Zeke’s BirdSong

  • Beans: “Bird Song” from Zeke’s Coffee (Baltimore, MD)
    • Roast level: Medium/Dark (6/8)
    • Origin: Central and South America
    • Roast date: 4/15/24
    • Purchase date: 4/22/24 at Green Valley Marketplace in Elkridge, MD
  • AeroPress:
    • 21-22g coffee / 250g water (1:11 to 1:12)
    • JX: 19 (57 clicks)
    • Water at 85°C
    • Prismo with metal and paper filters
    • Pour all 250g and stir 5-6x; cover and steep until 3:00; stir 5-6x; press slowly

I brewed the first few cups at 95°C. For a couple of them, I included a 45-second bloom step and steeped until 3:00; for a couple others, I skipped the bloom and steeped until 2:30. I didn’t notice much of a difference. The cups were a tiny bit on the bitter side, but not enough to be unpleasant. There was no acidity and not much in the way of complexity — more or less what you would expect from a darker roast, and not bad, but nothing to write home about, either. This afternoon, I dropped the temperature to 85°, and it made a big difference. The bitterness was gone, and the cup was rich and full-bodied. I’ll keep brewing it like this for the time being. I bet that this would also make really good French press coffee.

5/2: The past couple days’ cups were starting to taste a little bitter (right around 2 weeks past roast date), so I backed the grind off to 20 this morning. It would probably be good at anywhere from 18-20. The only issue I have with coffee brewed at 85°C is that sometimes it cools off more than I would like. Cooler cups can be good in the summertime, but a few options for a warmer cup would be:

  • Preheat the mug using water from the insta-hot or leftover hot water in the kettle. The former bothers me because it seems like it wastes water and energy. The latter seems inconvenient with the AeroPress, because once the water is heated, the brewer sits on top of the mug, unless I brew with it inverted.
  • Use an insulated mug instead of ceramic
  • Brew a stronger ratio and then dilute with hot water

5/5: I used the last of these up today. I settled on setting 19 for my last several cups, and they were pretty good.

Peet’s Major Dickason’s AeroPress

  • Beans: “Major Dickason’s Blend” (Latin America/Indo-Pacific)
    • Dark roast
    • Roaster: Peet’s Coffee (Emeryville, CA)
    • Roast date: 11/19/2023
  • Dark Roast AeroPress Recipe
    • JX grind setting: 11 to 12 (33 to 36 clicks)
    • Water temperature: 85°C
    • Steep time: 1:35
    • Ratio: 1:12.5 (20g coffee, 250g water)
    • Prismo with metal filter and 1 paper filter
    • Go easy on the stirring (3x or so before and after steeping)

I initially brewed these yesterday at grind setting 16, but it tasted a little bit watery/under-extracted. I tried again today using grind setting 15, and it was quite good. Some “fines” definitely make it into the cup at this setting, which doesn’t bother me, but if it did, I could add a paper filter to get rid of them.

12/30: Decided to experiment today and see how much stirring really affects extraction, as I’ve read in various places that more stirring == more extraction. I stirred at least 10 times at both the beginning and the end of the steep period. The result was a really watery and lifeless cup, which is not what I had been expecting. After the fact, I realized that I had used grind setting 16 instead of 15, which kind of invalidates the experiment. It does prove that no amount of stirring is going to make up for the grind being too coarse. It also makes me wonder if I should try grinding finer than 15. Not sure if I’ll try that tomorrow, or try the stirring experiment again.

12/31: Went to grind setting 14 and back to just 4-5 stirs. Kind of a weird cup, where the first half tasted full-bodied and pretty good, but the second half seemed like it had less flavor. I’ve noticed this phenomenon a few times before, particularly with darker roasted beans, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the coffee cooling down as I drink it, or my own taste buds getting desensitized, or both, or neither. It could be that the beans are past their prime, in which case I may have hit the point of diminishing returns. However, it seems that I’ve used grind settings as low as 12 with dark roasts in the past, so I will likely try to go a little finer next time and see what happens.

1/1/24: Grind setting 13 was an improvement over 14. Interestingly, the first sip had a slightly watery mouthfeel, but the rest of the cup was pretty nicely balanced, which is the exact opposite of what I noted yesterday. Once again, I’m not sure how much of it is related to temperature vs palate. Could probably go even finer if I wanted to..

