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Learn Brewing Coffee

Learn Brewing Coffee


Cold Brew:

A brew method that uses cold water to extract coffee flavor from the grounds (consistency of Kosher salt). Lukewarm water is a less effective solvent than hot, so the grounds have to sit for between twelve and twenty-four hours. Cold-brewed coffee is less acidic than regular and is less intense, too. It's a good way to brew coffee that's been on your shelf for a while. 


Pourover coffee starts with (freshly) ground coffee the consistency of table salt, a filter, and a filter holder, often called a pourover dripper. Pourover brewing involves pouring water over and through the grounds to extract the coffee flavors into your cup or serving vessel.

Helpful hints: if you make a pourover by dumping all the water in at once, you’ll likely get bitter coffee. For a small pourover, you’re aiming for 2.5 to 3 minutes, including dripping time.

French Press:

If you’re using too fine a grind for a French press, you’re likely to get overextracted coffee. The longer coffee grinds are in contact with water, the coarser you want them to be. For French press, you’ll want coffee ground a little bit coarser than the consistency of table salt. French press brew time is 3 minutes.   

Water Temperature?

At our high altitudes in Albuquerque, water boils at 202°F—an excellent temperature for brewing coffee—so it’s not possible to have water that’s too hot for brewing. Some home coffee makers can't get hotter than about 195°F at our altitude, but you can usually get around it by grinding a bit finer and not worrying about not-quite-hot-enough water.


Coffee can be ground like flour or like kosher salt or anywhere in between. The size of the grind particle will determine which brew methods are appropriate and how much time you can leave the coffee in contact with water. Always match your grind particle size to your brew method.

The amount of coffee in your water. We recommend a brew ratio of 1:16 for drip coffee. For every ounce of coffee used, add 16 ounces of water. If you don't have a scale, use two tablespoons of coffee beans per 6 ounces of water.

How much of the coffee flavor compounds are dissolved in your coffee. Both under- and over-extraction are problems for flavor.


The Grind
Grinding coffee fresh is probably the single most important improvement you can make to your home coffee. A burr grinder will grind much more evenly and accurately than a blade grinder. Always make sure to match the grind with the brew method. The longer the coffee is in contact with water, the coarser the grind should be.

  • For French press, cold brew, and Chemex, grind coarse, like Kosher salt

  • For drip coffee and pourovers like Kalita Wave, grind like table salt

  • For espresso or Aeropress, grind fine—just a little coarser than flour


Why is my coffee weak?

For small-scale home brewing, start with a ratio of about 1:16 and adjust to taste. For example, if you’re using one ounce of coffee grounds, you should use 16 ounces of water to brew. Investing in a digital scale, on which you can put your whole Chemex or dripper cone or French press to measure what you put in, is the best way to go.

Why is my coffee bitter?

This is caused by one of two things. The first is that your coffee is roasted too dark or burned. Our darkest roasts have an Agtron reading of about 45—which is to say, medium-dark. We make a point not to roast so dark that the coffee gets bitter.

If we’re talking about coffee that’s not burned, and it’s still bitter, the culprit is most likely either that your grind is too fine for your brew method, or that you’re steeping your coffee for too long (overextraction). 

We sell a great little home grinder that can help you accomplish a variety of even grinds.

Lastly, if you have an auto brewer with a hot plate, it could be burning your coffee over the course of the morning. Get a thermal carafe if you can. 

Why is my coffee sour?

Your beans might be under-roasted. That can make it very sour, with light body, superficial origin character, and grainy flavor. We won't sell you coffee that light.

Water that’s not hot enough will also lead to sour, flat coffee that’s lacking body. 

If that’s the kind of coffee that comes out of your coffee maker, you might want to try using a manual pourover or French press, because you get to control water temperature. Here at Red Rock Roasters we've been using one of our favorite pourover drippers, the Kalita Wave.

You might see some improvement grinding your coffee finer to slow things down and give the lukewarm water a chance to extract.

Why is my coffee stale?

Maybe this is obvious, but you should probably start by checking when your coffee was roasted.

We encourage drinkers to purchase only as much coffee as they will consume within two or so weeks. Each bag of Red Rock Roasters coffee has a roast date on the bottom of the bag, so you know when your coffee was roasted. Coffee sits on our climate-controlled shelves for a maximum of two weeks between roast date and date of sale (call ahead if you want whatever is fresh on a given day). All our second-party retail coffee (find a list of Red Rock Roasters distributors here) is flushed with nitrogen. It's science!

Store your coffee in the foil bag it came in, pushing excess air out and securing it with the attached tin ties when you close it. If you have stored your coffee correctly, it should be okay for about two weeks. But if your coffee’s fresh and it still has an off flavor, your brew equipment might need a good cleaning. Read our brewer cleaning tips here