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Preparing and Brewing Coffee - Automatic Drip Brewer

Brewing coffee in an automatic drip brewer is America’s most popular brewing method. There are a limited number of automatic home brewers that are designed to create the ideal brewing time and temperature. More consistent results can be achieved through the use of a manual, pour over method where all of the elements can be carefully controlled by you. However, if you are looking for the best possible automatic drip brewer, finding one that can brew at between 195-205 degrees in no longer than 6 minutes is key. Look for a quality machine reviewed and recommended by coffee professionals.

As always, it is essential to start with clean equipment and freshly roasted coffee, ground just before use. Typically, the coffee ground for use in an auto drip machine is medium to medium-course. Your local coffee roaster or barista can help you determine the proper grind for your particular machine or filter type.

How Many Scoops?

So, how many scoops? For those of us obsessed with coffee, it makes more sense to think in terms of weight rather than scoops, especially taking into account the variety of sizes in which a “coffee scoop” is available.. The industry recommended ratio of ground coffee to water for drip brewing is approximately 7 grams (roughly 1 rounded tablespoon) ground coffee per 150 ml (about 5 oz.) of water, though many will find this to be quite a strong brew. You will want to measure the water yourself separately as the cup measurement lines on each machine are different and often do not represent any standard measurement.

The Water

Other than the coffee itself, water is the most important ingredient in a cup of coffee. Water makes up more than 98% of what ends up in our cup. With this in mind, it is easy to see why it is so important to use quality, filtered water whenever you are brewing coffee of any kind. This is especially true for an automatic coffee machine, not only to improve the taste of the coffee, but also to prevent mineral buildup on the parts of the machine that cannot be reached during cleaning. Hard water can leave a buildup of calcium and magnesium inside your brewer, inhibiting the flow of water. These hard minerals can be sufficiently eliminated with the use of a quality carbon water filter. The carbon filter will also reduce the presence of any unpleasant flavor, like chlorine, while still allowing desirable trace minerals to remain in the water. The use of reverse osmosis, deionized or distilled water is highly unadvisable, as the goal is not to strip the water of all possible minerals. The coffee oils bind to the minerals present in our water and thus carry the flavor into our cup. According to SCAA guidelines, brewing with water that contains 50 -100 parts per million of dissolved minerals will produce the best tasting cup of coffee. Without the presence of the mineral traces, the cup will taste flat. Additionally, the use of mineral depleted water will take a heavy toll on your machine. Without the presence of usable minerals, the water will begin to carry away the metal ions it comes into contact with inside of your machine resulting in eventual pitting of your heating element.

The Filter

Another vitally important decision you will make in regards to your automatic drip brewer is the type of filter you will use. Paper filters are obviously the most popular choice. The resulting cup is sediment free and this clarity is part of the appeal for many drip lovers. Paper filters will also filter out and absorb key aroma-containing coffee oils while often lending their papery flavor to the finished cup. The flavor issue does vary from one filter to the next. The best way to test for filter flavor is to boil a cup of water, submerge the filter and let it “steep,” then taste the water. If it tastes like paper, try another brand. You can also reduce the papery flavor by wetting the filter before brewing.

One available alternative to the paper filter is a reusable coffee sock, or cloth filter. The filter is rinsed out between uses and washed in a washing machine or dishwasher as needed. Avid users of cloth claim these unbleached cotton filters become “seasoned” with use therefore eliminating any filter flavor from the cup however the highly absorbable and reusable cloth would most definitely add some rancid coffee oils to the flavor if not cleaned between uses. Also, the problem of oil filtering and absorption are similar to those associated with the paper filter. Also, it is unlikely that the coffee prepared using a cloth filter would be consistent unless the filter was kept in the same state of cleanliness for each brew. However, the reusability of these filters appeals to some as the more economical and environmentally friendly choice.

Now That You're Prepared

After all of this careful preparation, it is easy to ruin a perfectly brewed pot of coffee by leaving it on a burner or heated surface to scald. As soon as your coffee is finished brewing, pour it into an insulated, preheated, tightly sealing carafe, if your machine does not already brew directly into one.

After brewing, it is important to thoroughly clean all of the parts of your coffee maker so that no coffee oils remain as they can become rancid and taint your next cup. Periodic cleaning with coffee equipment cleaner is also a good idea. Not only will it thoroughly remove any traces of coffee residue, but will also remove any scale buildup inside your machine.


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