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.”
What is 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.
To make stronger coffee from good quality coffee beans like mine, there are several variables. The two most common have to do with the grind. Either grind your beans finer, and/or use more grounds. Another variable has to do with steeping time. If you’re using a French Press or AeroPress or Cold-Brew, then let the grounds mix with the water for a longer period of time.
Steeping time experiment.
I typically steep (or extract) my grounds in a French Press for 2-3 minutes. Grant, on the other hand, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What Coffee Brewing Method Makes Strong Coffee?
- Cold Brew is notoriously smooth but lacks flavor or punch to your coffee. No mater what you do to cold-brew it'll never be considered "strong coffee", but there are a few things that we can do to make it "stronger coffee". I use 1/2 Cup of medium grounds to 1 Quart of water. For real men, you could go with a full cup of medium-fine grounds to 1 Quart of water. I let my cold-brew steep for at least 12 hours. Real men will let it steep for 1-2 days.
- AeroPress is also notoriously smooth, but also doesn’t have as much flavor as other brewing techniques. I use 1/4 cup of medium grounds. For a strong cup of coffee, use finer and/or more grounds.
- The French Press will usually give you more flavor, more “strength”, and usually very slightly more bitterness. Fortunately for you, you’re using my super smooth beans. To make strong coffee using a French Press, simply use finer and/or more grounds. You can also let the coffee steep for a longer period of time. I recommend starting with 3 minutes and work your way up. I’ll bet that you’ll be happy with somewhere between 5 to 8 minutes steep time. The down side of this is your coffee will loose some heat. If you insist on very hot coffee, I recommend a vacuum insulated French Press. Unfortunately, all of those are made by slave labor in China. If loosing a little heat isn't an issue for you, I recommend the Titanium Snow Peak French Press (see my comments in our "Brewing Equipment Page" under the FAQ tab.
- Slow Pour-Over produces a cup of coffee somewhere between the AeroPress and the French Press. Keep in mind this is very good coffee, smooth, yet flavorful. For a strong coffee just use finer and more grounds and pour your water very very slowly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Drip Machines - Yuck. If this is your thing and you like it, then enjoy. It’s not my cup of tea. But as I always say, “Drink what you like."
- 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. I think that you can get away with medium grind with this brewing method.
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.