I have been brewing only really great coffees for the last two months. Every day I had an opportunity to enjoy well roasted, 88+ and higher specialty coffees, exemplary in complexity of aromas and flavour and in terms of balance of acidity and sweetness.
I have been brewing in an Octo storm, Russian-born pour over device, which is kinda in some ways similar to April Brewer, Kalita and even Origami dripper (similar, but not identical of course, it is enough to see the shape of the basket).
Guess how many recipes I used?
Once recipe. Because coffee was well roasted and therefore easily extracted, and with the recipe I was getting a superb balance of body, acidity and sweetness with enough aromatics – I was changing nothing.
I had to change something today, when I opened another coffee from another roaster – and after the first brew discovered that it was pretty underdeveloped.
That’s when I knew I had to change the way I brew. Not because my inicial recipe was bad – but because it didn’t work with this particular coffee. So in this case, I use the recipe as a way to compensate for a not so developed roast, as a tool, as a way to extract more from the coffee that was not giving up its taste so easily as I expected.
And that’s what the recipe actually is – the tool that we, coffee brewers, have to extract what we want from the coffee that we ended up with. Get creative!
Sometimes it happens, and you discover that you are brewing coffee that has some roasting issues, and is not developed properly. Of course, before blaming the roaster, make sure that you are doing everything right in your department. Sensory memory and experience helps – if you tasted many coffees and discussed them with other people, you have a clear understanding of what underdeveloped roast tastes like.
What can you do if you get one? How can you modulate the brewing profile to mitigate the roasting problems?
- Try to use higher water temperature (don’t be afraid to go up to 100C), and keep this temperature stable throughout the brew
- Use multiple pours (4-5 and more)
- At the same time you can increase the dosage of dry coffee, but it comes at the price of losing sweetness and getting really harsh acidity (not quite good solution, because it makes you waste more coffee, but still popular between the baristas)
- Grind slightly finer – just enough to have a bigger surface and to have more coffee in contact with water without clogging the filter
- Use water with slightly higher mineralization (120ppm, for example) with higher levels of Ca and Mg – it will help you to extract more components.
For the sake of the experiment, it is always better to change one parameter at the time to understand its influence.
And don’t forget – you can only extract what is there. If there is nothing, there is nothing to do with it.