How to Make a Good, Strong Cup of Coffee
in 3 Simple Steps
Knowing how to make strong coffee isn’t rocket science, but can sure be frustrating when your efforts to get the jolt a little stronger are just not panning out. Overly bitter, burnt-tasting java is all too common when attempting to up the strength of the brew.
Of course, we all have our own personal definition of “strong coffee”, too, so my interpretation may be quite different than yours. That’s why brewing strong coffee at home isn’t a black-and-white process.
Be that as it may, brewing a good, strong, tasty cup of coffee at home is definitely doable, my friend, whatever the definition. If you’ll consider three simple yet game-changing tips, it can be accomplished successfully. Yes, it may require that you change up the coffee-brewing routine, maybe even invest in a different type of coffee gear, but it will be worth it when you find the perfect blend of roast, water, and brewing method.
Okay, let’s get going and discover how to make some strong coffee!
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Step #1 It's All About the Roast: Which is Best?
In your quest to discover how to make strong coffee, there’s a good chance you’ll need to look for a different type of coffee roast. Here’s why.
Arabica vs. Robusta
Most of the coffee we drink is made from either arabica beans or robusta beans. What's the difference? And, why do we care?
Arabica beans are grown at higher altitudes, primarily in Central and South America. The have a fruitier flavor with higher sugar and acidity levels than their robusta conterpart. In general, arabica beans are considered superior in quality and taste to robusta beans.
Robusta coffee beans tend to be easier to grow than arabica beans, and are more tolerant to changes in weather patterns. They'll grow in lower altitudes, too, in areas like Africa, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Robusta coffee beans also contain more caffeine than arabica beans at about 2.7%. Arabica beans contain about 1.5% caffeine.
However, that doesn't mean that you would automatically select robusta beans strictly based on the caffeine content. We are learning how to make a good, strong cup of coffee, yes. But that can be accomplished very well and very tasty, too, with a good quality arabica bean dark roast. Robusta beans can have a bitter taste to them. It is a personal choice, but the recommendation here is to choose Arabica roast.
Light vs. Dark Roast
Many folks assume that a dark roast of coffee will have more caffeine and thus, a stronger flavor and kick. Not so, my friend.
Dark roast and light roast coffee are about the same when it comes to caffeine content. It's really about the taste, the depth of flavor, the 'notes' of a darker roast that give the brew an added intensity. It is simple enough to use more coffee, light or dark roast, to get more of a caffeine kick in your cup.
But, all that said, a dark roast will satisfy your desire, and get you closer to the goal, of knowing how to make strong coffee. So that will be the recommendation to you!
Whole Bean vs. Ground
Ground coffee is simple, yes. No muss, no fuss, no grinding. But you know what? If you are serious about learning how to make a good, strong cup of coffee, the fresh grind of whole beans is a deal-clincher.
Why? Well, the whole coffee bean contains CO2 (carbon dioxide), which was created during the roasting process. After roasting, the CO2 slowly starts to emanate, which slows the effects of oxidation. Once the little bean is ground the CO2 dissipates within minutes. Oxidation means that your flavorful, fresh coffee beans (now ground to bits) will not be so fresh and tasty before long.
Grinding the roasted coffee beans also causes the delicate flavor and aroma compounds to start to dissipate, as they are no longer protected by the bean itself.
So, grinding the whole beans immediately prior to brewing the coffee will give you the freshest taste and depth, and ultimately greater satisfaction when you sip on that strong brew!
Which roast is best?
What we've learned about making a cup of strong coffee is:
- start with a good quality arabica roast
- use a dark roast
- grind the whole coffee beans so they are the freshest, tastiest, and have the most depth of flavor
So, if you're up for some whole bean coffee to try, here are some curated options to consider:
- FRENCH ROAST: The rich coffee character of French Roast comes from a longer, hotter roast, which not all beans can handle and only Peet’s has perfected. Flavor notes: Coffee-forward, wood smoke, and burnt caramel
- OBSESSED WITH FRESH: From the beginning, Peet's Coffee has roasted the best coffee beans we can find with quality in mind. We also care for the communities that grow & harvest those beans, because coffee is better when it is grown & sourced responsibility
- BREW LIKE THE BEST: Brewing the best cup of coffee starts with finding your favorite roast or blend. Whole beans or ground coffee, dark, medium or light, single origin or a blend? Try a variety & find the best brew for the morning mug or afternoon pickup
- LIGHT, MEDIUM & DARK ROAST: Brew a pot of Peet's ground or whole bean coffee in a blend & roast perfect for your tastes. Light roast coffees are mild & smooth, medium roast coffees are smooth & aromatic, while dark roast coffees are smoky & full bodied
- DARK ROAST, WHOLE BEAN: Rich, dark chocolate, decadent. From the heart of the mountains, a strong spirit roars. The most magical hand mother nature can deal
- TASTING NOTES, BREW METHOD: Rich, dark chocolate, cacao nibs, brown sugar and roasted hazelnuts. Recommended methods: French press, drip machine, pour over and cold brew
- ORIGIN CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA: Grown in a socially and environmentally responsible way, by farmers with sustainable businesses they can depend on
- ORGANIC, FAIRTRADE, KOSHER, SHADE GROWN, ARABICA COFFEE: Coffee that is good and fair for the coffee drinkers, the farmers and the planet. 100 percent Certified
- ROASTED IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: It’s all deep, dark and delicious, roasted right below the towering Canadian Rocky Mountain peaks
- CERTIFIED ORGANIC - Sourced from the great coffee regions in Central and South America, USDA certified organic, non-GMO, 100% Arabica beans.
