A couple of weekends ago, we had a friend over, so I made coffee on a Chemex to supply the group’s caffeine needs. The next morning, I woke up and got my regular, single-serve pourover ready to brew. I heated up the water and adjusted my coffee dose to the right weight. I could taste the fresh coffee while the water got to the right temperature. It was a Monday, I need it. I normally brew on a Kalita Wave, 19g of coffee and 304g of water. I heat my water to 200 degrees and use only purified water (in case you were wondering about my recipe!).
Moving on with the story. When all my brewing ingredients were ready, I noticed I had made a mistake – I forgot to change the grind size! A BIG mistake if you really like brewing and especially if you have a limited supply of your favorite roast. If you don’t know why that matters so much, you can read how grind size affects brew here. In short, the Kalita Wave benefits from a finer grind size than the Chemex for prime extraction. I just couldn’t use that, I had now wasted a grind/whole dose – darn.
I had 19g of coarse ground coffee. I could’ve just made a very small batch of Chemex. But I didn’t want to use a large size filter and that would’ve been too easy. I figured then, I could take my tiny, French press and just brew on it. A French press uses a coarser grind setting so that should’ve worked. Except #1, I absolutely dread cleaning my press and #2, the grind wasn’t coarse enough to prevent some solids seeping through the mesh filter. Not my favorite mouthfeel.
At this point, if you’re not thinking “what a coffee snob!”, I appreciate you. You might also have many different/better solutions, but I recognize not everyone has all the tools available to brew perfect coffee. So here’s where I went off the books…
I took my Kalita paper filter and attached it to my French press. This would allow me to filter most of the small particles and get a cleaner, well-infused extraction of coffee with the unexpected grind size. I used the same amount of water from my original recipe and let it steep for about 4 minutes. To press it, I first wet my filter contraption to reduce friction in the Chemex, but mostly to remove any papery flavor notes(I guess I’m still a snob).
Needless to say, it was an alright brew. The Ethiopian notes came through clearly and I was not sipping through tons of sediment. The best part is that I didn’t waste a large Chemex filter or a dose of ground coffee – plus I learned two things with my experience.
Being flexible for the sake of sustainability. Sometimes, I think, “I’ll just grind more coffee, or I’ll sacrifice a bigger paper filter, it doesn’t matter.” But it’s in the details. Today it might be extra coffee, tomorrow you will be buying a whole new bicycle to avoid fixing the one you have. A small piece can make all the difference. Don’t dump it, fix it!
Get creative. Don’t let your preconceptions get the best of you or your brew. After all, the best recipes for coffee brewing and studies on extraction have come out of trial and error. Remember, the best tool you have is your palate.
So I hope this story sparks innovative ways to best use your coffee resources and never give up on your brew. As you explore new flavors and techniques in your coffee journey, be conscious about the way you use your beans and your equipment. #WeGrindYouBrew
In hindsight, I could’ve just made cold brew…