The science of coffee

Adding sugar can help to disguise an imperfectly-brewed cup of coffee.
Adding sugar can help to disguise an imperfectly-brewed cup of coffee.

At Rijo42, we like to think we know our coffee inside and out. That’s why we were interested to hear the views of chemistry teacher Andy Brunning, writing in the Guardian newspaper. He claims to be fascinated by ‘everyday chemistry’, and has applied this fascination to the pursuit of finding out what actually happens when you make a cup of coffee. In his pursuit of coffee excellence, he’s come up with some tips for perfect flavour.

  1. Adding a pinch of salt to coffee can help temper bitterness. It might seem an odd way of improving flavour, but tests show that adding a tiny amount of salt really does reduce a bitter taste. Does adding salt to coffee temper bitterness?
  2. The ratio of water to coffee is a vital component of the brewing process – work on around 1g of ground coffee for every 16ml of water for standard strength, and 7g of coffee for an espresso. Adding too much coffee will result in a bitter flavour, while too much water will give a watery, weak result.
  3. Be precise about your brewing time – an espresso should only brew for a brief 20 to 30 seconds, whereas if you’re using a cafetiere-type brewing method, be prepared to wait for 2 to 4 minutes.
  4. Always use the best quality coffee you can, and match the size of the coffee grounds to the brewing method.
  5. If you get it wrong and end up with bitter coffee, you can mask the damage to some extent by adding milk and sugar. This isn’t really a substitute for getting the brewing process right in the first place, though!

If you’re as passionate about coffee as we are, take a look at our main website where we’ve got everything you need for the true caffeine aficionado.