Just Add Water

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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RioCruz

#1: Post by RioCruz »

Several months ago I attended an early morning breakfast at the Beach Chalet in San Francisco. They offered an Sumatran coffee...so I decided to try it, even tho I was pretty sure it would be weak and not up to my usual standards of taste. Sure enough, it was really quite weak and watery...BUT...actually more aromatic and flavorful than my normal brew! Hmmm... I've been thinking about that ever since and have been meaning to do some experimenting, but just couldn't bring myself to waste good coffee on something that seemed non-intuitive to me. Interestingly enough, there was an article in today's NYT titled, "To Enhance Flavor, Just Add Water," about enhancing the flavor and aroma of spirits and coffee etc. by diluting them. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/dining/28curious.html

What has been y'alls experience with this? Any comments?
"Nobody loves your coffee more than you do."
~James Freeman, Blue Bottle

CoffeeOwl

#2: Post by CoffeeOwl »

With regard to coffee the article disusses brew ratio; diluting coffee would be adding water to already prepared brew, I think.
I have never had a diluted wine, but with whiskey the most taste and aroma giving way of drinking is adding a driplet of water to glass - for me it enhances aromas and roundes taste, yet if you add more the the tiny driplet, it spoils it all.
'a a ha sha sa ma!


LMWDP #199

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another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim »

Interesting, but I think the article mixes up several effects.

"Branch water," i.e. a drop or two of rain, or otherwise distilled, water, opens up the taste of whiskeys and brandies, and has become traditional for tasting them. I'd love to hear how it works; guess it's in the chemistry of the fluid, not the taste/smell receptors.

Noticeably diluting foods or drinks in general changes not just the strength, but also the balance of flavors. Different flavors have different thresholds and different overload points; so changing the dilution is analogous to changing the exposure of a photograph -- If you underexpose, you don't just get a darker picture, you also get some brightly lit details showing up that blow out the sensor, film, video, or printer in the regular exposure. Diluting a food may work the same way, allowing the flavors "blown out" at normal concentrations to be appreciated properly. This is something I'd also be interested in hearing about.

Finally brewing the coffee with more water, rather than adding water it afterwards will extract more of the solids. If the original brew was under-extracted, adding some of the caramels may improve the flavor. On the other hand, if the original was properly brewed, brewing further is like brewing from used grinds.

Finally, a warning. I grew up in the business, and barkeeps have been pulling the legs of their customers with taste secrets for as long as there have been bars and barkeeps.
Jim Schulman

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Heckie

#4: Post by Heckie »

A distinct aroma I always pick up on when tasting brewed coffee that's very under extracted is what I would describe as "skunky" or "rubbery". Restaurants, even most of the top notch ones, brew coffee very weak, most customers don't like coffee brewed at full strength (properly). The technique described might have developed out of this as a way of masking that characteristic, who knows. But I don't believe it can "enhance" the flavor of a properly brewed coffee, besides why mess with a good thing anyway 8) !!

Bob_M

#5: Post by Bob_M »

Heckie wrote:Restaurants, even most of the top notch ones, brew coffee very weak, most customers don't like coffee brewed at full strength (properly). The technique described might have developed out of this as a way of masking that characteristic, who knows
Scott Rao addresses this issue in his new book "Everything but Espresso". He points out that under extracting, can mitigate the bitterness brought on by uneven extractions (which can lead to partial over extraction in a correctly dosed brew). The bitterness of over extraction is more annoying to customers than the grassy sharp nutty tastes of under extraction. Simultaneous updosing is used to keep the brew strength near normal

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Heckie

#6: Post by Heckie »

Thanks Bob, 3rd time I have heard of a reference to this book, now I guess I need to read it! I can't say that restaurants error on the side of under-extraction for one reason or the other, I suspect their are numerous faulty techniques restaurants employ for various reasons, i.e. perception of customers preferences', PROFIT, poor brewing equipment (which I think is what he's alluding to), etc....
I will say from what I have experienced in various restaurants/cafes here in Minnesota, their is a frequent lack of attention paid to proper brewing techniques and their effectiveness. I hardly drink coffee at restaurants, after-dinner, I can't remember the last time I had a cup that didn't have the awful aroma I described earlier.. Now espresso after dinner.... well that's a different story.

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yakster
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by yakster »

This thread is reminding me of the machines that feature bypass brewing, where part of the hot water bypasses the filter basket in high volume brewing. I've never quite got a handle on how that works, but I guess enough water hits the filter to extract the coffee, but you don't flow all the water through and risk overflowing the filter.

I've always tried to involve all the water in my brewing, even with the AeroPress, I try and use as much water as is feasible, taking into account the bloom, but do add water to the AeroPressed coffee to bring it back to normal coffee brew ratios.

But I feel I'm contributing to topic drift here. To bring things back on topic, I heard from a friend not on the forums about this same idea and he was going to try it out with his espresso using Peet's Major Dickason's Blend and I may try it with Black Cat when I get home.
-Chris

LMWDP # 272

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RioCruz (original poster)

#8: Post by RioCruz (original poster) »

Since posing this question I have been brewing my morning cup with about the same proportions as were recommended in the article (12 oz coffee and 6 oz water...altho I actually use about 10-11 oz coffee) and have rediscovered something I knew earlier...but had forgotten.

I used to look forward to my morning cup of coffee the nite before! It was one of those things that made life FUN to get up for and it was that way for many years. But just within the last year or so my coffee just didn't seem to have the same excitement...the same "I can't wait to get up in the morning" punch that it once had. I was definitely aware of this but just chalked it up to getting old and jaded or something. But what the article made me aware of was that I was using too much coffee. For some reason...over time...the amount of coffee I used per 6 oz water had crept up to between 15-17 oz. coffee. It was just too much coffee and did not give me that wonderful taste I had just a few years ago. So after reading the article, I dropping the amount of coffee down into the 10-12 oz range. This has suddenly brot my brew back to life and I can't wait to have my next cup!

I should say, too, that I brew with the Aeropress and grind the coffee pretty fine. Not quite espresso grind but getting close. I put the ground coffee into the cylinder, fill it up to the bottom of the funnel, stir for about 10 sec. and then press for another 10 sec. or so. Comes out just right for my taste.

I would be interested in the water/coffee ratios used by others here...as well as the brewing method and grind used to get your perfect cup...

Thanks!
"Nobody loves your coffee more than you do."
~James Freeman, Blue Bottle

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

#9: Post by RapidCoffee »

RioCruz wrote:Since posing this question I have been brewing my morning cup with about the same proportions as were recommended in the article (12 oz coffee and 6 oz water...altho I actually use about 10-11 oz coffee) ...
This statement only makes sense if you are actually using 10-12 grams of coffee per 6 oz (170 ml) water. That is the standard coffee:water ratio (1:17) agreed upon by most sources.

Aeropress recipes are notorious for recommending overdosed, underextracted brew parameters, with coffee:water ratios as high as 1:10 and extremely short extraction times (such as your 10-20 seconds).
John

CoffeeOwl

#10: Post by CoffeeOwl »

another_jim wrote:Finally, a warning. I grew up in the business, and barkeeps have been pulling the legs of their customers with taste secrets for as long as there have been bars and barkeeps.
+1 haha
I've been told stories by my friends who used to work behind the bar... :)
'a a ha sha sa ma!


LMWDP #199