- WE KNOW BOLD - Our big and bold DARK, whole bean roast is a big, rich blend roasted to bring out the chocolaty, caramel flavors. It's the first blend we created in our small Vermont café.
- SUSTAINABLE ROASTING - We have a unique style of slow roasting in small batches using 100% renewable energy, caramelizing the beans to bring out the semi-sweet chocolate flavors of the coffee.
- COFFEE ROASTED FOR FRIENDS - Our friend philosophy and mission for over 41 years - we are friends to our customers, planet, farmers, and community through our commitment to ethical practices, values, sustainability, and quality coffee.
- LOYALTY PROGRAM - Join our Frequent Friend Program. Details on bag.
If you really want to use ground coffee, no worries. Here are the same three suggestions in a ground roast:
Step #2 It's All About the Water: How Much to Use?
It seems like such simple thing, the water that becomes part of your coffee brew. But there may be more to this seemingly mundane task than you think. Let's consider how the amount, and the type of water affect not only the strength of your coffee, but the overall satisfaction with the result.
The Standard Measurement
Yes, there is a standard, or "Golden Ratio" to brewing a cup of coffee: 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water. So there you go.
Notice the water measurement: 6 ounces, not 8 ounces as many coffee drinkers assume. That extra 2 ounces of water goes a long way toward diluting the strength and flavor of your coffee, friend.
Assuming that you're already a coffee drinker, consider this ratio the next time you brew your coffee. How close (or not) are you to this standard ratio? I know that I use more than the standard amount of coffee because I like a bold brew.
Once you understand what you're currently using in terms of the coffee to water ratio, it will help you find the right combination for brewing a strong cup of coffee...which leads us to the next tip.
Adjust the Amount of Water
Simply put, if you want to know how to make strong coffee, experiment with the water to coffee ratio. Use less water, especially if your actual measurment (the tip we discussed above) was a bit surprising. You might be diluting your brew a bit too much.
For most, it's probably more about the coffee ratio than the water, but it's important to realize how the two are related when it comes to the strength of the brew.
Use the Proper Type of Water
Yes, the water used when brewing your java will definitely impact the result.
Ideally, use filtered or bottled water for the cleanest taste, and one that will allow the flavor notes of the brewed coffee to fully come through. You won't get the same result with distilled or softened water, so avoid those if possible.
If your tap water has a good taste and doesn't have an odor to it, let the water run for a few seconds and get nice and cold before filling the pot.
Step #3 It's All About the Method: How Do You Brew??
The "art" of knowing how to make strong coffee comes down to three decisions, or steps as they're referred to in this post. The third step is every bit as critical as the first two, maybe more: THE BREWING METHOD.
Imagine this for a moment...you've researched the dark roast coffee that sounds the most appealing to you and purchased a bag of whole bean. Then, you invested in a burr grinder, basic model, but spent a few dollars on that.
You discovered that the water flowing from your kitchen tap may have affected the overall quality and taste of the brew, so you purchased a filter and installed it on the faucet. Cool. Awesome.
Now for the big moment: brewing the coffee. You grind the beans, carefully measure the water...then place them in your old, well-used, needs-to-be-cleaned coffee maker and hit the 'start' button. What???
All that effort, and some cash outlay, just went out the window, my friend. Ugh. Your freshly ground beans never had a chance with all of the 'history' in the old coffee maker.
Does that mean you have to buy new coffee gear to get a cup of good, strong coffee? Not necessarily.A thorough cleaning and descaling of the existing coffee maker might do the trick.
But let's take a look at some of the different brewing methods that could give you a much more satisfactory result in the search for learning how to make a good, strong cup of coffee that tastes great, too.
The auto drip coffee maker that is sitting on your kitchen counter is a handy and relatively efficient way to brew the java...those auto timers can be life savers in the wee morning hours. In reality, it's probably not going to give you the freshest, tastiest cup of strong coffee that you're searching for.
But, there are a few things you can do to create the best environment for a good cup of strong coffee:
Use fresh, whole coffee beans and grind them yourself just prior to brewing the coffee. Most of the time you'll want a medium grind, with a fine grind if the filter is cone-shaped. Experiment a bit and see what gives you the best result. You might also want to consider a grind and brew coffee maker.
