Finding balanced cup in pour over (V60).

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
Zephyp

Postby Zephyp » Jan 23, 2019, 7:12 am

I only brew pour over and use a variety of beans from Honduras, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda etc.

I think I brew pretty good coffee these days, but it's a bit erratic. Some beans I never really figure out. Sometimes I brew a nice, balanced cup one day, and not so much the next. I know that all coffees won't be as interesting, but if I can get a balanced cup, I can live with "normal" coffee now and then. What I don't want is the bitter or sour brews, a constant chase for balance, adjusting grind and not really knowing where to go. The past month I've brewed from 15 to 30 clicks on my C40. My normal brew is 14.4g coffee and 250g water, 30g bloom with stir right off boil followed by 6 35g pours. Final pour at 2:20 and drawdown normally between 3:20-4:10.

Gear: V60 plastic 01, bleached V60 filters with tabs, Comandante C40 Nitro Blade, Kalita gooseneck kettle, Brewista Smart Scale II, VST 3 refractometer.

Do you have any suggestions on a methodical way to finding a balanced cup? I know about the Coffee Compass, which is a nice tool, but my palate is not particularly refined, so I struggle with picking up the flavors.

namelessone

Postby namelessone » Jan 23, 2019, 12:19 pm

When I'm not having luck with brewing a certain coffee, I do a cupping (9g fine grind, 150g water, break crust after 4 min, skim the top and start tasting around 14-15min) and if you can find some other beans to compare it with, even better. It should give you an idea of what flavours you can expect in the cup.

In terms of recipes, do not keep changing grind size, but stick to a grind size and you can alternate number of pours if the coffee is tasting over or under.

My go to recipe is currently 15g coffee, 6x40g pours each 30 sec apart. If the coffee doesn't taste balanced, then I use 5x40 and do the last pour as bypass.

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redbone

Postby redbone » Jan 23, 2019, 2:35 pm

For the most part I like Scott Rao's easy V60 brew method since it was virtually the same method I was using and found to work. Only difference was his claim that it does not work as well under 20-22g but found that it was possible with a grind change. I prefer a mini whisk vs teaspoon as shown in this video at link. Scott Rao V60 blog
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RyanJE

Postby RyanJE » Jan 23, 2019, 3:09 pm

contrary to namelessone, I would say that grind should be the only thing changed once you have a repeatable process. In my opinion I would say that you have too many pours which open the door for inconsistency. Like redbone said, try out Rao method. I personally couldn't get high enough extractions with it though and I think that any agitation late in the brew just adds bitterness.

Try something like a 1:16 ratio stirred bloom with 3x water, say 50g bloom.. Then 2 more pours of 100G each at set times (i.e. 30seconds and 1 minute). Also try to get the 100g pour to take the same amount of time each time... Also, I find that pouring on the edge of the v60 is bad taste wise and seems to exaggerate draw downs.

Then, once you have done all that successfully and are able to do it without variation, adjust your grind to taste and only your grind.

Also, for me, getting a refractometer was a bad move. When I got it, I started relying on it and trying to get my brews to fit into a numerical window. It was horrible until I stopped and just used taste. There are so many variations in beans and how they taste best. Also, even changes C02 and Moist pre sets make a large difference in numbers (so does weighing vs. not weighing beverage).... If you cant get a decent brew using cupping, its probably not your method.

Good beans actually have a fairly wide window they taste good in, extraction wise. If you feel like you are pulling your hair out trying to get something good, it certainly could be your coffee! Its actually really hard to find truly good coffees that were sourced well, handled well, and then roasted well! Too many things can go wrong there for roasters and often do. Its sad though because they still sell those beans as specialty coffee.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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Almico
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Postby Almico » Jan 23, 2019, 3:23 pm

I'm the opposite. As long as the grind is giving a reasonable draw down, it's fine.

I offer V60 pourovers at my coffee bar and as a consequence, use a large variety of coffee, from light roasted Africans and Centrals to darker SAs and Indonesians. I keep the grind the same for all and only vary the temperature of the water and pour rate. I've gone as low as 175*F for dark coffees and can't seem to get hot enough for some lighter brews.

Decaf is the only outlier. It tends to clog the filter so I grind coarser. And it's decaf so who cares...wait, did I say that out loud?

U2jewel

Postby U2jewel » Jan 23, 2019, 4:44 pm

It's like Google maps and asking for directions from A to B.. so many options and routes to get to where and what you're looking for.

I too drink many origins on various roast levels. I've been there, the getting confused and lost, and for sure I'm still exploring. But here's how I try to approach things by breaking them up into sections, so that if I identify a factor, I know which parameter to change.

I might be wrong, but this is what's serving me at the moment. Here's my general dialing in process in this order.

