How to Brew

Overview

Before we start, we’ve gotta mention that coffee is personal. Everyone takes their coffee in different ways, and that’s beautiful! The instructions on this page are not intended to be dogmatic about any particular method, but instead, to help folks understand that there are a million different methods, and you should find the method that works for you. It is true that the more time you spend in pursuit, the better your coffee will be, but making coffee doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming.

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Anybody can brew a pot of sludge. This is not mass produced, low grade, freeze dried or instant coffee we’re talking about. This is about extracting the amazing oils and sediments that provide fantastic aroma, a thick, luscious mouthfeel, and an amazing taste experience along with your energy boost, a healthy dose of antioxidants, and Alzheimer’s fighting power.

Think of your freshly roasted Live Free coffee like fresh bakery goods with a limited lifespan and peak of freshness. Keep it in an air tight container in a cool dark place. Coffee needs a minimum of 12-24 hours rest after roasting before it is brewed to allow the body and flavor to really develop. It’s likely that this was already handled for you. You can drink it before with little issue, but wait too long and you end up with a stale cup with a flat overall taste. This is a huge concern and pretty much unavoidable with any big name brand you pick up at the store. It sits so long it all tastes the same. We demand more from our morning ritual, and we want more for our customers too. That’s why we roast in small batches on demand, and deliver it as quickly as possible. We aim to give you the best damn coffee experience you’ve ever had. We consider our coffee “fresh” and at its peak for 7-14 days after it is roasted. Now that they’re in your hands, the brew battle begins.

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 There are a few things to think about when you get ready to brew:

  1. Coffee/water ratio. If you have too fine a grind, brew too long, use water so hot it scalds the beans, or add too much ground coffee, you end up with a bitter brew. Go the other way, and you’re sipping a thin, weak, sour cup. Weighing your coffee (and your water) helps ensure the extraction ratio works out perfectly, extracting only the best flavors of the bean and the roast.
  2. Grind size. Grind size controls how much surface area of the bean the water is able to interact with (contact time), which goes back to the coffee/water ratio issue. The brew method you use should dictate what kind of grind you use based on the contact time between the water and the brew. For longer brews, like French Press/cold brew, coarse grinding works better. For methods with quick extraction (like espresso) a finer grind is necessary.
  3. Temperature. Water is best at picking up the brew between 195-205 F (near boiling).
  4. Contact time. The interaction between the bean/water ratio and the grind size culminate in how long you allow the water to mix with the beans before you express it. Each method has a preferential time zone. See our individual brewing guides for more details.
  5. Maintaining temperature. Once the coffee is ready don’t keep cooking it! Don’t leave it on the heating element. Transfer it to a thermal carafe to avoid scalding and over-extraction.

Recommended Rituals for all Methods:

  • Grind right before you brew.
  • Adjust grind to brewing method
  • Use fresh, filtered water
  • Pre-rinse your paper filter to remove any loose paper fibers. Filtering through pulp can make your coffee taste papery.
  • Drink it as you brew it. Coffee is only at it’s peak for about 10 minutes after you brew.

Methods:

Electric / Drip Makers:

Most drip machines don’t offer a lot of configurability, and instead are set up for convenience. We’re okay with that, since our goal is to enjoy the heck outta some good coffee.  We recommend electric brewing be reserved for large groups of coffee drinkers, because if you’re just making one cup, you might as well use an Aeropress or Pour over. The best thing you can do to optimize your Drip machine is to make sure the grounds get evenly saturdated and that the water temperature is right. Many brewers don’t have enough power to get the water hot enough and you end up with a thin, sour under-extracted mess. Make sure your pot is rated to get to the optimum 195-205° F. Also, when it’s done, drink immediately!

Aeropress (Inverted Method – our favorite!):

  • Measure and grind 17 grams (just under 3 Tablespoons) of fresh beans (or use the included scoop)
  • Place the plunger upside down inside the brewing tube with the black rubber part touching the bottom of the number 4 circle and the top of the plunger on the table.
  • Rinse the filter with hot water and preheat the inverted brewer.
  • Prepare water (30 seconds off the boil, at 205 degrees)
  • Add your coffee into the inverted AeroPress. Start a timer for 1 minute.
  • Pour hot water into your brewer, saturating the grounds, and pouring to the top of the 3 level. Let it set for a moment.
  • Pour enough water to bring the level to above the level 2 circle. Use the paddle to give it a good stir.
  • Place the rinsed filter and black cap on top of brewer and screw it tightly.
  • When your time is up, flip the brewer on top of your mug and plunge with gentle and steady pressure, stopping as soon as you hear a hissing sound. Warning: This requires a little practice to keep the mug and aeropress together and not spill. 
  • Carefully flip the brewer upright and dilute the brew to taste with hot water –starting with 50/50 ratio and adjusting to taste.

Pour Overs:

There are many different pour over techniques, all of them endlessly “debated” on the internet. While everyone has their own method, there are some consistent practices that we recommend: Good quality paper filters and pre-rinsing are essential to avoid a papery flavor. Pick your vessel by cup size, and how much time you want to spend on the pour. Ideally you want a 2-4 minute infusion time for the proper bean extraction. We cover one of the most popoular, the Chemex, below:

Chemex:

Chemex’s branded filters may seem like an added extravagance, but they play an important role in the process. They are 20-30% heavier than any other filter and are designed to remove sediment but allow positive aromatic compounds to pass through. None of the grit and all of the goodness! This means it brews slower than other paper filters (by about 1-2 minutes), because it takes more time for the sludge to drain through the thick paper. This also means that pre-soaking the paper is essential to getting a good brew. It’s also crucial to pre-soak to get any paper fibers rinsed off to avoid the pulpy flavor that can accompany paper filters.

