What is Strong Coffee?

Many times, clients tell me: “I want a strong coffee.”

What exactly is strong coffee? A caffeine kick that makes your eyes twitch? A bold strong flavour?

Let’s first put a common myth to bed. Coffee needs to be analyzed scientifically to decide caffeine content. It is said that lower grade Robusta is higher in caffeine compared to high quality Arabica. Further, many argue that lighter roasts are higher in caffeine than dark roasts. This may be true, but the margin is so small that it is too insignificant to mention.

Does roast level dictate coffee strength?

That awful coffee scale we see on the side of packaging, (yes, you know what im talking about!) “1”normally indicating a light roast and “5” a dark full bodied roast. We go “Ooh! Number 5 must be strong, I mean it says: full bodied dark roast.”

Here are the cold hard facts; light roasts have more bean of origin flavours, where as dark roasts have more roast flavours. With dark roast coffees you get strong tastes such as burnt toast, tobacco, intense bitterness and burnt sugar. These are what most people associate with strong coffee. A well roasted light coffee which would be rated ”1” can pack the same punch, with more delicate flavours (acidity and sweetness) than a darker roasted coffee with its bitter sweet notes.

What makes coffee strong?

Brew Ratio, Brew Time and Brew Method.

‘Brew ratio’ is the ‘water to coffee’ ratio and is important no matter what method is used. Knowing these ratios and times will determine coffee strength. For example, I use 17.5g of ground coffee in a 1 cup french press ( plunger ) with approximately 250ml water and allow it to brew for 3 to 4 minutes. Its best to start off with a strong brew ratio as you can always add clean hot water to dilute the coffee. Espresso extraction is a whole other science which we will take a closer look at in a future article, but for now lets look at the following: Our standard is 15g coffee yielding 30ml espresso. You may say that since we use the same quantity of coffee for espresso as used in the french press, the espresso must be stronger – more caffeine. No, Espresso is about flavour extraction and intensity, not caffeine kick. Again, science and studies have shown that there can be more caffeine content in the coffee from the french press. Remember that the coffee was exposed for longer to water in the french press, extracting different flavours and elements from the grounds.

In summary:

1.Do not confuse flavours with strength.
2.Adjust your brew ratio.
3.Adjust your grind for better extraction of flavours.
4.Use fresh coffee ( old coffee is just nasty ).
5.Standard starting brew ratio for filter: 15g to 250ml (adjust to suit your taste).
6.Standard Espresso extraction ratio 15g of coffee yielding 30ml of espresso
7.Most importantly, speak to your local coffee roaster. We are here to ensure that you get the best out of your daily caffeine fix.

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