I only change grind size when I change dose. Sometimes I do V60 01 at 12g dose for a quick single cup, sometimes V60 02 for 30g doses. For now, I use grind size adjustment primarily to get my draw down time in the ballpark timezones. With all the tweaking to come with number of pours, yes/no to agitation, temperature etc...I set the grind size right at the beginning, and stick with it right to the end, until adjustments of your pour numbers and timing technique are fine tuned. Only then revisit the grind for minor update. After the update, that's my new standard.. Until I go down the rabbit hole again and somehow need to tweak my grind size adjustment again. As you repeat this process, updates/movements should become less extreme.

From here, it's a broad generalisation.

To adjust strength of the brew, I never alter the ratio. What I change is the number of pours. Divide into more pours for stronger, less for weaker. I've found changing the ratio half way through the evaluation gets me completely lost, as if I'm dialing in from the beginning again. I only change ratio when I've concluded the coffee I'm tackling is a different kinda beast.

While you're figuring out the preferred number of pours to adjust strength, you're inadvertantly altering the acidity balance too. The 4:6 method helped me dial in the profile I'm after.

To adjust for acidity, I also use temperature. Higher temp to mute it, lower temp to highlight it. For light roast Africans, I'll grudgingly go near to boiling point if and only when necessary, for reasons such as when it's just not fruity anymore and plain pure acidic.. Generally contrary to what many people do, I try to find the best lowest temperature, and this will vary depending on the flavor preference camp you belong to. I love fruity cups. I raise the temperature just high enough to bring out acceptable amounts of extraction. Trying to maximize it doesn't do wonders for my preference.

I'm not convinced agitation is necessary. It could be so because I am not necessarily after a balanced cup or a neutral cup. Pour rate and pour number for me were priority. I find it's like a brake on a car. I find all subsequent pours after the agitation will create a slower draw. I rarely agitate. I sometimes do so in the spur of the moment if I find the draw down is too quick and suspect that a longer draw might be beneficial. But once all parameter are set and satisfied, agitation is normally ironed out. It's an indication for me that grind size needs tweaking, if the speed and number of pours method have been exhausted. Then it's back to step 1, for the round 2 of dialing in, on a minor scale.

RyanJE

Postby RyanJE » Jan 23, 2019, 4:51 pm

Draw down times get too much emphasis. They change more so with certain beans than with grind size. I don't seem to find much correlation to taste.

I suspect most of the extraction is long done by the time the water starts drawing down. I say this because early on I focused on brew times and draw downs with frustration. I'd grind coarser and coarser to try and hit a total time. Then I was just underextracting. Now for me the main factor in extraction is grind size. Too sour or thin grind finer. To soupy and dusty grind coarser. Some beans take 1 minute longer to draw down, all else equal. But the taste is still where I want it.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

namelessone

Postby namelessone » Jan 24, 2019, 4:23 am

If you are using the same dose / recipe and beans with similar roast, you shouldn't really be needing to change grind size all the time. It will only lead to more variability and frustration in my opinion. Trying to match TDS by itself will be misleading because some beans extract a lot less than others, so for aiming for an average EY across a range of origins/varieties will be more appropriate. The range can be quite wide i.e 18% for a honey processed Pacamara to 21-22% for a washed Kenyan SL28.

I'll agree with Ryan that a well roasted coffee will be easy to extract and tasty in a wider margin, rather than in a very narrow range of brew parameters. I was at a roasting competition where several roasted the same beans, and cupping side by side it's quite shocking how much difference that can be.

So it's a good idea to find a roaster that you think is consistently good and stick with it for a while.

Zephyp

Postby Zephyp » Jan 24, 2019, 4:39 am

Forgot to write that I always buy light to medium roasted beans, never dark roast. Live in Oslo and buy a lot from Tim Wendelboe. Thanks for all the replies.

namelessone wrote:When I'm not having luck with brewing a certain coffee, I do a cupping (9g fine grind, 150g water, break crust after 4 min, skim the top and start tasting around 14-15min) and if you can find some other beans to compare it with, even better. It should give you an idea of what flavours you can expect in the cup.

That's a good idea. I'll look for some suggestions to grind size for cupping with the Comandante. Are there some defined parameters I could go after and maybe dial it in for cupping with the Kruve?

namelessone wrote:In terms of recipes, do not keep changing grind size, but stick to a grind size and you can alternate number of pours if the coffee is tasting over or under.

