So, you found Iron Bean Coffee! You maybe bought a sample pack and have been trying all the flavors, finding favorites and falling in love. If you came from regular store bought coffee I bet you never even imagined coffee could be this good!! I bet you’re thinking, “It can’t get any better than this!” Surprise! It can and I’m going to help as much as possible.
There are many people already doing some or all of the tips and methods i'll go over but this article is for those that are rather new to specialty coffee. I remember when I first got away from store bought coffee, it was amazing. I started researching even more and found out that there were all kinds of coffee brewing methods, measurements, temperatures, grinds, etc. It was all so very overwhelming. Dizzying even. Before then coffee was just coffee, all of a sudden it was so much more. So this blog is for those who have recently gotten away from store coffee to help you make the most of your Iron Bean Coffee experience. I'm not going to get too advanced and technical, it's all overwhelming enough. I want to help the layman and give enough info that maybe you'll be intrigued to research even further on your own. It's time to take it to the next level!
The first and one of the simplest things you can do to improve your everyday coffee experience is to grind your own beans. If you don't do anything else, at least try this! I don't know why I was so resistant to try it for so long. It probably took me about a year of drinking pre-ground specialty coffee before I decided to give grinding my own beans a shot. Once I did there was no going back.
At first I started out with a cheap little blade grinder. Don't make my mistake! To get a good grind a burr grinder is essential. A poor grind WILL affect the taste of your coffee. Luckily they do have affordable options, you don't have to spend a ton, and as long as it's a burr grinder you're good to go. A burr grinder is made up of two revolving abrasive surfaces (called burrs), in between which the coffee is ground. What makes a burr grinder more effective is that there's much more control and the grind comes out fairly uniform. A blade simply slices the beans, so the grind is much less consistent.
Now once you get into different brew methods that will determine how fine or course you want your grind. If you're using a regular auto drip coffee machine a medium grind should be fine. The first time you grind your own beans you'll quickly see the difference. Think of when you first open a fresh newly roasted bag of Iron bean, OMG the smells and flavors!! Now, think of that every single time you have a cup of coffee. Grinding you own coffee is important because coffee can go stale. The process of going stale is accelerated the moment coffee is ground (you're literally breaking it down). Which is perfectly fine when you're about to brew it right then. It isn't so good when you order your coffee ground and finish your bag two months later. That 2 month old grind sure isn't as fresh as day one. If you tend to plow through your coffee and drink it so fast that it never gets old you may not have a need to worry. If however, you get into some of the different brew methods grind becomes even more important.
The first advanced method I’ll go over is the French Press. When you break it down the French Press is rather simple, it just seems complicated initially if all you’re familiar with are drip brewers. The French Press looks similar to a teapot with the main difference being the lid that has a filter and plunger attached. What makes this method special is that it is an immersion method, meaning the beans are fully emerged in water. This allows for a full extraction of flavor, rather than just running water through the beans for a few moments. The coffee also doesn’t pass through a filter, so all the delicious oils are left in your cup for your enjoyment allowing for a completely different flavor experience.
For this method you’ll want to go with a course grind for your beans. To get started you’ll want to heat your water up to roughly 200°F. A thermometer is helpful, an electric kettle makes it even simpler. While the water is heating measure out your coffee. How many grounds you use depends on personal preference and how many cups you’d like. I like my coffee rather strong so I tend to use 2 ½ tablespoons of grounds for every 5oz of water. Definitely experiment with this! If you want to get all super technical and scientific with it weighing your grounds would be the most exact method. This is because lighter roasted beans weigh more as they’ve spent less time roasting and less moisture content is burnt off.
Once your coffee grounds and water are ready it’s time to pour. Pour just some water into the French press initially, just enough to cover the beans. Let this sit for 30 seconds. This allows the grinds to bloom. If your beans are fresh you should actually see the beans puff up as gasses are released. The blooming processes releases CO2 so the grinds and water can come into direct contract allowing for a much deeper and even extraction. After your bloom go ahead and pour in the rest of your water. Set a timer for 4 minutes max and place the lid on your press but don’t push the plunger just yet! It’s important not to go over the 4 minute time limit by much. It’s very easy to wait a bit too long and end up with a bitter cup of coffee.
