Brew Guide: What Are The 3 Phases of Drip Coffee Brewing?
Not sure how to make the best drip coffee? The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® details how to master each phase of brewing coffee at home.
Drip brewing is the standard method of making coffee at home, in the office, and even at a remote campsite. The basics of brewing coffee are universal, but many people are surprised to learn how many variables there are from one batch of coffee to the next. So many factors are at play: grind size, water temperature, and the coffee to water ratio.
When you’re trying to master your at-home drip coffee brewing technique, consider every phase of brewing coffee as a unique skill to master. We’ll walk you through every step of extracting the best flavor from the coffee in your kitchen.
Once you fill your coffee filter with coffee grounds, the first step in manual or drip brewing is pre-brewing, or “blooming” the grounds. During this process, pour a minimal amount of hot water onto your grounds – just enough to wet them. Then, wait approximately 30 seconds for the coffee to “bloom,” a process that will unfold before your eyes.
The bloom phase is important because it helps release carbon dioxide trapped inside the coffee bean during the roasting process. The lighter the roast, the more carbon dioxide there is trapped inside the coffee beans. Because dark roast beans have a longer roasting process, they will have less carbon dioxide than a light or medium roast bean.
Hot water hits the grounds during the “bloom,” forcing a reaction and physical transformation as the carbon dioxide escapes. Carbon dioxide can make coffee taste sour, so releasing as much as possible ensures a smooth, tasty cup. If too much carbon dioxide is left behind in your grounds, it will also disrupt extraction. Carbon dioxide that escapes during extraction will separate the water from the coffee, not allowing the full flavor to develop.
We know this is a lot of information, and if you couldn’t care less about chemistry, just remember to quickly pour a little hot water over your grounds and wait at least 30 seconds before you move on to extraction.
Extraction is where you largely determine the flavor of your brew. As the extraction process develops, you’ll extract fruity acids, then sweet ones, and then the bitter tones. The best way to control the flavor profile of your brew is to carefully monitor the water temperature and the overall brew time.
The ideal brewing temperature is between 195° and 205° F. Your grounds’ particular roast level, solubility, grind profile, and freshness will determine the exact temperature you should use. Read your coffee’s packaging to locate a precise temperature, if possible.
Most brewers use a few long pours to extract the coffee flavor. Baristas and coffee brewers recommend limiting the number of pours during extraction so you can reduce the number of variables in your brew. However, some argue in favor of “pulsing,” or using frequent, smaller pours, to improve consistency and efficiency. Try both methods and see how your results differ. “Pulsing” is a more advanced technique but may result in a more complex flavor, depending on the grind size and the coffee itself.
The Final Phase
During the final 40%-or-so of your brew, you enter what we deem “the final phase.” There’s no visual indication that you are switching gears, but in the final phase, you are extracting the bitter, more acidic elements of your coffee. Thus, depending on your brewing method, you may need to make adjustments to avoid a bitter cup of coffee. You don’t want to reach the finish line and sip an unsavory concoction that then lies on your kitchen counter, barely drank, cold, and forgotten.
So, what do you do? Avoid over-extraction by reducing the water temperature and being mindful of brew time. Like over-steeping your tea, over-extracting your coffee will spoil the entire batch.
If you are brewing pour over coffee, you’re in luck! The water temperature will naturally cool as you brew. However, if you are using a mechanical or batch brewer, you may want to adjust the temperature settings. We recommend you reduce the water temperature by 8° F for the final phase of brewing.
When you’re ready to take on the task of brewing at home, set yourself up for success with pre-ground coffee or whole beans from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®. Enjoy a light, fruity, bright cup of Kenya AA Coffee or a fragrant, dark, and distinctive cup of Bali Blue Moon Coffee. Use this guide as a starting point to experiment and refine your signature brew of at-home pour over or drip coffee.