Have you ever been in the frustrating position where you’ve made a bad Pour Over coffee, not knowing where you went wrong? We’ve been there too–that’s why we made a comprehensive guide to show you how to fix a bad coffee.
Pour Over coffee can be delicious. It can be the last thing you think about before bed, and the first thing you think about upon waking. Then again, coffee can also be not-so-delicious. It’s discouraging when you buy quality coffee, only to make an unsavoury cup. Even the best beans won’t make a good cup of coffee if you don’t know the basics. A poorly brewed cup of coffee can taste sour, bitter, flat, burnt, or cardboard-like. Read up on how to fix a bad coffee, and you’ll never have a morning-ruining cup of coffee again!
When we say “fix” bad coffee, we don’t mean that you can alter the cup after the fact. We simply mean that you can start over and make a new, delicious cup. There’s nothing you can do to a bad coffee but accept it and move on. So cut your losses, grab a new coffee filter, and let’s get to work.
First, it’s crucial to understand all the different variables that affect the flavour of coffee. Here are the main things you have control over. The main thing to start with, is fresh roasted coffee from your local coffee roaster of choice…..like Fratello Coffee Roasters.
Grind size is really important to making a good cup of coffee. A good cup of coffee is one that has been extracted enough–not too little, and not too much. Extraction refers to the amount of flavour and caffeine being pulled out of the coffee by the hot water.
Grind size plays a key role in extraction. When it comes to most coffee methods, a finer grind leads to a faster extraction rate. Conversely, a coarser grind leads to a slower extraction rate. For example, a pour over has a relatively quick brew time, which calls for a finer grind. You want to extract the flavours quickly. A French press, on the other hand, calls for a coarser grind, to slow down the extraction rate. Due to the longer brewing time and the immersion element, a fine grind would produce a very bitter French press.
The ratio of water to coffee will dictate the strength of your cup of coffee. The most popular, recommended ratio of water to coffee is 1:16 or 1:15. So, if you’re using 20 grams of coffee, you would use 300-320 mL of hot water. While you can play around with the amounts, try not to diverge too much from the golden ratio.
The water you use to brew coffee should be hot, but not boiling. Water straight off the boil can give your coffee a burnt taste. Ideally, it should be between 93-96 degrees C. To achieve this temperature, bring a pot of water to the boil, and let it rest for 30-45 seconds.
Changing up your coffee equipment slightly can immediately fix a bad coffee. If you’re using a cheap automatic drip machine, consider switching to a pour over dripper set. It’s inexpensive and low-tech, and it will make a better cup than your clunky old coffee maker.
If you can, purchase a gooseneck kettle. Not only do they look beautiful in your kitchen, but they also let you control the flow of the water. Pouring your water straight from a kettle can make the water flow too quickly, resulting in under extraction. If you don’t have one, consider pouring your water into a metal pitcher or a heat-proof container with a spout.
While optional, a weight scale is helpful for weighing coffee beans, and great for gauging how your coffee is going.
The biggest factor affecting the flavour of your coffee is the grind. Your coffee can be ground too fine or too coarse, and it can also be ground inconsistently. We hope that you’re not using a blade grinder, as this will result in an inconsistent grind. Blade grinders, while cheap and convenient, will most definitely produce a bad coffee. What you’ll get is a cup that’s both bitter and sour. It will also lead to a flat flavour, with not many distinctive flavour notes. As a serious coffee drinker, it’s time you invest in a proper burr grinder. If you’re not ready to invest in an electric burr grinder, consider purchasing a manual hand grinder.
If you already do have a burr grinder and you’re finding your coffee isn’t tasting great, you could be grinding your coffee too fine or too coarse. Does your coffee taste strong and bitter? Set your grinder a few notches coarser. Does your coffee taste weak and sour? Go a little finer.
Now that you understand extraction and its effect on the overall flavour, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. Try our foolproof pour over, and you’ll be an expert going forward. Make sure to read the directions from start to finish before trying your hand at this recipe.
Tip: your pour over should take about 3 minutes and 15 seconds. If it takes longer than this, make your grind a little coarser. If it takes less time than this, make your grind a little finer. Use a timer for optimal results.
Want more tips to improve the flavour of your coffee at home? Check out our Coffee Storage guide!
Summer is officially here, and nothing compliments the hot summer months more than cold brew coffee. We’ll show you a few easy methods to make cold brew at home to enjoy all season long.
There are lots of different variations on iced coffee out there, but cold brew is a completely different experience. It has a signature velvety-smooth flavour profile, making it a delicious iced coffee option. You’ll find it so smooth that you won’t have to add any milk or sugar to it–it’s that good!
The best part about cold brew is that it’s incredibly easy to make, with great results. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour compared to a regular cup of coffee. We’ll show you how to make cold brew at home with basic household tools that you probably already have. But first, we’ll answer some common questions about this intriguing coffee method.
Unlike hot brewed coffee, cold brew is coffee steeped in cold water and refrigerated for 16-24 hours. Some of the more bitter chemical compounds released in hot brewed coffee are not found in cold brewed coffee. That’s why it has a smooth flavour, with very little bitterness or acidity.
There aren’t many rules about what coffee you should use when making cold brew. If you want to amplify the smooth factor of cold brew, choose a coffee roasted on the darker side, and look for chocolate and caramel notes. A great option for a darker cold brew would be the Godfather ™ Dark Roast, featuring notes of chocolate fudge and toffee. If you want a similar flavour profile but with a bit more brightness, opt for the Godfather ™ Light Roast. The lighter roast brings out a milk chocolate and caramel profile. And if you’re feeling more adventurous and looking for brighter, fruitier profiles, we recommend the D.R. Congo, with notes of grapefruit and caramel, and the Ethiopia Guji Uraga, with tropical fruit and citrus notes.