The water temperature should be between 195-205 degrees for proper brewing, and your drip coffee maker might not be doing the job. Here's a tip to resolve that: run water only through the coffee maker first, then pour that hot water back into the tank, add the grounds as usual, and brew your coffee. That may give you a better result.
The French press, also known as a press pot, takes a little bit more time to prepare, but is worth learning more about as it can be oh-so-satisfying and provide that good, strong cup of coffee that you desire. Another benefit of pressing your coffee is the low cost of the French press itself.
Your water should be at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour a little bit of water into the press to warm it up, then discard.
Grind fresh coffee beans to a coarse grind, kind of like sea salt. Remember the 'golden rule' of 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water as you decide how much coffee to use. Add the freshly ground coffee beans to the French press.
Pour in the water, making sure that all of the grounds are completely immersed. It's best to stir with a non-metal type spoon or stick...wood works really well.
Place the plunger on the press and leave it at the top...don't let the filter touch the water and grounds. Steep for 4 minutes.
Press the plunger down slowly and evenly.
Now, enjoy your rich, tasty cup of coffee. It is richly aromatic and full-bodied.
Experiment with different steep times as shown below, as well as adjusting the amount of coffee used. You'll learn what gives you the most satisfying cup of strong coffee! It is a process, but worth the effort, even if you don't use the French press each time you make coffee.
- Extra dark: Steep 10 minutes.
- Standard: Steep 4 minutes.
- Short steep:: Steep for 30-60 seconds.
- No steep: Plunge immediately after stirring.
If you want to give French press coffee a try, here are some basic press options for your consideration. It is wise to buy a press a little bit larger than you think you'll need, as the description of the French press is usually based on the smaller European sized cups, about 4 ounces per cup.
The pour over is my coffee brewing method of choice, and I'm a lover of bold, strong coffee. It's not difficult to learn, and doesn't require spending a lot of money for the gear.
I use a simple electric pot to heat the water to my desired temperature, a coffee grinder for the beans, and a basic ceramic pour over with #2 cone filters. That's it. My gear looks something like this:
This is how I make a rich, tasty cup of coffee using the pour over method (and no measuring scale):
First, grind your coffee beans (unless you are using pre-ground coffee). Measure out 4 tablespoons - not heaping - of coffee beans and grind them to a medium - medium/fine level.
If you have a grinder with settings, you're all set. If your coffee grinder is like mine and doesn't have settings, it's a timing thing. You might have to experiment a little bit, but for me, it's a 12 second count to the perfect grind.
Like I said, this is a simple and unscientific method, my friend.
Place a filter in your coffee dripper and put the ground coffee in the filter. Some folks say that if you wet the filter before adding the coffee it helps to keep it in place. Give that a go if you like.
Tap the dripper a time or two, to even out the grounds.
Place the dripper over your coffee cup or mug.
Now, heat your water. It's best to use filtered water because you'll most likely get the truest, cleanest coffee taste. Again, experiment and see what type of water gives you the best result.
If you're using an electric kettle, set it to 195 or 200 degrees and wait for it to heat. You can heat up to 205 degrees but don't go higher than that for optimal taste and extraction.
Are you heating water on the stove? No worries. Let it just come to a boil, take the water off the heat and let it sit for 30-45 seconds, then go to the next step.
If you want to be certain that you're using the right amount of water, pour 10 ounces into a measuring cup. Once you become accustomed to brewing with the pour over method you'll be able to eyeball it and can skip the measuring cup.
Now we are going to let the coffee 'bloom'. Pour just enough water over the grounds to cover them, then wait for the water to drip through. It will take about 30 seconds or so.
A lovely benefit of the blooming process is that you get to enjoy the aroma of the coffee as the carbon dioxide is being released.
Pour more of the water in the dripper, starting from the outside edge and going in a circular motion toward the middle. Stop when the dripper is getting full, and wait for the coffee to drip through to the cup.
One more pour should use up the remaining water. The entire pour over process will take about 3 minutes.
And yes, it's a bit of a ritual once you get the hang of it. I really enjoy the process, and somehow it makes the coffee taste that much better!
How to Make Strong Coffee: The Bottom Line
So now you know the 3 simple yet essential components, or steps, to learning how to make strong coffee.
Does it take a little bit of experimentation? Yes.
A dash of patience? No doubt.
A small investment in some basic coffee gear? Potentially.
1 | A dark roast, whole bean coffee will give you the absolute best result in brewing a good, strong cup of coffee. Use the helpful grind size chart shown here to help you with the proper grind size. Thanks to our friends at ecscoffee.com for this graphic.
You'll most likely want a medium grind for pour over or auto drip, or a coarse grind for French press. But check out the others, because as your coffee palate develops you'll probably want to venture into other types of strong brews.
2 | Use the proper amount and type of water when brewing your java.
3 | The method of the brew can make all the difference, so be open to trying something new, like a pour over or French press.
So...go forth and brew that tasty, fresh cup of strong coffee, and enjoy!
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You'll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions.