Your Coffee Questions Answered

The first 8 questions answered

On the Coffee Detective site we have a Coffee Questions page where visitors can ask their questions – which we then answer. This short document includes just 8 of the most poplar questions and answers so far. We'll publish a second volume when enough new questions are submitted. Best wishes, Nick Usborne


What proportion of coffee to water should I use?
QUESTION: What is the "correct" coffee to water ratio to use to brew coffee? ANSWER: The ratio is the same, whether you are using a French press or a drip brewer. Use two level tablespoons of ground coffer for each 6 ounce cup of water. If you are making mugs of coffee, their capacity is likely to be more like 8 ounces each. In this case, you'll want to use 2 or 2 1/2 level teaspoons of coffee for each mug of water you add to the brewer. If you like your coffee strong, you can use a little more coffee. But unless you have a peculiar preference for a weak, washedout brew, never use less.
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How long does coffee stay hot in a thermal carafe?
QUESTION: How long can brewed coffee stay hot in a thermal carafe? ANSWER: Good question. Thermal carafe coffee makers are becoming more and more popular. As are their one-mug equivalents – the thermal mug coffee makers. The reason for brewing coffee into a thermal carafe is that they keep your coffee hot, without the need for a hotplate. Traditional drip brewers have a glass carafe that sits on a hotplate. The hotplate keeps the coffee hot, but it also "stews" the coffee over time. As a result, coffee poured from a glass carafe after half an hour or so has a bitter, stewed and generally nasty taste. That's why people in offices take one look at the last cup remaining in the carafe, turn up their noses, pour it down the sink and make a fresh brew. (Or wait for someone else to make it.) How long does coffee stay hot in a thermal carafe? Some manufacturers claim it will stay hot for up to two hours. Our experience, so far, has been that after an hour or so the coffee no longer has that fresh-brewed, hot taste. To maximize the length of time your coffee stays hot, "preheat" the carafe before you start brewing by pouring hot water into it, swirling it around and pouring it out again. By doing this you ensure that none of the heat of the coffee is expended on heating the glass interior of the carafe.
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What is the correct strength of coffee?
QUESTION: My husband insists that a good cup of coffee must be seethrough. He remembers, as a youth, going to a restaurant and the waitress would bring the coffee in a see through pot and you could see through the coffee (a light brown color). I do not believe that is how to tell the perfect strength of coffee nowadays. ANSWER: The "see-through" test your husband suggests is not very reliable. There are so many variables. How strong is the light behind the pot or carafe? What is the diameter of the pot or carafe? In other words, how much coffee are you trying to see through? To figure out the best strength for your coffee, first start out with the basic brewing rule of thumb: Two heaped tablespoons of ground coffee for each 6-ounces of water. Taste the coffee and then decide, based on your own personal preference, whether it tastes too strong or too weak. If it tastes too strong, use less coffee and more water. Or vice versa if it tastes too weak. There is no rule when it comes to the strength of the coffee you brew. And no test other than your own taste buds. Just make it the way you like it.
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For how long can I leave the water in my French press?
QUESTION: When making coffee in a French press, is it okay to leave the water in with the grounds for an extended period of time? I ask because I refrigerate my coffee for the next morning and I like it strong! ANSWER: Well, that's not what I would do if I wanted a great cup of gourmet coffee each morning. Making coffee in a French press only takes a few minutes, and you'll get a better cup of coffee by starting a fresh brew. The problem with leaving the coffee grinds in the water for too long is that all the oils finally seep out of the coffee grinds and into the water. This gives your coffee a bitter taste. It's for this reason that most brewing systems (think of the classic drip brewer) have water flowing through the coffee grinds and into a carafe. The water stays in contact with the grinds for long enough to extract their flavor, but not so long that all the oils are transferred, resulting in that bitter flavour. As for a strong cup of coffee...that's easy to deal with when you use a French press. Just add more coffee, or grind the coffee finer. Using a finer grind is a perfect way to get stronger coffee from the same amount of beans.
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Why can't I make a "hot" cup of coffee?
