Four minutes is all it takes to make great—or bad—cup of coffee

By Tim Coonan, Founder of Big Shoulders Coffee

As you can imagine, I’m pretty passionate about coffee. That’s why I’m so puzzled by the popularity of Keurig coffee makers. I get that for most people the convenience of plugging one of those plastic cups where coffee goes to die into the machine seems like a time saver, even though the output is a lukewarm, watered down brew. But, in the same amount of time it takes to decide between 12 flavors of K-cups, fill and heat the water in the receptacle and wait for the drink to emerge, they could have made a truly great cup of coffee.

Here’s how.

Chemex brewing method  

In addition to the environmental mess all those plastic K-cups make, it’s just a really bad way to treat coffee. The grounds are encased in plastic and stored in a warehouse for who knows how long after roasting. Then, without any warning, the poor grounds are blasted with hottish water and forced to release what’s left of their flavor through a tiny hole. Not good.

What is good is using the same four minutes it takes with a Keurig to make a really enjoyable cup of coffee with the pour over method. You just need a few basic tools and great coffee beans.


1) Pick and prep your beans

You can’t get great results without great ingredients. Big Shoulders Coffee offers a variety of carefully selected and roasted options available in our stores or online.

Then prepare the beans by grinding them in a burr grinder to get precise, consistent particulate for even extraction of flavor. Just say no to blade grinders that mangle the beans into an uneven mix of sand and pebbles.


2) Heat the water

Heat is your friend. In an electric kettle with a digital temperature gauge, heat filtered water to between 201-204 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. They know what they’re talking about.


3) Prep the Chemex

Use Chemex bonded filters and carafe for this pour over method. You can buy it at most Whole Foods or online.

Place the filter into the carafe and add some hot water, accomplishing two things:  1.  pre-warming the carafe and 2. Doing so adheres the filter to the carafe so you don't need a second person to hold it in place, creating a nice seal.  Lots of people in the coffee world are adamant about this rinsing paper "taste" away...ok.  


4) Add the just ground Big Shoulders Coffee

Set the prepped carafe on a gram scale, and then zero it out. Add 34 grams of coffee to the filter. Don’t get comfortable over time and think you can eyeball the measurement. Use the scale every time to get the best results.


5) Moisten the grounds

Give the grounds a chance to expand by covering them with just enough water to saturate. This important step is called blooming.  You want the water and the coffee to really go crazy on each other for 45 seconds, letting every bit of the grind get wet and expand in the ground bed. My electric kettle has a gooseneck spout which gives me better control over how quickly the water is added and where to the grounds.


6) Add the second pour

After 45 seconds, add the second pour of heated water until you’re about a finger’s width from the top. At 1:45 add the remainder of the water. In total, you want to add 500ml of heated water between 201-204 degrees to the 34 grams of coffee to get two 8 ounce cups.


7) Let the coffee brew

At the 4:00 mark, your aromatic, flavorful, no residue coffee is ready to be served and savored. Swirl the brew a bit in the carafe, and then pour into two mugs.

Four minutes stand between you and a cup of coffee. Use the time wisely.

Looking for recommendations on what equipment to use? Check out my blog from earlier this month with links to my favorite tools.