1/2: Grind setting 12 today. This was a little better still than 13, at least until the last third of the cup, when I started noticing some bitterness. This cup also had noticeably more sludge in it. I may try adding a paper filter tomorrow, to see if filtering the sludge out eliminates the bitterness.

1/3: Kept grind setting 12 and added a paper filter on top of the metal Prismo filter. Good cup with no bitterness at the end and no sludge. I think I might brew the rest of the beans this way, unless I get the urge to tinker some more.

1/5: This was still good at grind setting 11. I wonder how fine I can grind these before they start getting bitter…

1/9: Grind setting 11, stirred a little bit more than usual (maybe 7 times or so back and forth before and after steeping). This cup tasted kind of like burnt ashes. Is this what over-extracted dark roast coffee tastes like?

1/10: Used setting 11.3 (34 total clicks). I added 1 click on a whim, but I doubt it’s enough to tell a difference from 11. Didn’t stir much this time — 3 rather leisurely back-and-forth stirs before and after steeping. This ended up being the best cup I’ve brewed so far. It was good, with no burnt-coffee taste, and the entire cup was consistent (no mysterious loss of flavor halfway through). Could the stirring (or lack thereof) really contribute that much to the flavor? Unfortunately, I only have 30g of beans left to experiment with, so I’ll have to pick this back up with the next dark roast I buy.

1/12 or 1/13: Used up the last of these. I got the best cups using a grind setting of 11 to 12, going easy on the stirring, and using a paper filter in front of the metal Prismo filter, so I’ve updated the recipe accordingly. Incidentally, I ended up with 8 grams of beans left, which was not enough for a full cup, so I brewed it at 1:10 (80 grams water) and added it to some hot chocolate. It was quite tasty!

Zeke’s Festivus Roast AeroPress

  • Beans: “Festivus Roast” (Indonesia/Central America/South America)
    • Dark roast (7/8)
    • Roaster: Zeke’s Coffee (Baltimore, MD)
    • Roast date: 11/27/2023

Initial Recipe

  • JX: 2 turns (Grind setting 20)
  • 83°C brew water / 99°C bypass water
  • 20g coffee / 200g brew water + 50g bypass water (1:12.5)
  • Two paper filters, pre-moistened
  • Recipe: An AeroPress Recipe by Tim Wendelboe
  1. Set AeroPress up in standard orientation and rinse filters
  2. Add 200g water to AeroPress and return kettle to base
  3. Stir 3 times back to front
  4. Insert plunger and pull up to stop dripping
  5. Turn kettle up to 99°C
  6. Steep for 60 seconds
  7. Remove plunger and stir 3 times back to front again
  8. Insert plunger and press slowly
  9. Add 50g bypass water

Best Recipe

  • JX: Grind setting 16 (1.5 turns plus 3 clicks, or 48 total clicks)
  • 85°C brew water (no bypass)
  • 18g coffee / 225g brew water
  • Prismo with metal filter
  • Insulated mug (Hydro Flask or similar)
  1. Set AeroPress up in standard orientation and add ground coffee
  2. Start timer and add 225g water, finishing at around 0:35, and stir 4-5 times back to front
  3. Cover AeroPress to minimize heat loss (I set the plunger on top)
  4. Steep until around 2:10 (1 minute 35 seconds)
  5. Stir 4-5 times back to front again
  6. Insert plunger and press slowly (I use just enough pressure to keep the Prismo valve open)
  7. Put lid on mug immediately to retain heat

The “initial recipe” turned out really good the first time I brewed it. Compared to the pourover cups I’ve been making recently, it was smoother and had more of a chocolaty note to it. It makes me wonder if I can tweak the pourover recipe to get a similar result. I used a finer grind setting for the AeroPress, but I don’t think I’d want to go much finer with the pourover, as it already had a slight edge of bitterness. The AeroPress cup had no hint of bitterness at all. It definitely seemed stronger than the pourover (maybe a little too strong, actually 😀), so I’m wondering if the longer steep time leads to more bean extraction at the lower water temperature. I suppose that I if I wanted to reduce the caffeine hit, I could skip the bypass and brew 200g water with 16g coffee, but I liked that the hotter bypass water brought the cup up to (what I consider to be) an ideal drinking temperature. I’ll have to give this some thought.

