The 7 Rules of Making Strong Coffee

One of our new customers at Lake City Coffee asked me, "How do I make strong coffee with your beans?" I'll admit that our coffee sourcing and roasting is geared toward super smooth coffee with prominent notes of chocolate and nut. In general, I'd say that our coffee is not necessarily "strong" coffee. Yet, that being said, we have customers that tell us how strong our coffee is, like the comment below from my new friend Grant out of Mentor, Ohio, "I tried the coffee. As I opened it it smelt good enough to eat! It is very strong, unlike any coffee before. The taste is unique.”


Jitters Anxiety & Coffee

First Define Your Idea of 'Strong' Coffee

To answer the question, "What is strong coffee", I have to ask a question. “What do you mean by 'strong coffee’”? To most Americans, “Stronger Coffee” means bitter and burnt. So, these folks will never like my coffee.

To more discerning coffee drinkers, they’re often looking for a cup of coffee that’s smooth as silk, with sophisticated and well balanced flavor notes, such as chocolate, nut, citrus, etc. These are the kinds of people that end up at Lake City Coffee.

Rule #1 - The Right Beans Make Strong Coffee

Just because beans come from your favorite country, doesn't mean that you know what those beans are going to taste like. Each grower, each field, each region, each country has only a 'general' taste profile. Those taste profiles can change dramatically just one hillside over from the next or from one week to the next.

I've found that the smoothest, most well balanced, integrated flavored coffee comes from the Tarrazu Region of Costa Rica. Each year we taste test beans from two dozen different growers in this single region, just to pick one single bean that's the very best.

Good Coffee Blends vs. Bad Coffee Blends
Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans

Rule #2 - The Right Roast Makes Strong Coffee

Most people don't know this. The darker the roast, the less that caffeine, the less that bioflavinoids, the less the antioxidants, the less the aroma, and the less of that true coffee flavor. Darker roasts pick up more of their taste from the roaster than from the beans.

Yet, 75% of our customers prefer that dark roast. I don't, but that's just me. I prefer our Majestic Medium. Maybe one reason that our dark roast is so popular is that we roast our Delectable Dark to a very dark brown. We also roast low-n-slow. This method of roasting preserves more of the bean's natural oils, which is where all of the taste and caffeine reside.

Rule #3 - The Right Blend Makea Stronger Coffee

First of all, there is only one kind of blend that I like and recommend. I recommend only those blends that are single sourced from the same field, only roasted differently. For a complete treatise on blends, see my article "Good Coffee Blends".

For example, many of our customers blend 80% Delectable Dark with 20% White Lightning. The White Lightning smooths out the Delectable Dark a little, but more importantly the White Lightning imparts a slight after-taste of peanut butter. Better yet, the White Lightning also dramatically increase the caffeine.

strong coffee
roasted coffee fresh

Rule #4 - The Fresher The Coffee, The Stronger Coffee

  1. All coffee starts going stale immediately after roasting. Yet, nearly every coffee company in America, lets their coffee sit in warehouses or on store shelves for months if not years.
  2. Nearly every coffee company in America packages their coffee in bags with builtin one-way valves. The idea is to let the beans outgas CO2, yet keep the oxygen that's in the air outside of the bag. These valves do not work. They let the CO2 out, but they also allow oxygen that's in our air to inter into the bag, thus allowing the coffee to go stale and bitter.
  3. Oxygen is the enemy of freshness. All preppers and backpackers know this. The key to freshness is to keep oxygen away. After picking, preparing, or cooking any food, if you want to preserve that food, you have to eliminate the oxygen immediately. That's why we roast and ship the same day. Additionally, we include in each heat-sealed, air-tight bag an oxygen absorber, to keep your coffee fresh. No other coffee company does this.

Rule #5 - Fine Grind Makes Strong Coffee

To make stronger coffee from good quality coffee beans like mine, first look at how fine or course you are grinding your coffee beans. Generally speaking course ground coffee will be smoother, but have less flavor.

On the other hand, finer ground coffee will be less smooth, but have more flavor. Fortunately for you, if you're using our Lake City Coffee beans, then you already have a super smooth bean, which means you can grind it finer, getting more flavor, AND maintain that smooth nature of our beans.

Coffee Pour Over Made In USA
Experiment with coffee

Rule #6 - Long Steeping Time Makes Strong Coffee

I prefer brewing methods that allow the grounds and the water to mingle for a period of time, such as the French Press, AeroPress, Cold-Brew, etc. I typically steep (or extract) my grounds in a French Press for 2-3 minutes. My friend Grant, mentioned above, steeps his grounds for 20 minutes! No wonder he thinks it’s strong. Therefore, Grant inspired me to recently experiment with steeping my coffee longer.

