Steeping coffee is a popular brewing process all over the world and in every culture. Find out how you can achieve the best results using this brew method.
For a lot of us making coffee is a very basic process (usually straight from the coffee bottle to the cup with some hot water, maybe some milk and/or sugar added.) Give it a stir and voila – a perfectly suitable cuppa!
So when someone says they steep coffee you may go a bit blank and wonder what that entails!
We will explain this brewing process to you and show you how simple it really is.
There are many ways nowadays for you to prepare your coffee.
If you are the owner of a coffee maker or coffee machine – you are preparing your daily morning coffee using the process of steeping through the process of drip filtration.
Some coffee connoisseurs will draw a strict distinction between immersion (steeping) brewing and pour-over brewing (drip filtration). For the purposes of this article, we will include drip filtration with steep brewing.
Steeping is the process of soaking something in water or another liquid to soften, cleanse, or extract an element.
In the case of coffee, it is the process of soaking ground coffee in hot water for a few minutes for a hot cup of coffee.
You can also steep coffee for several hours. This long brew coffee process is used for making cold brew.
It is the same process by which you prepare a cup of tea by using tea bags or loose leaves.
Most homes around the world where coffee is enjoyed more than just as a “pick-me-up” will have a French Press in the kitchen.
The following are the recommended coffee brands according to coffeeble.com for the perfect brewing of coffee:
Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend
Best Chocolatey Coffee Bean Blend for French Press
Best Floral & Fruity Beans for French Press
One of the most commonly used pieces of equipment for preparing a steeped brew of coffee is the French Press.
Your coffee maker or machine gradually adds hot water to ground coffee held in a paper filter. The French Press uses a metal filter with a plunger to separate the coffee grounds from the water.
The components of a typical French Press are:
Once brewing is complete you push the plunger down. This separates the coffee grounds from the water.
Then simply pour out fresh coffee into your cup or mug.
Another piece of equipment that tries to combine the best features of drip filtration and immersion brewing is the Clever Dripper.
A typical Clever Dripper consists of a cone-shaped plastic container into which you place a cone-shaped paper filter.
Once the brewing process is complete, you place the Clever Dripper over your cup or mug.
Simply open the valve at the bottom and allow the brewed coffee to drain out.
You have a beautifully brewed cup of coffee.
A piece of equipment that is very popular with coffee enthusiasts is the Aeropress.
Your typical Aeropress consists of two cylindrical plastic tubes, one of which precisely fits into the other.
A metal filter can be screwed onto the device allowing you to filter the coffee grinds from the water. While you physically press down on one end the brewed coffee exits from the opposite end.
If you are really serious about your cup of coffee, optional extras to the above pieces of equipment should include:
Whether you are making your cup of coffee using the French Press, Aeropress or Clever Dripper, the core process of steeping or soaking coffee grinds in hot water remains the same.
Immersion brewing or steeping gives you control over the brewing process, unlike some of the other coffee brewing processes. Steeping allows the brewer the opportunity to experiment, especially while using the Aeropress.
It is for this reason that there can be a diversity of taste and flavor from coffee brewed using steeping. Generally speaking one can expect a fuller, more rounded flavor from a cup of coffee prepared using this method.
For the purposes of this article, how to steep coffee using the French Press will be explained.
One of the easiest and most widely used pieces of equipment to prepare a cup of steeped coffee is the French Press.
Using the French Press:
Begin by removing the lid and plunger with the attached metal filter.
Bring some water, preferably mineral-free, to the boil.
If you use gas to boil your water, you can make your morning cup of coffee without the need for electricity. Perfect for camping, but just be very careful transporting your glass-walled French press.
Pour a little of the hot water into your French Press, replace the lid and plunger, and shake it. This both cleans and warms up your French Press before brewing.
Discard that water.
For best results use coffee beans that have been freshly roasted.
If you are not fortunate enough to have a coffee supplier who sells freshly roasted beans, then buy a good quality bag of coffee grounds. Make sure they have been ground specifically for steeping.
If you are going to grind your own coffee beans at home – make sure to grind a slightly coarser ground. There are lots of good quality manual grinders that will allow you to get just the right grind size.
The water to coffee ratio is important. An incorrect ratio can result in coffee that is either over-extracted (dull and bitter) or under-extracted (under-developed and acidic).
