After years of being the favorite scapegoat of baristas everywhere, coffee professionals are recognizing anew that automatic consumer coffee makers are not that bad. In fact, when it comes to the class of SCA-certified brewers, like the Bonavita 1901 series or the iconic Techivorm Moccamaster, you would be hard pressed to get better results with a pour-over.
That being said, even with the right equipment, getting the most out of your coffee maker requires a little care. That’s why we’ve compiled a surefire guide on how to get the most out of your coffee maker.
Use the Right Recipe
The Specialty Coffee Association recommends 60 grams of coffee to 1 liter of brew water. We sometimes tweak that recipe depending on the coffee and roast level, but nine times out of ten, you’re going to get the best results with “Gold Cup” standards. In addition to having the right brewing ratio (roughly 1:16), you want to make sure your dose is optimized to your brew basket. The SCA recommends a bed depth of 4-5 cm. (i.e. if you stuck a ruler in the coffee grounds, it would be 4-5 cm. deep). For most consumer coffee makers, this means using a dose between 40-60 grams of coffee.
To ensure accurate results, we recommend carefully weighing your coffee grounds with a scale. Also, be wary of trusting the measurements on the water tank. They tend to be somewhat inaccurate and confusingly listed in “cups” rather than liters or ounces.
Use Filtered Water
Unless you live in Melbourne, Australia, your tap water is probably not great for making coffee. Too much bicarbonate (i.e. the entire American Midwest), and your coffee is going to taste flat and bitter, not to mention the mineral deposits that will build up overtime. Unfortunately, bottled filtered water– preferably one with the mineral content listed — is the most practical option for optimal results. Look for water with a total hardness of 80-150 ppm, with less than 100 ppm bicarbonate.
Use the Right Size Grind
Top-tier cafés use a refractometer, in addition to carefully trained palates, to optimize their grind settings. For consumers, this is a little trickier. The difference between sour (under-extracted) and bitter (over-extracted) can be elusive for some tasters, so we recommend using brew time as a cheat sheet. Measuring from the time water first makes contact with the grounds, a liter batch should take 4-5 minutes to brew. In general, batch brew calls for a medium to medium-coarse grind. If you don’t have a high quality burr grinder, like a Baratza Encore, it’s worth having your local coffee shop grind the coffee for you. Slightly stale coffee ground on an industrial grinder still tastes better than fresh ground coffee on a cheap, inconsistent consumer grinder.
Give it a Stir
This applies to both the slurry during brewing (assuming the coffee maker is set up to allow access to the basket during brewing) and the finished brew itself. The Bonavita 1901 series doesn’t allow you to access the basket during brewing, but thankfully its water distribution is very good, evenly saturating all of the grounds. The Moccamaster has a much smaller shower head, and we find it needs a little help. Once there’s enough water in the basket to wet all of the grounds, we give the slurry a quick stir, digging deep to look for any dry pockets. Sometimes we give it a second, gentler stir later in the brew. The goal here is a completely flat brew bed at the end of brewing with no craters or valleys.
All batch brew benefits from a stir after brewing. Coffee tends to stratify in the pot, with the thinner, bitter bits floating on top. A quick stir with a wooden spoon helps homogenize the brew and ensure each cup is balanced.
Use Good Coffee
Of course, the most essential step is using fresh specialty coffee from a roaster you trust. Simply put, no coffee maker can improve the quality of the coffee. At best, it will release the flavor potential created at the farm and in the roaster.