  1. Day one - (2 minutes) resulted in a perfectly smooth cup of coffee with subtle notes of chocolate and nut. I loved this cup of coffee.
  2. Day two - (3 minutes) resulted in a perfectly smooth cup of coffee with a little more subtle notes of chocolate and nut than the day before. I loved this cup of coffee.
  3. Day three - (4 minutes) sufficiently smooth cup of coffee with strong notes of chocolate, nut, and something else that I couldn’t put my finger on. I liked this cup of coffee.
  4. Day four - (5 minutes) still smooth with very strong notes of chocolate, nut, and very noticeable flavors of cherry and citrus. I could tolerate this cup of coffee.
  5. Day five - (6 minutes) very faint bitterness with overpowering flavors of chocolate, nut, and very noticeable flavors of cherry and citrus. This cup was just too strong for my tastes.

Rule #7 - Brewing Systems That Make The Strongest Coffee

There are a ton of brewing system out there. Some make strong coffee, others not so much. For instance, drip machines (one of my least favorite), AeroPress (one of my top favorites), Cold-Brew, French Press (my daily go-to), and Slow Pour Over are notorious for making smooth, rather than strong coffee. Yet, with each of these, if you go with a finer grind, more grounds, and allow the water and grounds to be in contact with each other longer, you can make a "stronger" cup of coffee.

When it comes to making strong coffee, the following brewing systems do an awesome job.

  • Espresso - I used to hate espresso until spending an evening with a good friend who had a good machine, and he knew how to use it. He was also a customer of mine, so he made me an espresso with my beans, see this link. Holy Cow! Was that strong! But it was still smooth, and I could still taste the chocolate and nut notes.
  • Mocha Pot - Yep, if you’re looking for strong and don’t care about taste, this baby will do the trick. In my opinion, this is the worst coffee I’ve ever experienced. Yet, I have friends that are true coffee connoisseurs that love their Moca Pot. I'll have to learn from them the secret to using a Moca Pot.
  • Turkish Coffee - Most people think this is a complex process. The first time that you make Turkish Coffee it’ll take time and effort. After a few goes at it, Turkish coffee is pretty simple and fast. But the results were much like my Espresso experience; strong as hell, still smooth, and very flavorful.
  • Percolator - Wow! Was this a surprise. Today, the percolator has a reputation of creating some the worst coffee imaginable. Here’s why. Your mother, or grandmother, or great-grandmother, percolated her coffee for 10-20 minutes. No wonder the results were so bitter and nasty. While hunting, I took along an $18.00 percolator that I picked up at the sporting goods store. I percolated my coffee for 3 minutes. The results were great. I’ll bet had I gone 4 or 5 minutes, it would have very much pleased you “strong cup of coffee” folks.
why roasted coffee doesn't last
fresh roasted coffee
conservative coffee roaster
percolator coffee vs drip

A Note on Sediment

For God’s sake, don’t be afraid of having a little bit of sediment in the bottom of your coffee cup. Fear of sediment is for wimps. If you want stronger coffee, then you're going to have sediment. No big deal. Americans are the only people that go to great extent to avoid sediment in their coffee cups. If you want real coffee that tastes great, then expect a little sediment in your coffee. You’ll never realize it’s there until you get to the bottom of your cup. In that case, just don’t drink the last swallow or two.

To avoid sediment, most people grind their beans with a courser grind. It’s real tough to get a strong cup of coffee with a course grind. Take a step on the wild side and grind your coffee finer. If you have really good quality coffee beans, like Lake City Coffee, then your fine grind coffee will still be smooth. But of you have crappy coffee beans like Charbucks or BRCC, then your fine grind will turn out stronger, but also very bitter.

Lake City Coffee

When I first started drinking coffee, a friend darn near forced me to try "his" coffee, which he claimed was awesome. To appease him, I tried it. Wow! It was really good. Looking back, that's because it was a super smooth and not strong. Over the years, my coffee tastes have grown. I'm now leaning more and more to stronger coffee.

Granted the beans that we choose are all from the Tarrazu Region of Costa Rica, which is renowned for super smooth coffee. Additionally, my slow-n-low roasting style also creates a super smooth cup of coffee. So, how do you make this super smooth combination also into a strong cup of coffee? To answer that question, I just had to listen to our customers. I put the question to them and what you read above is the result.

All that to say this. If you want a strong cup of coffee AND one that's super smooth with a ton of flavor, we have your bean. You just have to learn from us how to brew it strong.

Russell and Alisha Volz
Patriot Coffee


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