The great thing about the Chemex is that it’s easy to keep it super clean, which can keeps your brew from having the bitter, off flavor folks get with dirty equipment from spoiled oils and dirty sediment residue.

  • Start by opening the Chemex-Bonded Coffee Filter into a cone. Place the cone in the top of your coffeemaker with the thick portion toward the pouring spout.
  • Grind 42 grams (about 6 Tablespoons) of coffee
  • Pre-rinse with hot water to seal the filter and rinse out the paper flavor. Discard the rinse water
  • Add the coffee grounds to the filter.
  • Prepare your water (30 seconds off the boil at 205 degrees) and add just enough to the grounds to saturate and let it soak (or “bloom”) for 30 seconds
  • Pour more water evenly over the grounds until you reach the top of the brewer
  • Continue to add water periodically until the brewed coffee level reaches the glass button
  • Pour what you are ready to drink and replace the filter with a Chemex Glass Lid to help keep the coffee hot.

French Press:

A press allows more sediment from the grounds into the cup which is part of the distinctive flavor of French pressed brew. It imparts a more robust mouth feel to the coffee, but too much sediment is bad; an even grind helps to balance this equation nicely (we recommend a good burr grinder). French press also gives some great flavor profiles as it preserves the oils that might be otherwise filtered out or altered by a paper filter.

French Press brewing is used to make fresh coffee to consume immediately. Even in the plunged position it continues to extract, and remember that coffee begins to lose its integrity after just 10 minutes, so don’t prepare more than you are ready to drink. For longer brewing, see below for our instructions on cold-brew in the French press.

  • Make sure your press is clean. Old coffee grounds can easily get stuck in the wire plunger and can taint your brew with some funky undesirable flavors.
  • Grind 56 grams (about 8 Tablespoons) for the 8-cup French press. Preheat the pitcher and plunger by and discard the rinse water.
  • Add coffee grounds
  • Pour hot water (30 seconds off the boil or about 205 degrees F) into the French press, saturating all the grounds, and pouring to the halfway mark. Start a timer for 4 minutes.
  • After 1 minute, stir the “bloom” (or top layer) and pour the rest of the water evenly to the top and set the press pot lid with the plunger above the mix.
  • After the 4 minute timer goes off, plunge, take it of the grounds (even if you’re not ready to drink it all) and enjoy.

Cold Press:

We love the cold press because it is super easy, ready in an instant, creates a super strong brew (water it down as needed, seriously, this stuff is ROCKET FUEL), and it is less acidic than hot brewed coffee (which means it is easier on the stomach). The downside it is requires a little planning the night before you want to drink it (but it stores beautifully in the fridge!)

Espresso:

With espresso machines, you get what you pay for. A cheap machine will make a lot of noise and produce something in a tiny cup, but we would be hard-pressed to call it an espresso.

To make espresso at home, you need a good machine with the pump pressure necessary to push hot water through a compressed puck of coffee. And a proper cup also requires, in our humble opinion, a decent grinder, to make sure you can get the grinds finely and evenly ground enough to have an even push of that hot water. It may seem like a ridiculous amount of work for a little cup o’ joe, but trust us, if you get it right, it’s absolute magic, and it’ll make most mass produced big box espresso taste like crap! You’ll be able to pick out a bitter shot or a sour shot (and boy there are a LOT of them out there in the coffee business) in an instant.

So if you’re ready to wade into deep waters, hold your breath, here comes the hot water!

  • Turn on your machine and wait a good 20 minutes to get it warmed up. Preheat your espresso cup.
  • Remove portafilter and wipe it out to clean and dry the basket.
  • Grind and prep your coffee directly into the portafilter basket as evenly as possible. You should use 19 to 21 grams (about 3 Tablespoons). We’re looking for a very fine powder while still having a little grit to it.
  • Tap the portafilter once or twice on the counter or grinder to settle the coffee. There should be a small amount of coffee above the top edge of the basket. Level the coffee or make sure that grounds are evenly distributed in the portafilter. To level, keep your finger straight and glide your finger back and forth across the surface of the portafilter to create an even surface.
  • Tamp the coffee.
  • Purge (flush) your grouphead. Wait about 3 seconds for water to come out.
  • Insert portafilter into the grouphead. Start the brew cycle and the timer at the same time.
  • Place cup under portafilter and watch the espresso for a steady stream, increasing gradually in speed. The entire process should take 23-28 seconds to brew 1.5 ounces of espresso. If it takes longer (and tasted bitter/overextracted), use a coarser grind. If it comes out too quickly (and tastes sour/underextracted), grind the beans finer next time.

Troubleshooting:

If your coffee isn’t amazing despite your perfect brewing technique, consider these potential issues:

  • Water quality. Bad tasting water makes for bad tasting coffee. Consider a water filtration system. However, do not use distilled water. The natural mineral content in pure water helps extract the good flavors from the bean. Without these flavors, your coffee can end up tasting very bitter.
  • The right roast for the job. Different roast levels perform better in different brew methods. Lighter roasts can be aggressively bright in long brewer methods like French press and pour over methods don’t really showcase the caramelized sweetness in darker roasts.
  • The cleanliness of the brewing equipment. Beans are covered in delicate oil, and oils go rancid over time. You don’t want oil and old grinds sitting around in your equipment, anymore than you’d want to drink a cup that’s been sitting on your coffee table for a week. If you smell any kind of funk from your equipment or you’re getting a weird “off” taste from the brew, clean your equipment thoroughly!