12/6: The same recipe with 18g coffee (1:14) had similar flavor, but (predictably) less body. I think I’d be best off brewing a little bit less coffee at a stronger ratio. A few possibilities:

  1. 200g water with 16g coffee and no bypass
  2. 160g water with 16g coffee and 40g bypass (total 200g)
  3. 180g water with 18g coffee and 45g bypass (total 225g)

All 3 recipes keep a 1:12.5 ratio. #2 and #3 are identical to 12/5’s recipe, just with proportionally less water and coffee. I think I’m going to try #3 tomorrow.

12/7: I’m not sure why, but option #3 (from above) turned out really bad. It had no flavor at all, and had I not known better, I would have thought I was drinking hot water. Maybe I did something wrong, as it seems like simply reducing all of the quantities by 10% shouldn’t have that big of an effect. Whatever the case, I’m probably not going to try #2 or #3 again.

12/8: The same recipe that was great on 12/5 (20g coffee at grind setting 20, 200g brew water at 83°, 50g bypass at 99°) was not good today. It was marginally better than yesterday’s, but still watery and lacking in flavor. Not sure what the reason is for the inconsistency. I thought perhaps that yesterday I had forgotten to tighten the filter cap on the AeroPress, but that was not the issue today. I don’t think there was much variation in my brewing technique, so I’m a little bit perplexed.

12/9: Decided to shake things up today: 18g coffee at grind setting 15, 200g brew water at 83°, 25g bypass at 99°. This is a much finer grind and a lower ratio of bypass to brew water. Due to the fine grind, there was less initial drip-through, and more plunging resistance. I pressed very slowly, backing off at any hint of back-pressure. This was a much better cup than either of the previous two. I guess the finer grind was the difference-maker, but it doesn’t explain why the first two cups at grind setting 20 were good, but the next two were under-extracted.

12/12: I’ve been brewing the 12/9 recipe for a few days now, and the main issue is that the coffee cools too fast after brewing, even when I brew it into an insulated Hydro Flask mug. I may try nudging the water temperature up closer to 90 to see what happens. If it ends up tasting bitter, I can make the grind slightly coarser.

12/13 and 12/14: I picked up a Fellow Prismo this week, mainly because I wanted to be able to brew “drip free” without having to invert the AeroPress. Yesterday, I brewed with 18g coffee at grind setting 20, 200g brew water at 85°, and 25g bypass water at boiling. It definitely had a different flavor from the same recipe brewed with the standard cap and filter. It had more of a smooth mouthfeel, but maybe not quite as strong. No hint of bitterness. Today, I tried 17g coffee at grind setting 20, 200g brew water at 90°, and no bypass. The cup stayed hot longer, but the taste had a little bit of bitterness to it. I am going to continue playing around with the Prismo over the next several days, and see if I can get something dialed in. (Note– did I actually use setting 20? Had been using 15 since 12/9).

12/15: 200g brew water at 85°, 20g coffee at grind setting 15 (confirmed), 25g bypass water at boiling. I meant to brew this at 1:12.5, but mistakenly used 250g as the divisor, and thus ended up at 1:11.25. Regardless, for whatever reason, this cup was watery and flavorless. The common thread among the bad cups I’ve gotten seems to be the 1:10 brew ratio. I found a really good article that discusses the relationship between water and coffee volume and how it affects strength vs extraction. It’s the best, most succinct write-up on the subject that I’ve found. In a nutshell, (more coffee with the same water volume) == (more strength but less extraction [flavor]). This would seem to explain why the coffee tastes better when I brew 18g coffee to 200g water, vs 20g to 200g. The article recommends dialing in the strength first, then adjusting extraction by varying grind size, temperature, and/or immersion time.