Once your timer goes off press the plunger down slowly. This plunger will push your grounds to the bottom of the beaker allowing you to pour out your coffee without ending up with grinds in your cup. If your plunger is hard to press down than likely your grind is a bit too fine. Unless you made enough for only one cup go ahead and pour all of the coffee into a separate container. If it’s left in the French press it’ll continue to cook and get bitter. Go ahead and enjoy that coffee now! You should notice a distinct difference between your French pressed cup and your typical auto drip brew.
The Chemex is another highly praised brew method that initially can seem quite intimidating. The Chemex was invented by a chemist who wanted the perfect cup, so everything is done very precisely to achieve that goal. The Chemex initially seems rather similar to an auto drip, the water pours through the beans and through a filter. The difference is in the details and in the level of control. The main component of what makes a Chemex different and effective is the filter. The Chemex filter is extremely thick, much more so than normal filters. This thickness allows for a ‘clean’ cup of coffee. Unlike the French Press a Chemex cup will filter out the oils resulting in a completely different end result in your cup.
To get started with the Chemex, grind your coffee a bit more fine than you would for a French Press. You want to go for a Medium-Course grind. You will again heat the water up to roughly 200°F. As the water is heating up place the filter in your Chemex but don’t add your grinds just yet. Once the water is up to temperature you’ll use some to soak your filter. Thoroughly wet your filter as it sits on top of your Chemex. This will help to rinse out any funny paper tastes and well as warm your beaker. Additionally this step helps your filter create suction between the paper and the glass. Go ahead and pour the water out of the Chemex. The paper won’t fall out now that it’s wet.
Next, go ahead and add your grinds. I stick to the same 2 ½ tablespoons of coffee per 5oz (a Chemex cup is 5oz) for this method. Feel free to deviate and find what works for you. I should try more precise methods like weighing, but I’m stuck in my ways for the moment (lazy). Now, just like with the French press, you have to allow your coffee beans to bloom. This is a critical step that is sadly missed with most auto drip machines.
After your beans bloom for 30 seconds add your water slowly in a circular motion. For measuring your water in the Chemex keep in mind that the little ‘nub’ on the front of your Chemex is the halfway mark and the bottom of the wooden collar is the top. I didn’t know this for the longest time!! As you pour you’ll notice that the water moves very slowly through this filter. This slow pace allows for a very deep extraction. I believe this deep extraction helps to make up for the loss of oils that are removed due to the thick filter paper. In the end you will have a deep, rich, ‘clean’ cup of coffee.
When I first read about the Chemex the idea of removing oils seemed odd to me. Who wouldn’t want those oils?? Really it all comes down to personal preference. If acidic coffee ever bothers your stomach or a roast is too bitter for you, a Chemex will be the way to go. After experimenting with many different roasts I’ve found that no one method of coffee brewing works for all beans / roasts. Personally I prefer most of the lighter roasts in the French Press. The press extracts even the most subtle notes. I don’t personally like many light roasts initially, then I brew them in a French press and suddenly I can taste all different notes and flavors that were hidden prior. For dark roasts I prefer them in the Chemex. The Chemex removes any bitterness that will get in between my palate and that delicious coffee flavor. The Chemex is also great at filtering out that ‘sludge’ that you’ll sometimes find at the bottom of you regularly filtered coffee.
There are many other brewing methods out there to explore. There’s the aeropress, percolators, siphon brewers, moka pot, espresso, cold brew, just to name a few. I went over the two methods I think will immediately show you drastically different results. If you take one roast and compare an auto-drip, Chemex pour and French Press side by side you will taste obvious differences.
If you’ve ever wanted to try these methods I hope this article helped.
If you are brand new to specialty coffee and have only ever made auto-drip then I encourage you to give at least one of these methods a try, I promise it’ll be worth the extra effort. These methods will show you just how versatile Iron Bean’s roasts are and you’ll taste notes and flavors that will surprise you. You’re already buying the best coffee you possibly can so give it and yourself that royal treatment! Make the most of each and every cup!