The Brewed Coffee Compass: How It Works and How to Use It
Trying out new and exciting beans is one of the great joys of making your own coffee. Yet, experimenting with beans is not without its frustrations. Any time you’re working with new coffee, you’ll need to adjust your brewing variables to get a balanced cup. Coffee compass can take some of the guesswork out of this process.
Read on to discover how it works and what a useful tool it can be for your brewing.
What is a coffee compass?
With manual brewing, you can control the variables that will affect the taste of your coffee. The downside is that it can be confusing precisely what you need to adjust to get a balanced brew.
A coffee brewing compass is your brewing cheat sheet.
The compass tells you exactly what needs changing, even if you don’t know which variables affect coffee characteristics (1).
It can be easy to say that you don’t like the taste of coffee but identifying exactly why you don’t like it can be more challenging. If you’re not accustomed to picking out specific tastes in your coffee, you might want to check out the coffee flavor wheel first.
To get the most out of the compass, you’ll need to start with good coffee beans. Adjusting your brew ratio and extraction time won’t solve problems caused by stale or poor-quality coffee.
The compass isn’t just for fixing issues with your coffee extraction; it can also help you to fine-tune your brew to your tastes.
…using different brew ratios for the same coffee is like playing the same song with different arrangements.
What if your brew is in the green zone of the map? You can still use the compass to explore new characteristics of the beans or bring out the flavors you like best.
How to use the coffee compass
At first glance, the compass can seem a little overwhelming. Once you get the hang of it, you should find it a useful and flexible tool to help you nail the perfect brew.
This compass is for manual brewing methods only. It’s not suitable for espresso.
- Brew your coffee using any manual method.
- Taste the coffee, paying attention to negative flavors in particular.
- Look for the flavor on the map – this is where you should place the center of the compass.
- Find the arrow that points to the center of the green zone.
- Follow the instructions on that arrow for your next brew.
- Repeat the process, moving the compass for each brew until you get the taste you’re looking for.
Exactly how you implement these changes will depend on the brew method. For example, with a French press you have precise control over the extraction time. However, with something like a V60, you might need a finer grind to extract more.
Ratios are generally flexible across manual brewing methods. But, you will be restricted by the physical limits of the brewer (such as with an AeroPress). Also, by the fact that you probably want to get a full cup of coffee out of this. You should do two things to make things as easy as possible. First, keep the amount of water constant. Second, adjust the amount of coffee as per the directions on the arrow.
When adjusting your ratios, make sure that you measure your coffee by weight. This is the only way to get a consistent measurement, as all beans will vary in density.
Finally, although water temperature is one factor that affects extraction, you don’t need to worry about that when using this compass. Keep to the recommended coffee brewing temperature between 195–205℉ and adjust the taste using the other variables.
The brewing ratio for pour over coffee is recommended as 1:16-1:18. This is a suggested starting point that will need to be adjusted for the individual beans and your taste.
To adjust the taste with a drip coffee machine you will need to work with the grind size and the amount of coffee you use. Some drip machines also have an option to adjust the brew time, but you won’t have the same control as with a manual brewer.
There is a coffee compass for espresso, but it’s a little more complicated to use (2). Espresso machines have less flexibility when it comes to ratio and grind size compared to manual brewing methods.
- Boydell, H. (2018, November 22). Understanding coffee extraction for your perfect cup. Perfect Daily Grind. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/11/understanding-coffee-extraction-for-your-perfect-cup/
- The Espresso Compass. Barista Hustle. (2021, September 28). Retrieved October 22, 2021, from https://www.baristahustle.com/blog/the-espresso-compass/