In addition to being an award-winning bed and breakfast, the Holualoa Inn is also home to our award-winning coffee farm. The 100 percent Kona coffee beans grown on our 20-acre property are some of the best in the world, but is that enough? Coffee is an artisanal beverage, and variances in the brewing process can provide vast differences in the final drinking experience. So how does one brew the perfect cup of coffee?
Start with the Best Beans
The perfect cup of coffee must start with perfect beans. The Holualoa Inn’s farm and inn are located in the historic Kona coffee belt on the lush slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii. Brazen Hazen Coffee produces our signature estate-grown coffee. They manage the cultivation, harvest, and roasting of the beans from our Kona coffee farm under our private label.
In our search for how to make the perfect cup of coffee, we turned to Brazen Hazen owner and coffee connoisseur David Duron.
“I love this conversation because flavor varies so much depending on how the coffee is prepared,” says David. “Even within a given preparation, the taste can vary with grind size, coffee/water ratio, water temperature, etc.”
Check Water Quality
Experts agree there are some subtleties in the brewing process that have a tremendous impact on the coffee quality: water chemistry, particle size distribution produced by the grinder, and coffee freshness.
For water chemistry, there’s a bit to unpack. Coffee is an acidic beverage so the acidity of the water you use to make your coffee can distinctly affect the flavor. Soft tap water will result in a highly acidic cup. Hard tap water will produce a chalky cup as the bicarbonate has neutralized most of the flavorsome acids in the coffee. Ideally, you want somewhere in the middle, but most people probably don’t know the bicarbonate concentration in their tap water. Try brewing your coffee with Evian bottled water—one of the highest bicarbonate concentration bottled waters—and compare it to your home tap water coffee.
Grind it Right
For particle size distribution, coffee enthusiasts agree the coffee grinder makes a world of difference in the final flavor. Blade grinders are a poor choice because they produce a more random particle size. Both powder and essentially whole coffee beans may coexist in the same grind. Connoisseurs, like David, prefer a burr grinder.
“The most important piece of equipment I use in the brewing process is the grinder,” says David.
Burr grinders have two pieces of metal with teeth that cut the coffee into progressively smaller pieces, only passing through once they are small enough. This results in a much more uniform grind. If possible, always wait to grind the coffee until you’re ready to use it for optimal freshness.
Speaking of freshness, coffee science confirms that the freshness of the coffee is crucial to the final product. Roasted coffee contains a significant amount of CO₂ and other volatile compounds which release over time, resulting in a less flavorful cup of coffee. Most cafes know this and will not serve coffee more than four weeks out from the roast date. Coffee freshly ground from freshly roasted beans will result in a more flavorful, more aromatic, and less bitter coffee.
David knows that freshness is essential to the perfect cup of coffee. Brazen Hazen always roasts their coffee to order. Roasting happens in small batches and ships on the same day, meaning customers always get the freshest possible coffee. For extra savings and convenience, connoisseurs can even join their Fresh Brew Club, a monthly subscription of Brazen Hazen beans. They deliver 100 percent Kona coffee right to your door so you never run out.
Pick the Right Brew Method
With freshly roasted beans, balanced water, and the perfect grind… the actual brewing can begin! But what’s the best brewing method?
To get technical, scientists have found that people seem to like drinks that contain coffee constituents at 1.2 to 1.5 percent by mass (as in filter coffee), and favor drinks containing 8 to 10 percent by mass (as in espresso). There are a limited number of brew methods that achieve 8 to 10 percent concentrations, the espresso machine being the most familiar.
Scientifically, espresso machines are the optimal way to make the best cup of coffee. They’re also expensive, take up considerable space, and can be difficult to clean. Espresso makes an indulgent treat if you’re at a café, but is excessive for most at-home coffee drinkers.
There are, however, many ways to achieve a great cup of coffee at home. Various options include pour-over, Turkish, Arabic, Aeropress, French press, siphon, or batch brew (that is, regular drip) apparatus. Any of these methods can contain coffee constituents in the right ratios with the added benefit of price, convenience, and size.
Do It like the Pros
So how does the owner of a coffee production business make his coffee at home?
“The ritual of making coffee in the morning might be one of my favorites and it has evolved over time,” says David. “At first, I was very precise…weighing out my coffee, etc. Nowadays, I’m a little less precise but still enjoy the ritual. My go-to method of preparation is with a French press, but I’ve also been known to use an Italian Moka Pot. Both take a touch more work than a drip machine, but not much more and I really enjoy the result.”
At the Holualoa Inn, we utilize batch brew to keep up with the demand for fresh coffee at our gourmet breakfasts, but we also offer personal French presses for guests who prefer that method.
David says he has come to appreciate the incredible work that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee. It requires a top-down harmony among the growers, harvesters, roasters, distributors, and brewers.
“Today, I have a great respect for what it takes to produce great coffee. To bring something of high quality from farm to cup takes a lot of steps, and there are a lot of people involved along the way.”
With all the variables at work, the best cup of coffee comes down to your own taste buds and a ritual you can repeat and enjoy. However you brew it, the more good you put in, the more good you’ll get out. If you start with the best, it will show in the final cup.