Common Coffee Mistakes & How To Correct Them
Like me, most Britain’s can't start their day without a cup of coffee.
In fact, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA), the caffeinated beverage is only getting more and more popular from North to South UK.
An October 2020 NCA survey revealed that overall coffee consumption is up by 7% across the nation since 2018. Additionally, the data showed that 8 in 10 Britons drink coffee every week, and most drink just over three cups per day!
While millions of Brits typically get their caffeine fixes from Starbucks, Costa and other coffee-focused chains, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced many work from homers to brew coffee at home. 75% of UK coffee drinkers haven’t changed their habits, and now drink coffee from home. This means more focus on that barista quality coffee and an interest in different brewing methods and coffee gadgets.
With coffee brewing at home becoming so important, I thought it would be useful to share the most common mistakes people make when brewing a cup of brown gold. These mistakes may not dampen your coffee buzz or ruin your cup of coffee, but why settle for just a normal cup of coffee when you can have an amazing one?
#1 Your coffee beans are not fresh enough.
Freshly roasted coffee beans equal a delicious rich cup.
Buying freshly roasted coffee and storing it correctly to maintain it’s freshness makes a BIG difference to your daily cup.
The time between coffee roasting and brewing is critical to the taste of the final pour. Less time to oxidise means more flavour profiles and defined character.
Coffee education has come along way, but most people buy beans with no information about when the beans were roasted. For those consumers who want better tasting coffee at home, checking the roast date on your pack is the only way to ensure you are getting the freshest beans for the best-tasting brew. Anything over 3 months…. JUST SAY NO!
I highly recommend checking out your local roasteries and swapping commercial supermarket coffee for a fresh roast! Coffee roasteries have come a long way in the last 3 years, with many local areas having their own roastery.
Supermarket coffees tend to be way over 3 months old once they hit the shelves (with uninspiring robusta blends and lack of farmer care )…. by which point the coffee flavour profiles and character have already started to decline.
At Redber our coffee is only roasted to order, date stamped and sent out the same day, so the coffee you receive is phenomenally fresh, and full of flavour.
You can check out our delicious range of coffees here
#2 You're not grinding the coffee beans just before you brew them.
This builds on the previous “less-than-fresh” beans mistake!
Once you grind your fresh coffee beans, they begin to de-gas quite fast. Degassing is the release of gases from roasted coffee. When you roast coffee, carbon dioxide forms inside the bean.
These gases are released in the first few days after the coffee has been roasted. The problem is that the escaping gases can result in small bubbles releasing, when you brew your coffee. These air pockets can disrupt the surface contact between the coffee grounds and the hot water, leading to an uneven extraction of the aroma and flavour compounds in the dry coffee.
After grinding, you've just got around 30 minutes to an hour of freshness left. Ideally, you have to start the brewing immediately after grinding for the perfect brew!
Check out our recommended grinders here
# 3 You're not rinsing the coffee filter before you use it.
By now, and from reading our other blogs, many people have established that it is essential to buy good quality beans and grind them at home.
However, a mistake that people frequently make is not rinsing the filter paper before brewing. Run a cup of hot water through the filter before brewing, and the coffee will taste a lot cleaner and brighter. If you are using brown filter papers, it's especially vital to pre-rinse them, as they tend to have a cardboard flavour that can ruin even the most exquisite coffee bean.
Need coffee filter suggestions? We always recommend using oxygen-bleached filters from brands such as Hario or Melitta, since they have less chemical flavours. People tend to think that bleached paper filters are harmful to the environment, but oxygen-bleaching is a sustainable technique.
Want to know about filter papers? Check out our filter paper guide!
#4 You're using the wrong brew method.
Even if you're using the exact same coffee bean and roast, every brewing method will bring out a different flavour. Some brew methods make very strong, intense cups, others make very balanced cups, and others make very light, mellow cups
Both espresso and stove top coffee is intense and acidic, whilst coffee made with a French press is rich and mildy acidic. On the other hand, the pour-over/drip method yields rich and balanced coffee and an AeroPress creates a rich and mellow cup.
#5 The wrong roast.
You may end up not liking a particular coffee because of the way the bean has been roasted.