Many coffee enthusiasts recommend a coffee to water ratio of 1:17 or 50g of coffee to 850g of water.
Now you know why that scale becomes useful.
Pour the coffee grounds into your French Press.
Add boiling water.
Start a timer for 4 minutes (your smartphone is perfect for this) and slowly pour in your hot water.
While freshly boiled water is perfectly fine, coffee enthusiasts recommend water heated to between 90 – 96 degrees Celsius (195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit).
After a minute gently stir the top layer of coffee grounds into the water so that all the coffee becomes soaked.
Replace the lid with the plunger pulled back to help conserve heat.
Wait 3 – 4 minutes for brewing time.
Push the plunger down slowly to separate the coffee grounds from the water.
Pour into a waiting cup or mug.
The optimal coffee brew time for steeped coffee is 4 minutes if you use a coffee to water ratio of 1:15 or 1:17.
If the equipment you are using recommends or only allows for a certain quantity of water to be used, simply divide that number by 15 or 17.
1ml of water weighs 1g so this will give you the weight of coffee beans or grounds to use.
A fine grind needs less brewing time and conversely, a coarser grind needs more brewing time.
If you are using the French Press to prepare your cup of steeped coffee, be careful not to use a coffee ground that is too fine. This can result in a clogged metal filter that is difficult to plunge.
A little experimentation is needed here.
If you are using a fine grind of coffee, try reducing your brew time by 30 seconds. If you are using a coarser grind of coffee, try increasing your brew time by 30 seconds.
The best cup of coffee is one that is evenly balanced.
An over-extracted cup of coffee will taste dull and bitter. An under-extracted cup will taste over-powering and acidic.
Experiment with the brewing time by 30-second intervals. Or, adjust the coffee to water ratio to get the coffee taste that most appeals to you.
For both the French Press and the Clever Dripper the factor that lends most weight to the steeping time is how fine or coarse the coffee grounds are.
Remember, the finer the coffee ground the less brewing time needed and visa versa.
Generally, this only applies if you are manually grinding your own coffee beans. A good quality brand of manual grinder will come with a variety of settings and detailed instructions.
If you prefer to buy your coffee already ground. Most brands will offer a variety of choices. They stipulate on the package which brewing method is best.
The Aeropress offers more flexibility due to an added variable, namely, pressure.
Besides simple brewing time, the use of the Aeropress forces water through the coffee grounds. This process adds to the extraction process.
This allows the brewer to experiment with the coffee to water ratio. Ultimately, this can alter the final taste in his or her cup of coffee.
If the correct coffee to water ratio is used, coffee steep time is only about 4 minutes to brew completely if using the steeping method.
If strength is determined by the intensity of taste, then the strength of your cup of coffee has more to do with the quality of the coffee bean and its roast level.
It is true that the longer you steep coffee the more you extract from the coffee grounds. However, longer does not mean better.
For a stronger more intense flavor with a good taste you need to use more coffee grounds for the same volume of water rather than steep the coffee longer.
A light roast retains most of the bean’s complexity. A cup of coffee prepared with these beans will have the following flavor profile:
A medium roast is a good middle ground. This still retains most of the bean’s complexities, but with the “edges” trimmed off. Its flavor profile is generally:
A dark roast retains the least amount of the bean’s flavor complexity but is still not plain or boring. Its flavor profile is as follows:
The brewing time for a drip system method is approximately 5 minutes. If you are using a French Press to make your coffee the contact time of your grounds with hot water should be 2-4 minutes.
Steeping coffee for longer does extract more from the coffee grounds. However, this may make it a little stronger but not necessarily give you a better tasting coffee. To make coffee a stronger that has a deeper more intense flavor do not steep the coffee longer. Use more coffee grounds for the same amount of water.
Brewing or steeping coffee for an extended time can lead to over extracted coffee. You need the grounds to release their delicious flavors, but if you go past the recommended time the bitterness will also be extracted from the grounds. Even two minutes extra with a French Press will give you a bitter coffee that is overextracted.
Steeped coffee is a method that extracts the flavor from the coffee grounds using hot water. The temperature is important - around 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 93 degrees Celcius. Do not steep too long else you will end up with a bitter flavor.
This is subjective but a good cup of coffee takes into account the quality of the water, the temperature of the water for brewing, the quality of the coffee and the brewing time. All these factors done correctly make a good tasting cup of coffee.