Cold water start for dark roasts

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
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Postby TomC » Jul 30, 2018, 12:32 am

HB member Yakster and I ended up hanging out yesterday in the east bay doing various coffee stuff and our last stop was at Scarlet City Coffee in Oakland. Jen is one of the few roasters in this area roasting dark and her espresso game is rock solid (not to mention the amazing affogato). She had a new Peruvian La Florida that sounded great from the flavor descriptors, so I grabbed a bag to take home.

First batch thru the Brazen at work, with the temp at 192 yielded your stereotypical roasty, bitter and flat and not very interesting brew, with just generic "coffee" tastes. The tasting notes that drew me to the coffee was "white blossoms, and cake" posted at the cafe. 190 is the lowest I could go on the Brazen. So taking inspiration from Lucio Del Piccolo's idea of using a cold water start for mocha pot brewing, I attempted to do the same with the Brazen and the results are spectacular.

This was a minimal effort work-around. All it took was for me to use enough of my cool temp brewing water to soak the coffee bed/ brew basket, with the remainder going into the brewer.No stirring or agitation needed. I've been simply using a 1.25 liter bottle at work that I fill with cool filtered water. Temp set at it's lowest, 190 and fire away. I watched to see the temp climb closer to the 190 point before I placed the carafe under the basket. I figured that I may not want to have the initial soaking water immediately just dump out into the carafe while the rest of the brewer was coming up to temp. But I'd caution others to monitor it, because it can quickly overflow the basket otherwise. I imagine this would be a method that would work on any drip brewer.

The cup results are stellar. Much, much sweeter, deeper and softer traces of those developed caramels, toast and other maillards, gentle blackberry and spice up front backed by chocolate notes that have clarity and structure, nothing's hidden or murky. And none of the bitter, flat, ashy or roasty tastes at all. For well developed roasts, I doubt I'll ever go back to what I was doing before. This is what dark roasted coffee is supposed to taste like. The finish is deliciously sugary sweet still.
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Postby dale_cooper » Jul 30, 2018, 9:56 am

Very interesting Tom - sometimes I wonder if the aeropress is so popular with your normal coffee person becuase normal coffee people are buying darker coffee and the aeropress tells you to brew at lower temp.....

What are you defining as dark? Definitely hitting 2nd crack? A bit before 2nd crack? Well beyond 2nd crack?

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Postby TomC » replying to dale_cooper » Jul 30, 2018, 11:26 am

This one specifically is a LOT of 2nd crack Full, smooth bean expansion, oily and the occasional crater. She roasts in the school of Schomer, his acolyte. I know Adler long proposed using 185 degree brewing water, based off his extensive testing, so I'm not surprised.


Postby gr2020 » Jul 30, 2018, 11:45 am

I wonder if you could do the same thing with espresso, with similar results. I'm thinking "pre-infuse" with cold water before locking in the would be hard to be precise, but it seems like if you poured water up to the lip, and let it soak in, that might be more or less ready to go.

I've never tried to pour water over a dry puck, so no idea if the water will soak in very quickly without any pressure, but maybe worth a try?

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Postby sweaner » Jul 30, 2018, 12:34 pm

I will have to try this with my Trifecta MB.

Have you tried it with a lighter roast?
LMWDP #248

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Postby Carneiro » Jul 30, 2018, 2:48 pm

For espresso, how about colder portafilter? It's not exactly the same but it would drop the initial temperature of the cake + hot water.

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Postby another_jim » Jul 30, 2018, 6:30 pm

Clever or French Press would be easiest. Start with just enough cold water to soak the coffee mass, then add the hot. In drip or espresso, the coffee mass is far less resistant to cold than to hot water, so you'll get a much faster drainage if you start cold for these methods.

I am curious about the chemistry. The rule: " the darker the roast, the cooler the brew water" is pretty much SOP. I'm guessing this has nothing to do with "overextraction" and everything to do with the coffee getting damaged and bitter with any sort of overheating, just as does when sitting on a hot plate after brewing. It could be that with darker roasts the damage happens much earlier than we think, say above 85C (180F) rather than the 90C we usually use. So if we brew too long with 90C, we damage darker roasted coffees even though we thought we adjusted the brew temp.

Maybe I'll start using ean extra long steep with the green tea setting of 175F for my darker roasts, and see what happens.
Jim Schulman


Postby jpender » Jul 30, 2018, 8:35 pm

another_jim wrote:Clever or French Press would be easiest. Start with just enough cold water to soak the coffee mass, then add the hot.

Wouldn't it be simpler to use water at a lower temperature instead mixing cold and hot?

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Postby TomC » Jul 31, 2018, 3:35 am

sweaner wrote:I will have to try this with my Trifecta MB.

Have you tried it with a lighter roast?

Not this exact approach. But I have brewed tricky Kenyans super low occasionally, just to see what comes of them. Sometimes the tomato notes change into something else, entirely pleasant.


Postby cpreston » Jul 31, 2018, 9:00 am

Recently I experimented with a Clever and dark roasts. I found that dropping the initial temperature all the way to 175 in 5 deg increments kept improving the results. I had to adjust the grind each time of course to optimize.

I get good results at similar temperatures in an aeropress.