I've been back a forth on this and see on forums that there is no general agreement here either. I don't know if it makes a difference in the end as long as you make adjustments in other parameters or if you theorecially can end up with the same result. Next question then is what grind size to stick to and what is a good starting point for a variety of coffee where you aim made adjustments in other areas to adjust brews. I got a Kruve, which I've used to try finding a good spot for the grinder.

redbone wrote:For the most part I like Scott Rao's easy V60 brew method since it was virtually the same method I was using and found to work. Only difference was his claim that it does not work as well under 20-22g but found that it was possible with a grind change. I prefer a mini whisk vs teaspoon as shown in this video at link. Scott Rao V60 blog

I've tried Rao's method, but never got it as good as the 5-6 pour ones. Maybe I didn't give it enough effort. I normally spin the dripper after the last pour (what many call Rao spin).

RyanJE wrote:contrary to namelessone, I would say that grind should be the only thing changed once you have a repeatable process. In my opinion I would say that you have too many pours which open the door for inconsistency. Like redbone said, try out Rao method. I personally couldn't get high enough extractions with it though and I think that any agitation late in the brew just adds bitterness.

Try something like a 1:16 ratio stirred bloom with 3x water, say 50g bloom.. Then 2 more pours of 100G each at set times (i.e. 30seconds and 1 minute). Also try to get the 100g pour to take the same amount of time each time... Also, I find that pouring on the edge of the v60 is bad taste wise and seems to exaggerate draw downs.

Then, once you have done all that successfully and are able to do it without variation, adjust your grind to taste and only your grind.

Also, for me, getting a refractometer was a bad move. When I got it, I started relying on it and trying to get my brews to fit into a numerical window. It was horrible until I stopped and just used taste. There are so many variations in beans and how they taste best. Also, even changes C02 and Moist pre sets make a large difference in numbers (so does weighing vs. not weighing beverage).... If you cant get a decent brew using cupping, its probably not your method.

Good beans actually have a fairly wide window they taste good in, extraction wise. If you feel like you are pulling your hair out trying to get something good, it certainly could be your coffee! Its actually really hard to find truly good coffees that were sourced well, handled well, and then roasted well! Too many things can go wrong there for roasters and often do. Its sad though because they still sell those beans as specialty coffee.

I assumed there would be different opinions on changing the grind or not, but it's nice to have different views. I think I agree that more pours can lead to more inconsistencies. That's maybe what bothers me the most. I can make a cup one day that I find really good and balanced, then two days later with the exact same coffee and method produce a cup that has some astringency. I'll try some brews with fewer pours. I made two cups with a new bag yesterday (Ethiopian natural, roasted a week prior) where one drew down at 3:15 and the next at 3:45. I started wondering if I'd done something different or wrong, or if it simply was technique. I know draw downs aren't the best variable to guide by since it will vary a lot, especially between different beans, but 30 seconds seemed like a lot.

The refractometer was partly to satiate a curiosity I had, but of course ultimately with a hope to make consistently better coffee and understand better how changing parameters affects the brew. I can't say it's revolutionized anything, but I don't go strickly go by numbers. It's more to see how the taste correlate to EY.

I'm pretty sure I get mostly good coffee, but some bags can of course be worse and there are bags from some roasteries I find more difficult to work with than others.

U2jewel wrote:I only change grind size when I change dose. Sometimes I do V60 01 at 12g dose for a quick single cup, sometimes V60 02 for 30g doses. For now, I use grind size adjustment primarily to get my draw down time in the ballpark timezones. With all the tweaking to come with number of pours, yes/no to agitation, temperature etc...I set the grind size right at the beginning, and stick with it right to the end, until adjustments of your pour numbers and timing technique are fine tuned. Only then revisit the grind for minor update. After the update, that's my new standard.. Until I go down the rabbit hole again and somehow need to tweak my grind size adjustment again. As you repeat this process, updates/movements should become less extreme.

What ballpark timezones do you have for draw down? I always find it to be a variable that changes too much to be relied on, especially when using different beans from week to week.

U2jewel wrote:To adjust strength of the brew, I never alter the ratio. What I change is the number of pours. Divide into more pours for stronger, less for weaker. I've found changing the ratio half way through the evaluation gets me completely lost, as if I'm dialing in from the beginning again. I only change ratio when I've concluded the coffee I'm tackling is a different kinda beast.

I don't ever change the ratio at all. I've been using 14.4/250 for at least a year now.

U2jewel wrote:While you're figuring out the preferred number of pours to adjust strength, you're inadvertantly altering the acidity balance too. The 4:6 method helped me dial in the profile I'm after.

I never adjust for strength. My goal is always to make a cup that doesn't give a significant amount of astringency. I know about the 4:6 method and have read many positive reviews, but haven't tried it myself. It seems more finnicky than I wanted, and I'm not sure if I trust the "adjust these pours for sweetness and these for something else".