12/16: 200g brew water at 85° (overshot slightly, so probably more like 205g), 18g coffee at grind setting 16. I also added a (dry) paper filter in front of the metal Prismo filter. I steeped from 0:35 until around 2:05 (including the initial stir), which is about 30 seconds longer than I had previously been steeping. I stirred in a back-and-forth motion and pressed slowly. This was much, much better than yesterday’s cup. I tried it with no bypass water initially, but it was too strong, so I added around 20g which brought it to probably about 1:12.5. I think that the combination of lower ratio of coffee to brew water, plus longer steep time, led to better extraction. I’m not sure if the paper filter made any difference — I added it mainly to see if it would help with cleanup, but it was kind of a push. It saved me having to rinse off the metal filter, but I still had to shake the two out of the Prismo cap and pry them apart, which isn’t really any less messy.

12/17: Brewed the same recipe as yesterday, and got another very good cup. For the record, the exact steep time after finishing the pour was 1 minute 35 seconds (0:35 until 2:10). I left out the paper filter this time, and did not notice much difference. The longer steep time seems to be the big difference-maker with this recipe.

12/19: Decided to try brewing with the full amount of 225g water (at 85°) and no bypass. I kept everything else the same (18g coffee at grind setting 16, 1 minute 35 second steep time, slow press). I think this turned out a little better than brewing with 200g water + 25g bypass. However, it’s definitely important to use an insulated mug to keep the coffee from cooling too quickly.

12/22: Used up the last of the beans. I’ll likely use “best recipe” (above) as a starting point for the next dark roast I buy, and see how it turns out.

Zeke’s Festivus Roast Pourover

  • Beans: “Festivus Roast” (Indonesia/Central America/South America)
    • Dark roast (7/8)
    • Roaster: Zeke’s Coffee (Baltimore, MD)
    • Roast date: 11/27/2023
  • 18g coffee / 250g water (1:13.9)
  • JX: 2 rotations + 9 clicks (23 on the grind chart / 69 total clicks)
  • Bloom water at 99°C, brew water between 81°C and 85°C
  • Recipe: A Better 1 Cup V60 Technique (see below)
  1. Heat water; preheat V60 and mug
  2. Pre-moisten filter, add coffee, and tare scale
  3. Shake V60 to level coffee bed; make small indentation in center of grounds
  4. Start timer and do the following, finishing between 0:45 and 1:15:
    • Pour 50g of water to bloom
    • Return kettle to base
    • Lower kettle temperature by 20° or so by adding room temperature water
    • Bring kettle water back up to 81°-85°C
  5. Reset timer
  6. 0:00 – 0:10: Pour up to 100g total (40% total weight)
    • Hold kettle for the remainder of the brewing process
  7. 0:20 – 0:30: Pour up to 150g total (60% total weight)
  8. 0:40 – 0:50: Pour up to 200g total (80% total weight)
  9. 1:00 – 1:10: Pour up to 250g total (100% total weight)
  10. Wait for drawdown (30-60 seconds)

I’ve been buying mostly light- to medium-roasted beans for the past several months, and I decided that it was time to try something dark again. This was my first time brewing a dark roast using the pourover method, and I used the same recipe that I used with Zeke’s Market Blend (actually a medium roast, but on the darker side of medium). The result was a perfectly drinkable cup, but it could have been a little bit stronger. Tomorrow, I think I am going to try 20 grams of coffee, which will give me a ratio of 1:12.5. I may also try making the grind finer little by little, until I notice any unpleasant flavors. At some point, I’ll also likely try brewing the beans with the AeroPress and/or the French Press.

12/1: Grind setting 22 with 20g (1:12.5) was an improvement over yesterday. The beans don’t seem to visibly out-gas during the initial high-temperature bloom step, so I may try skipping that tomorrow and doing the entire brew at 80-82°. I’m curious if I’ll notice any difference.

12/3: Didn’t seem like much difference doing the entire brew at either 82° or 84° at grind setting 22. Might go back to blooming one more time just to confirm… otherwise, I think I’ve got a baseline recipe dialed in. Next up will be to try AeroPress or French press.

12/21: I started brewing these beans with the AeroPress a couple of weeks ago, and I feel like once I dialed it in, it’s been easier to get consistently good cups using that method. I predict that going forward, I’ll end up brewing most light to medium roasts using the pourover method, and medium to dark roasts with the AeroPress. I’m curious to check back in a year or so and see if I was correct.


