Brewing Coffee 101

The NCA Guide to Brewing Essentials

Coffee is personal - the right way to make it is how you like it best. 

That being said, mastering a few fundamentals will help you perfect your technique. From here, we encourage you to experiment with different roasts, origins, or preparation methods.

Here are our tips to brew a classic cup of coffee.

The Equipment

Make sure that your tools — from bean grinders and filters to coffee makers— are thoroughly cleaned after each use.

Rinse with clear, hot water (or wipe down thoroughly), and dry with an absorbent towel. It’s important to check that no grounds have been left to collect and that there’s no build-up of coffee oil (caffeol), which can make future cups of coffee taste bitter and rancid.

Brewing Time

The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important flavor factor. 

In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a French Press, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso has an especially brief brew time — the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. Cold brew, on the other hand, should steep overnight (about 12 hours).

If you’re not happy with the taste of the final product, you're likely either:

  • Over-extracting - the brew time is too long
  • Under-extracting - the brew time is too short

Experiment with the contact time until you get the right balance for your taste.