The consideration of water is one of the most overlooked topics when it comes to brewing coffee at home. Yet, you could argue that water is as critical to a cup of coffee as the roasted coffee itself. The water is responsible for extracting all the aromas and flavors from the grounds and capturing the essence of coffee in the cup. Not to mention that 99% of your cup of coffee is water. The temperature of your water will result in a coffee that is either dull and lifeless or full of life with sweeter flavor notes.
Here are a few things to know about the water that you use and how best to ensure that you’re making the best cup of coffee possible at home – and, it’s easy.
What role does water play?
Coffee, when it is brewing, is undergoing a process of extraction. Simply stated, we use hot water to penetrate inside the coffee grounds and extract out chemical compounds which contribute to the flavors and attributes of coffee (learn more about extraction: An Introduction To Coffee Chemistry and Freshness).
The art of brewing is finding how best to efficiently and beneficially make this extraction occur. There are multiple variables at play from grind size and grind consistency all the way to water temperature and contact time (how long the water is in contact with the coffee grounds).
With this being said, one simple way to begin bringing your coffee to life is to focus on your water temperature.
Why is water temperature so important?
The temperature of your water is a leading factor in determining the efficiency of the coffee extraction. The hotter the water the quicker the extraction, and the cooler the water the slower the extraction. But, even more important than this is the effectiveness of the extraction. What is being pulled out of the coffee grounds and what is being left behind?
When brewing with water that is too hot, you’re more likely to over-extract disadvantageous flavors from the coffee grounds – compounds that add to bitterness and acrid flavors. Conversely, when brewing with water that is too cool, you’re more likely to miss out on the beneficial flavors and compounds that contribute to a well-balanced, pleasant, and flavorful cup of coffee.
Coffee is best enjoyed when brewed with water between 195º – 205º F. This water temperature is believed to be perfect for extracting the beneficial and optimal flavors and characteristics from the coffee and leaving the less beneficial behind.
What can I do at home?
If you make your coffee manually, bring your water to a rolling boil and then let it sit uncovered, off the heat, for 30 – 60 seconds to allow the water to fall into the ideal brewing range. If you have a kitchen thermometer, make sure that it’s calibrated for high heat and test how long it takes for your water to fall into the correct temperature range. This is a good way to learn how to easily replicate your process.
A great tool for your kitchen may be an electric water kettle with a gooseneck spout that heats and holds water at a variable degree. This is a great kitchen tool for any coffee lover using a manual coffee brew method such as a Chemex, pour-over, or french press where water temperature and pouring control is paramount.
If you use an automatic coffee brewer, you can research your coffee maker to see what temperature it brews at. This knowledge may lead you to look for a coffee maker that accurately heats and delivers optimal water throughout the entire brew process.
By paying attention to the temperature of your water, you’ll begin to notice a dramatic increase in the flavor and life of your coffee.
If you have questions about what brew method or coffee maker would elevate your coffee at home to another level, you can ask us anytime.