I’m getting to the end of the bag of dark roast coffee beans that I bought in Shepherdstown this past May. I have been using this recipe with them for the past week or so, and it produces a consistently good cup, but maybe just a tiny bit weak at 1:13 (which I find interesting, because the original recipe has a ratio of 1:16.5). Just as an experiment, I decided to brew it with 20 grams of coffee to 200 grams of water, or 1:10. I used around 58-60g water for the initial pour-and-swirl. The result was very bold and very good… probably the best cup I’ve brewed with the beans. I have enough left to make one last cup at this strength, but now I’m wishing I had more!

This experience begs the question of why I need to use so much coffee to get the taste I like, when almost every recipe I see uses less coffee per volume of water. It could be because the coffee is maybe a little past its shelf life. It could also be a dark roast phenomenon. I remember reading or seeing somewhere (I suspect it was a James Hoffmann video) that there’s less “good stuff” to extract from dark-roasted beans, so you have to grind them more coarsely and brew at lower temperatures to avoid extracting “bad stuff”, but this can result in a weak-tasting cup at low ratios. The recommendation was to use more coffee for a bolder taste, and that certainly mirrors my experience. However, there are a lot of “dark roast” specific AeroPress recipes floating around that use fine grinds and rather low ratios of coffee to water. I’ve tried a few of them, and they all taste weak to me, so I’m wondering what I’m missing. Maybe I just like bolder-tasting cups than most people? Who knows. In any case, I’m going to keep brewing dark-roasted beans like this until someone tells me what I’m doing wrong. 😀

5am Darkness

Woke up early today, and for a change, I got moving instead of lounging around in bed on the computer. I decided to try a different AeroPress recipe this morning.

  • Beans: Lost Dog “Mocha Sidamo” Ethiopian dark roast
  • JX: 2.5 turns (75 total clicks, or 25 on the grind chart)
  • 80°C water
  • 13 grams coffee / 200 grams water (1:15.4)
  • One new paper filter (pre-moistened)
  • Recipe: “Basikairoo” (inverted: add 50g water, swirl aggressively for 3s, top up to 200g starting at 1:00, invert at 2:15, press for 30s starting at ~3:00)

I have no idea how this recipe got its name or what it means. My only deviation from the recipe was that I slightly overshot the initial 50g of water, and ended up with 55g (which probably made no difference) and I used slightly less total water than the 210g that is called for.

This made a pretty good cup! 80°C is the lowest temperature I’ve brewed with to date (other than cold brew). The nice thing about the AeroPress is that it brews more quickly than the French press, so the water doesn’t lose as much heat. When I brewed single cups with these beans in the French press at 85°, they were never quite warm enough. This cup was at a good drinking temperature right after pressing. It seemed well extracted, with no bitter or sour flavors. It was neither too weak nor too strong. I may try it with slightly less water (180g) to see if I get a bolder tasting cup, but it’s perfectly fine as-is.

Morning Brew

  • Beans: Lost Dog “La Esparanza” medium/medium dark blend
  • JX: 2.5 turns less 3 clicks (72 total clicks, or 24 on the grind chart)
  • 90°C water
  • 15 grams coffee / 180 grams water (about 1:12)
  • One new paper filter (pre-moistened)
  • Recipe: 13g that makes you happy (inverted: add 30g water, stir 5x, top up to 180g at 0:35, stir 10x, flip at 1:40 and press very slowly, finishing at 2:40)

This is the same recipe I had been using with the German St Coffee & Candlery beans for the past week or two, with a little bit more coffee by weight. The flavor was just fine, but the cup seemed slightly weak, which I’ve noticed a lot recently with these darker beans. Next time, I’ll try 16 grams of coffee, with 35-36 grams of initial “bloom” water. I figure I’ll eventually either get it to the strength I like, or reach a point of diminishing returns where it will start tasting under-extracted.

I’ve been pre-moistening the filter recently (with water from the insta-hot tap) because it helps to keep it in place when putting the cap on in the inverted orientation. I don’t think it makes much difference in the finished product.

