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).

Brew Notes

  • Beans: Lost Dog Coffee “Mocha Sidamo” dark
  • Grind: “Finer end of medium” – 1.5 turns on the JX PLUS 3 clicks, or 48 total clicks
  • 85°C water
  • 16 grams coffee / 200 grams water
  • James Hoffmann’s Ultimate Aeropress Recipe

I’ve used a different recipe with these beans several times, with pretty good results, but I just wanted to try something different. I decided to try yesterday’s recipe, with a couple of tweaks: 16 grams coffee (vs 15), 85°C water (vs 90°C), and 48 clicks on the JX (vs 42, or slightly coarser). Compared to the recipe I’ve previously used with these beans, this one uses the same water temperature, with a coarser grind (48 clicks vs 36) and a longer brew time. The other recipe also uses less water for the brew (160 grams) and 40 grams bypass water. Today’s cup turned out OK, but maybe slightly underextracted. Next time, I could either increase the water temperature to 90°C, or go with a slightly finer grind.

Biking & Brewing

I didn’t get out of the house until 9:15 this morning (kind of a recurring theme this week), but had a pretty good, albeit short, ride into work. In spite of a “code orange” air quality alert, it felt more pleasant outside than any of the past several days. I was surprised at how many people were in PVSP this morning, given that it was a Wednesday, and the area got 2″ of rain last night. I guess 90 minutes makes a big difference, as the park is almost always (mostly) empty before 8:00. I hope to buck the lateness trend tomorrow and get out for an early run.

I brewed this recipe this morning with my Lost Dog “Mocha Sidamo” beans, ground at 1 rotation + 6 clicks on my JX (same setting I’ve been using for a while). Poured for 25 seconds, steeped until 1:25 with a quick swirl at 1:00, pressed until around 1:55, added 40 grams bypass. I’ve gotten to where I can brew this recipe, start to finish, in about the same time it takes me to brew a cup of pre-ground coffee in the drip machine. It does require more coordination than the drip machine, but the finished product is (usually 😀) superior. Today’s cup was pretty good, with a tiny touch of bitterness that I haven’t tasted with these beans before. I wonder if the swirl, or the tiny bit longer steep time, made any difference.

Brew Notes

  • Beans: Lost Dog Coffee “Mocha Sidamo” Organic Dark Roast (Ethiopia)
  • 17 grams coffee, 160 grams brew water
  • 85°C water
  • JX 1.5 rotations minus 3 clicks (fine)
    • See comments — an even finer grind than this (1 rotation plus 6 clicks, or 36 total clicks), seems to work better
  • Recipe: V60 Style Aeropress (dark roast)
  • Cup #1: 80 grams bypass water (240 grams total; 1:14)
  • Cup #2: 40 grams bypass water (200 grams total; 1:12)

I got pretty good results the first time I tried this recipe, but didn’t measure how much bypass water I added. The recipe calls for 100mg, but even 80 tasted weak to me. 40 grams (a 200g cup) seemed about the right strength, and was not a bad cup. Given that the recipe calls for so much more water, I’m wondering if I’m not getting enough extraction out of the beans. I don’t think I want to go up much on the water temperature, so I guess I could try grinding even finer and see what happens.