U2jewel wrote:To adjust for acidity, I also use temperature. Higher temp to mute it, lower temp to highlight it. For light roast Africans, I'll grudgingly go near to boiling point if and only when necessary, for reasons such as when it's just not fruity anymore and plain pure acidic.. Generally contrary to what many people do, I try to find the best lowest temperature, and this will vary depending on the flavor preference camp you belong to. I love fruity cups. I raise the temperature just high enough to bring out acceptable amounts of extraction. Trying to maximize it doesn't do wonders for my preference.

Does temperature change the brew in ways other parameters can't? I've seen many talk about adjusting temperature for acidity, but in practice, isn't it just another adjustment of extraction yield? Couldn't the same result be gotten from changing pours or grind size?

U2jewel wrote:I'm not convinced agitation is necessary. It could be so because I am not necessarily after a balanced cup or a neutral cup. Pour rate and pour number for me were priority. I find it's like a brake on a car. I find all subsequent pours after the agitation will create a slower draw. I rarely agitate. I sometimes do so in the spur of the moment if I find the draw down is too quick and suspect that a longer draw might be beneficial. But once all parameter are set and satisfied, agitation is normally ironed out. It's an indication for me that grind size needs tweaking, if the speed and number of pours method have been exhausted. Then it's back to step 1, for the round 2 of dialing in, on a minor scale.

I only agitate after the bloom, to saturate the grounds. What I don't like about agitation is that it adds more involvement in the brew, which can lead to inconsistencies, but my experience is that it helps.

RyanJE wrote:Draw down times get too much emphasis. They change more so with certain beans than with grind size. I don't seem to find much correlation to taste.

I suspect most of the extraction is long done by the time the water starts drawing down. I say this because early on I focused on brew times and draw downs with frustration. I'd grind coarser and coarser to try and hit a total time. Then I was just underextracting. Now for me the main factor in extraction is grind size. Too sour or thin grind finer. To soupy and dusty grind coarser. Some beans take 1 minute longer to draw down, all else equal. But the taste is still where I want it.

I agree, draw down time is a variable with a big window.

Sometimes I contemplate going back to Aeropress, with which it is a lot easier to get consistently good brews, but I really like the taste of a good V60. I used a Kalita Wave a year or two, then the first brew I made with V60 was incredible, and I've been using it since. To quote James Hoffmann in a video on taste: "If everything is special, nothing is special", which has some truth to it, but even if all my brews are meant to be special, I know when something is up. Not that the brew lacks the nice flavor notes they write on the bag, but that it's astringent. That's what made me get into specialty coffee in the first place. I couldn't drink the coffee most people make without a chocolate on the side, because the coffee didn't taste good. Now I don't want anything with my coffee since it masks the nice flavors of the bean.

namelessone wrote:If you are using the same dose / recipe and beans with similar roast, you shouldn't really be needing to change grind size all the time. It will only lead to more variability and frustration in my opinion. Trying to match TDS by itself will be misleading because some beans extract a lot less than others, so for aiming for an average EY across a range of origins/varieties will be more appropriate. The range can be quite wide i.e 18% for a honey processed Pacamara to 21-22% for a washed Kenyan SL28.

I'll agree with Ryan that a well roasted coffee will be easy to extract and tasty in a wider margin, rather than in a very narrow range of brew parameters. I was at a roasting competition where several roasted the same beans, and cupping side by side it's quite shocking how much difference that can be.

So it's a good idea to find a roaster that you think is consistently good and stick with it for a while.

Okay, if I aim to keep the grind the same, how do I find that spot?

The roast is always light to medium and I normally use 3-4 different roasters. Primarily Tim Wendelboe though. I'm not trying to dial everything in to a specific EY. It's more a tool to see where the EY is at when the coffee taste good, for reference on future brews, or get some indication of which direction I should go with the EY. I haven't used the refractometer for some time now to see if it helps or not. It's also been quite busy the last few months, and I couldn't be bothered with the refractometer when I made coffee.

I might stick to TW for a while then. He still got different beans, but at least it's all roasted on the same machine.

Zephyp

Postby Zephyp » Jan 24, 2019, 6:23 am

RyanJE wrote:Try something like a 1:16 ratio stirred bloom with 3x water, say 50g bloom.. Then 2 more pours of 100G each at set times (i.e. 30seconds and 1 minute). Also try to get the 100g pour to take the same amount of time each time... Also, I find that pouring on the edge of the v60 is bad taste wise and seems to exaggerate draw downs.

Made a cup like this just now. I'm used to pouring quite slow, so the first pour after bloom ended up taking all of 25 seconds. Last pour was a bit quicker. 27 clicks on the grinder, drawdown 2:50. Very good coffee! Pretty clean and no astringency to speak of. Will be interesting to do a cupping side by side with a brew to see how they taste.

This is a natural processed Ethiopian, and my experience is that they can be very different from each time I try one. Some being really good and some that I never really get anything special from.