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Red belt level 3

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The Giant Ant Rule

With Sensei Joe

Imagine a world of ants whom live like you and I. Walk through their living room and into their kitchen. Walk past the table made of sticks to the counter where you’ll find an ant-size setup for manual pour over coffee. Open the cupboard where are you will find an airtight container filled to its rim with 50 or 60 coffee grounds. It looks like the aunt that lives here must have gathered them from somebody else’s kitchen counter, not yours of course. As you are looking at these grounds you see in your peripheral vision a grinder. After all to and ant, these coffee grounds are huge.

Here’s my point and introduction to what I call the “giant ant rule”. If an aunt could drink coffee theoretically there is a-grind size: amount of coffee: amount of water-ratio to consider. The ant should be able to grind your grounds to a smaller size, using 1 g of coffee and 16 g of water, it should be able to produce on a much smaller level coffee that tastes the same as your larger scale coffee. This is where this concept gets mind blowing. If water molecules and all other chemistry aspects allowed for an ant to brew coffee, would it have to be brewed faster than 3 and ½ minutes?? The answer may surprise you as it is a resounding YES! There is a wide misconception in the coffee world today that coffee must be brewed in approximately 3 ½ minutes. This is due to the misunderstanding of the ratio of grind size: amount of coffee: amount of water. This ratio ultimately determines the amount of time to brew. Take yourself back to the ant home. The ant had to grind your ground coffee smaller because it wanted to produce and ant-size pot of coffee, and you’re grounds, are simply put, ridiculously huge for its pot. This is key to the understanding of this concept, as you (or the ant) grinder coffee finer, you decrease the surface area of the coffee causing it to extract flavors much faster. Therefore a shorter brew time is needed. Think about the fast extraction time of espresso, this is the concept I am talking about.

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This graph is not exact. It is meant for visualization of what is happening. This graph assumes 1.25 oz. coffee and 20 oz. water for "sugar" grind size and up.

Yes the ant is an extreme example that is of course impossible at every level; to a point that even if an ant could attempt to brew coffee, the chemical composition of the water and its molecules would prevent this from happening. That being said, this extreme example is meant to open your understanding that this is exactly the same concept you need to use with your coffee extraction and the different methods you choose to brew it with. If you use less water, grind size must be considered to produce perfect coffee. Likewise if you use more water, grind size must be considered to produce perfect coffee. This is especially important when brewing with “3 minute” 10 cup brewers, which I personally never actually brew 10 cups with (just a side note).

Because we are thinking about the concept of more water and the consideration of grind size, let’s take a quick trip to the land of the giants. Envision everything with the ants but in reverse. This giant must use 1 pound of coffee, ground super course, and 16 pounds of the water in order to brew his giant size pot of coffee. Imagine if you ground 1 pound of coffee to your “normal” grind size and put it into a filter and tried to brew 20 pounds of water through it. Beginners, you may not fully understand this concept yet but this is what would actually happen in this case. Sometime between the 1st pound and the 5th pound of water, you would have a perfectly extracted coffee concentrate that if you added the hot water to it, then it might actually taste great, kind of like an Americano. However if you continue to put the rest of the 20 pounds of water through the coffee, though it might resemble coffee, it will be disgustingly over extracted and bitter. Over extraction is the leaching of bitter, nasty flavors and extra caffeine from the coffee. Perfectly extracted coffee is coffee that you have the extracted all of the great flavors and leaving behind the nasty ones.

This is the basic concept of the giant and rule. No matter how long you been into brewing your own coffee, if you just now understand this concept, congratulations, you are officially a red belt in the martial art of coffee brewing. You have begun the journey of mastery, which is the art of coffee brewing”!

Go to the videos: Manual Pour Over Coffee, French Press, Syphon Brew


Posted by Joe Kuehler, your Sensei at The Art of Coffee
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