Light roasts are just that, very light and bright, and you don't want to use them with the more intense-resulting brew methods. Medium roasts are very balanced and work well with any brew method. These are the more versatile roasts, and you can use them up or down the spectrum. Medium Dark roasts are popular in the UK, and allow the best of both coffee profiles. Think intense yet balanced. Perfect for pour overs, bean to cup machines and stove tops.
#6 You're not using hot enough water to brew.
It can be an odd one to navigate as a novice, and a catch 22 situation. If you use water that's too hot, you can end up with a bitter, over-extracted brew. If you use water that's too cold, you can end up with a sour, unpleasant, under-extracted brew.
When it comes to brewing your morning coffee, water temperature is ESPECIALLY important.
It heavily influences the flavours you experience in the brew. In fact, the most common failing of home coffee makers is that they don't get the water hot enough to make coffee.
Most basic coffee makers only heat the water to 88 to 90 degrees Celsius, if you're lucky, I recommend using water that's between 93 to 96 degrees Celsius. That’s roughly 30 seconds off the boil, depending on your elevation.
If you want to be even more exacting and scientific about it, try heat your water based on your roast profile.
If you want to get really nerdy, try using slightly cooler water when brewing a dark roast (i.e. 93 or even 90 degrees, for a very dark roast) and slightly hotter water (97 degrees) when brewing a light roast.
Lighter roasts require a bit more teasing to get a full extraction.
Coffee hack for you: if you haven't got room in the budget for a new coffee maker, you can try using a finer grind, which can offset the cooler water and produce a stronger cup of coffee. Genius!!
# 7 You're not using chemical-free water.
A cup of coffee is, of course, mostly water and the chemicals and minerals in your tap will colour the flavour of your brew.
There are a variety of contaminants in the public water supply in the UK. Among the most common is chlorine, which is added at the last stage of water treatment to control microbial growth. From a public health standpoint, it makes a lot sense, but be aware that chemical additives in our water may be the most expressive part of your coffee brew.
Minerality is an issue in most parts of Britain with harder water in the South of England, giving a chalkier mouthfeel.
So what should you do about this issue? Well, there are a lot of options you can try to remove chemical contaminants and associated flavours from your morning coffee. You can try one of our IX Ice Filter systems or pick up a bottle of filtered water from the supermarket. You’ll find that filtered water is an improvement to your tap water. There are a variety of cost-effective water jugs and under-sink filters that you can use for a long-term fix.
#8 You're over-steeping your coffee.
If you brew coffee using the immersion method (such as in a French press), you need to steep the coffee grounds with hot water to extract the flavour. For a French press, the ideal time is about 3-4 minutes. Once this amount of time has passed, you should pour all the coffee out immediately.
If you let it sit whilst you have breakfast, the coffee grounds will continue to sit and steep. The brew is still going on as the grounds are still in direct contact with hot water. As a result, the coffee will get over-extracted and turn very bitter. Many people dislike a French press due to its reputation for producing bitter, murky coffee – but this is only if you steep the coffee too much. Avoid this, and only brew your coffee for the set amount of time. The taste will improve drastically.
#9 You're not properly storing your coffee beans.
The WORST thing you can do for the preservation of your coffee beans, is to leave them in the bag they came in. It's also what most coffee novices do.
Some of these bags are vacuum-sealed, as oxygen and moisture are enemies of coffee beans! As soon as you open that bag of coffee, air is going to get in, no matter how well you fold the top or re-seal it.
Now we get asked this all the time... Can you freeze coffee beans?
Just as warm and humid conditions are bad for coffee beans, so are freezing conditions. We advise against ever freezing coffee because it can dehydrate the beans and softens those intense roasty flavour profiles.
Experts vary on the ideal temperatures for coffee storage. Some recommend temperatures as low as 40°F, while others recommend temperatures between 4°C to 21°C.
The best thing you can do to keep your beans fresh for as long as possible, and therefore allowing you to brew the freshest coffee possible, is to store them in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place.
I use a vacuum sealed container, which can be found on our website.
Oxygen, light, moisture, and heat are going to steal all the beautiful flavours from your coffee beans, so you're better off keeping them away from these elements!