Coffee Making – Fine Adjustments
Did you know that the quality and flavour of a coffee can be adjusted by varying the tamping pressure, the type of milk used, the grind, and of course, the amount of coffee used?
It is the interplay between these variables that determines the results for each cup that is produced.
Of course, the most obvious factor is the amount of ground coffee: less produces a weaker drink and more produces a stronger one. (Coffee Range) It might seem the simplest and most obvious change, but reducing the amount of coffee does not necessarily give the best results since this also reduces the flavour, and makes for a more bland drink.
A more important consideration is in the tamping pressure. (Barista Tools) The recommended pressure for tamping is 25–30 lbs. At higher pressures, the water takes longer to pass through the compressed coffee grounds, and therefore, the extraction is greater. At lower pressures, the extraction is quicker. Since sweeter and more palatable flavours are drawn off first, then the lower the pressure, the richer and sweeter the flavour, and the greater the pressure, the more intense and bitter flavours are extracted. The best results are obtained by using a precise amount of coffee grounds and then adjusting the tamping pressure to get the desired result.
A more complicated adjustment can be made via the grind, where a finer grind intensifies flavour and a coarser grind reduces it. It is probably best to adjust this as a last resort. Finer grinds simply make it harder for the water to pass through, but since this can be done by adjusting tamper pressure, it is easier to try adjusting tamper pressure first.
Finally, think about the milk used for latte and cappuccino-style drinks. Whole milk produces a richer and sweeter drink, whereas semi-skimmed and skimmed milk lets much more of the coffee taste come through and therefore produce a stronger coffee-flavoured drink. The smoothness of the coffee is also dependent upon the volume and quality of the micro foam in the final drink.
Using these adjustments allows you to optimise the results in making each cup of coffee your best yet.
By Jack Marshall