QUESTION: Whether I go to my local coffee house or restaurant for breakfast, the coffee is always hot and stays hot for quite a while. At home, I've gone through several fairly pricey coffee makers and inevitably, I can't get the coffee hot enough or it cools off very quickly. To compensate, I usually microwave my cup, but it does cool off within minutes. Just trying to understand why some coffee bought outside stays hot for much longer. ANSWER: I'm not sure I can answer your question completely. But I can offer some suggestions. I'm assuming you are using a drip brewer with a glass carafe. If this is the case, heat up the carafe before you start brewing. I do this by running hot water from the tap into the carafe, swirling it around, and then pouring the water away. I preheat my coffee mug in the same way. This is just a simple way to ensure that the coffee retains all its heat and isn't cooled by either the carafe or the mug. Beyond that, I'm not sure what to suggest. Home brewers, even the cheaper ones, do a pretty good job of heating the water to the correct temperature. So there should be no temperature difference between a mug poured in a coffee shop and a mug poured at home.
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Is it worth paying extra at coffee houses?
QUESTION: Is it really worth the time and trouble to frequent places such as The Beanery, or are they known to take short cuts and sell an inferior product? If I knew I was getting the best of beans/grinding/etc the higher prices would not stop me. ANSWER: I dare say there are coffee houses that do serve inferior beans. But overall, you can expect the coffee you drink in gourmet specialty coffee houses to be as good as it gets. The huge chains like Starbucks live or die according to the quality of the coffee they serve. And many other coffee houses are part of smaller, regional chains. As with Starbucks, but on a much smaller scale, they typically roast their own beans. Each chain will usually have a coffee buyer and in-house roaster. If these two people are passionate about coffee, they will not only get top-quality beans, but will also roast them to maximize their inherent qualities. Some beans are well suited to a light roast, others to a medium roast and so on. Also, keep in mind that with most coffee houses the beans will be very fresh, and roasted on the day they are ground and used. As I said, there are certainly a few duds out there. But the entire craze for gourmet coffee that has exploded over the last couple of decades is based on the superior quality of coffee that people enjoy when they visit a coffee house.
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What is the correct water temperature for brewing coffee?
QUESTION: When I make coffee with my drip brewer, it heats up the water and, I guess, it's at the right temperature when it brews the coffee. But what about when I use my French press? Someone told me I should never pour boiling water on coffee. Is that true? ANSWER: The ideal temperature for brewing coffee is 200 Degrees Fahrenheit. That said, don't get overly concerned about hitting the exact right temperature. Drip brewers have their own thermostats, and some even offer you a choice of more than one brewing temperature. Why they do that is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps they are trying to appeal to people who don't want their coffee too hot. If you are boiling water for use in a French press, bring the water to a boil and then leave it to rest for a couple of minutes before pouring in onto the coffee grinds. Again, whether you wait for two minutes or you get impatient and pour the water after thirty seconds, don't worry about it. A few degrees difference won't spoil your coffee.
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Does dark roasted coffee stain your teeth more?
QUESTION: I am doing a science fair experiment comparing how different types of coffee affect staining your teeth. Does dark roast coffee have more caffeine? Does dark roast coffee stain your teeth more? ANSWER: It's true, coffee can stain your teeth. As do tea, colas, wine and certain fruits. As for the mechanism that causes the stain to penetrate into the enamel, I don't know the answer to that for certain. But it is reasonable to assume that the acidity of the coffee might have something to do with its ability to penetrate into the enamel on your teeth. If this is the case, you are better off drinking a dark-roasted coffee, as dark-roasted beans contain less acid than light or medium-roasted beans. Does dark roast coffee contain more caffeine? No, it doesn't. In fact, the darker the roast, the less the caffeine. The heat involved in the roasting process actually reduces the amount of caffeine in the roasted bean. I hope this helps!
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Any Coffee Questions?
If you have any questions about making coffee or choosing a good coffee maker, simply post your question to the Coffee Detective "Coffee Questions" page and we'll publish an answer within 24 hours.


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