The science of coffee-brewing


Luke Holloman, Staff Writer

To many of us, the term “technique of brewing coffee” is either an oxymoron or something for some guy behind the counter at Starbucks to worry about. “Why even consider it, when Folgers wakes me up in the morning?” one may ask.

The real question here, though, is “Why not consider it?” For less than five minutes of extra work per day, you could upgrade your coffee experience from “burnt English muffin” to “eggs Benedict” status. If you were given the choice this morning between a no-effort, completely burned bagel and a four-minute, light-effort Denver omelet, which would you really take?

If you said “the bagel,” stop reading now. Look to the right or left: I am sure that there is some article about “The Role of the Minority Whip in Congress Since 1953” or “The Joys of Tripping Over Our Crooked Mall” that doesn’t make you look inside yourself for the real, hard truth.

This truth is that we deserve good coffee. We only have ourselves to blame for not achieving this proper end of Man (in the morning, at least). In five minutes or less and for less than 50 cents more a day, this end is ours. Let us take it together!

Now that you are hooked, and those who aren’t have left, let’s get down to what you will be doing when you prepare your brew of the gods.

First, you will obtain your coffee from a local coffeehouse (i.e., not Starbucks). At this coffeehouse, they procure their beans from some exotic location to which you would love to travel (think El Salvador). Then they roast them to about 444 degrees (coffee isn’t grown brown, you know; it’s actually green). After the beans cool, they bag them for you.

Next, you will take them home, where you will place them in your recently purchased grinder (bought for less than $15 at Then you let it rip, chunking those beans down to the size recommended on your maker.

Why grind just before brewing? Isn’t that extravagant? Well … no. As soon as coffee is ground, essential oils and volatile compounds escape into the air, lessening the flavor. The closer the grinding is to the brewing, the more of those flavors will hit your tongue and not your ceiling.

Then you throw your Mr. Coffee into the trash. Really. Do it.

Why? Because automatic coffee makers don’t make the water hot enough. The flavor in coffee comes by dissolving all of those wonderful organic compounds out of the beans. The higher the temperature, the better a solvent the water is, and the more flavor comes out of the beans. If you leave flavor in your beans, you’re wasting your money.

Now that the Mr. Coffee is in the trash, there is room on the counter for your water-heating pot and manual drip coffee filter cone (as little as $8, but I recommend the Clever Coffee Dripper for $15).

Here is where the process gets fun.

Boil that water and, when it is just off the boil, slowly pour it through your coffee-filled filter cone and into your cup.

This is where the science magic happens. As the water rushes through the ground beans, it pulls little bits of wonderful organic molecules with it. Coffee has literally thousands of different tiny molecules that give each crop its particular flavor.

Now that you have spent a meager $25, and four extra minutes daily, you have two things: 1. A coffee-making rig that will last for many years, and 2. A coffee-drinking experience that will only get better and better. You are now free from Folgers. Celebrate.


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