now, and I'm liking it quite a bit at a lower strength.

Then again, I'm tempted to bust out my syphon and dose it heavily. Oh wait, I sold it because it makes coffee-making way too complicated and it's finicky as, well, a sugar-rushed toddler! 

Less can be more. 



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