Coffee is mysterious. Seriously, for how much we create and consume this incredible beverage there are always surprises and inconsistencies that leave us scratching our heads at the end of the day. Roasting patterns, extraction variables, flavor profiles, brewing techniques - as soon as we pin down one thing and think we finally "get it" something else will pop up to throw us a curve-ball.
There exist a lot of theories about the mysteries of coffee roasting and extraction and how certain variables will affect the outcoming cup, and there are a lot of really cool gadgets to help us quantify proper extraction and consistency. At a recent education class at Royal New York, we learned how we can use certain equations and tools like a refractometer to objectively determine if a cup of coffee is brewed as close to "perfect" as it can be. By altering parameters like grind size, water temperature and brew time, we were able to construct some really amazing cups of coffee that were brewed withing prime extraction yields in a lab setting. It was incredibly interesting and educational, but what happens when your kitchen isn't a laboratory?
Trial and error - almost anything goes. While we learned how to brew cups that were defined as "good" by numbers and percentages, an equally valuable lesson learned was that if the coffee isn't delicious, then the numbers don't always matter. Deliciousness can't really be universally quantified, so if you don't like the way your coffee turned out, change something about the process you used to brew it and try again - it's really just a constant experimentation with your taste buds that may never totally be over and done with. I have been told that preparing coffee is equal parts science and intuition; there's a time and a place to be clinical about it and other times when you're alone in your kitchen to just say 'screw it' and try something stupid and crazy.
Change the grind size, alter the water temperature and fiddle with the brew time. There are plenty of guides and canned theories that you can find online (even on this site!) that can get you started in the right direction, but something will go wrong, and you will have to fix it. It's okay though, I believe that you can do it! Don't be afraid to taste some really bad coffee as you gain your footing, like many things in life it's how you learn what not to do. Seek your own answers and you will find yourself in a wonderful relationship with a beverage that hugs you from the inside out :)
Stay cool everyone!
Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.