I found an interesting article that explains that darker roast beans have a somewhat short shelf life. That might explain why my recent cups have tasted weak — maybe the beans are just starting to go stale. If that’s the case, then I need to start buying darker roasts in smaller quantities that I can use up quickly, and also make sure the bag shows the roast date. Live and learn!

Brew Notes (again)

  • Beans: Lost Dog “Mocha Sidamo” (dark roast)
  • 20 grams coffee, 260 grams water (1:13 ratio)
  • French press
  • Gooseneck kettle
  1. Preheat French press
  2. Heat brew water to 85°C
  3. Coarse grind (JX setting: 3 rotations + 4 clicks or 94 total clicks)
  4. Start timer and pour at the same time
  5. 60 second bloom (including pour time)
  6. Stir a few seconds until grounds settle
  7. Steep 6 minutes

I never thought I’d get to a point where I drink more than one cup of coffee a day, but lately I’ve been drinking two (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) mainly because I’m experimenting with so many different beans and recipes to find out what I like. I have had these beans for a couple of months, and I think I tried them in the French press soon after I bought the bag, but I didn’t take any notes here about how it turned out. This is my “standard” French press recipe, with the temperature knocked down to 85 for dark roast.

Two observations: #1, this was not nearly as strong-tasting a cup as the light roast that I brewed in the French press yesterday with the same parameters. It was good, but I bet it would be better at 1:11 or even 1:10. Next time, I’ll try using less water for a smaller but stronger cup. #2: With the lower initial water temperature and the long steep time, it wasn’t a very hot cup. It will lose even more heat if I brew with less water. I read somewhere where there’s less to extract out of dark roasted beans, so it may be that 6 minutes is longer than it needs to steep. I may try cutting back to 5 or even 4 minutes, to see if it has any noticeable effect on the finished product. I could also try a slightly higher initial water temperature (say 90°).

I think I am running up against one of the drawbacks to the French press — it’s not ideally suited to brewing single cups, because the long steep time leads to a lot of heat loss. This is not a huge deal if you start with boiling water, but starts to become an issue with lower initial brewing temperatures. So, I might want to stick with light to medium roasts with the French press. All the same, I think I’m going to eventually try these beans with 200 to 220 grams of 90° water and 4 to 5 minutes steep time, just to see how it turns out.

Today’s Brew Recipe

  • Beans: Lost Dog Coffee “Mocha Sidamo” Organic Dark Roast (Ethiopia)
  • 17 grams coffee, 200 grams brew water
  • 85°C water
  • JX 1 rotation plus 6 clicks, or 36 total clicks (fine)
  • 2 pre-moistened paper filters
  1. 20 second pour
  2. 1 minute steep (no bloom or agitation)
  3. 30 second press

This is basically a simplified version of V60 Style Aeropress (dark roast) that uses less water and eliminates the bypass. It brewed a better cup than the recipe I used yesterday, but still not the best cup I’ve gotten out of these beans. I’m still trying to figure out what I did that time and how to replicate it, but I guess I’m getting closer. Previously, I brewed the recipe at the same ratio, but used 160 grams of brew water and 40 grams of bypass. I’m curious if the bypass makes any real difference in the taste. Maybe I should brew two cups and do a blind taste test. Unfortunately, I’m starting to run low on these beans… 😀

Brew Notes

I brewed my Lost Dog Mocha Sidamo dark roast beans today using this exact recipe, just as an experiment, as it produces great results with my other bag of medium/medium-dark beans. I had brewed a variation of the same recipe with the Mocha Sidamo beans recently, and noted that it seemed a little under-extracted, so it seemed logical to try upping the temperature a little bit and using a tiny bit finer grind size. It turned out… okay, but a little bit weak tasting. Flavor-wise, it seemed fine, so maybe I need more coffee to get the richer taste I’m looking for. Or, maybe this just isn’t the ideal recipe to be using with dark roast. I seemed to get better results using a different recipe that calls for a finer grind and shorter brew time. I found this article, which has some good info about brewing dark roasted beans, and it seems to support the theory that shorter brew times are better. It’s worth noting that I preferred the other recipe at around a 1:12 ratio, while today’s was 1:13.3. I should try brewing both recipes at 1:12, and see which one turns out better. That would mean 17 grams of coffee to 200 grams of water (actually around 1:11.8).