Hardly! While most people don’t have a cold brewer, you can easily make cold brew at home with some common household supplies. All you really need is a large glass container and something to strain your coffee with. You can even make cold brew in a French press–just steep your coffee in the glass vessel, and use the plunger when it’s time to strain it. If you own a reusable cloth filter, you can fill the filter with the ground coffee and tightly tie it off with an elastic band. Just make sure you give it a few good squeezes while submerged in the water to ensure the water can saturate the grinds all the way through.
If you don’t have a French press or a cloth filter, you can also use a large glass jar, and strain the cold brew at the very end. Just pour your coffee into the jar with a litre of water, and then strain it with cheesecloth when brewing is complete.
This Father’s Day, we’re paying homage to Cam Prefontaine, founder of Fratello Coffee, and pioneer of the burgeoning Calgary coffee scene. From his humble beginnings selling coffee to offices and restaurants and later roasting his own fresh coffee (long before it was cool), he’s seen the industry evolve over the years from the generic, ho-hum offerings of the mid ‘70s to the third-wave specialty coffee movement of today.
It started out as a possible alternative to a dreary mechanic job, and it turned into a passion that his whole family grew to embrace. In running his coffee business, Cam unwittingly sparked an entrepreneurial streak in his three sons, Jason, Chris and Russ. Watching their dad sell and roast coffee had a profound impact on the three sons, who went on to pursue various business ventures together. The businesses ranged from flavour syrups/smoothies, to distributing and installing espresso machines, launching a world renowned espresso machine brand Slayer Espresso, to opening up a chain of cafes called Analog Coffee.
We sat down with Cam and his son Chris to hear about the inspiration behind jumping into the coffee industry, the evolution of the cup of joe, and lessons learned from dad.
Cam Prefontaine: In the early days, it was, “coffee is coffee.” Only generic brands were available. It had little fresh flavour, and was anywhere from 1 to 4 months old, and always ground coarse.
Cam: The opportunity was presented to me as an alternative to working as an aircraft mechanic for Air Canada. So I took on the product line and worked the midnight shift until we could replace our income. Barb, my bride, took care of the kids and managed the household and the books for this new small business.
Like typical new entrepreneurs, we thought it looked easy.
Cam: I loved the smell of mom’s percolating coffee each morning with breakfast. As a child, I never liked the taste of milk, so she put some coffee in my milk with a bit of sugar, and boom… I loved the aroma and taste, and its association with many pleasant memories.
So in 1974, we started selling coffee to businesses. After 3 months, I went full-time. Our parents thought we were nuts, but we made a nice living.
Cam: Never entered my mind.
Around 1984, I was looking for the freshest roasted coffee to source for my customers. We found a local coffee roaster, who would roast small batches of coffee for us to spoil our clients, and keep them from wanting that cheap taste for a cheaper price. It worked!
Cam: After attending the first specialty coffee trade show in New Orleans, my wife and I recognized that this would be the future of coffee. We returned home to sell our office coffee service company and devoted our efforts to fine tuning our coffee roasting and services. New prospective café owners would need our help with the best coffee and equipment.
Chris Prefontaine: Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, coffee was not cool like it is now. I remember being kind of embarrassed that my dad sold coffee out of our garage. But I remember thinking it was neat when he got into roasting in 1985. I liked seeing the production process, and it got me more interested. I worked for my dad right out of high school in 1989 when coffee was just starting to get very popular.
But it wasn’t until my dad suggested he help me start my own business selling espresso machines to cafés in Calgary that I really became excited. So in 1991, dad made it possible for my older brother and me to start Espuccino Imports, distributor of Nuova Simonelli espresso machines.
Chris: I must have been 8 or 9 years old. My dad provided coffee for our church, and I would take some coffee from these large percolators, and then I would grab several sugar cubes to dissolve in the coffee! I feel sorry for my Sunday school teachers who had to put up with a super hyper kid in the class.
Chris: It started out in the ‘70s with my dad’s cheesy mustache, selling crappy office coffee. In the ‘80s my dad started roasting many different types of coffee and supplying restaurants and mom & pop shops. At the time, it was all about having 20 to 30 different flavored coffees, like “Irish Cream,” “Hawaiian Breeze,” or “Toasted Hazelnut Cream.” All artificial chemicals we would add to the beans. Yuck.
There’s information out there about how to store your coffee, but not all of it is well advised. Poor coffee storage can lead to flat, uninspiring, and downright stale coffee. You may be committing some coffee storage faux-pas lately, and you don’t even realize it!
When you buy great coffee, you have a duty to keep it fresh and use it up in a timely manner to honour its innate qualities. Don’t forget that coffee is a food item, too. Just like bread, coffee goes stale. Just as you wouldn’t eat stale bread, you shouldn’t drink stale coffee. Fratello coffee bags are dosed at 340 grams for a reason–to encourage you to buy only what you need.
Ideally, you will use up all your coffee within 3-4 weeks of the roast date. Don’t buy coffee in huge quantities if you’re a household of 1 and you only drink 1 cup a day. Buy enough coffee to last you 1 week, 2 weeks maximum. If you’re a family of 5 and you all drink 2-3 cups a day, it might make sense to buy it in quantities of 2 lbs, but otherwise, you should never need more than 340 grams at a time. Try to get familiar with your needs, and go from there.
Understanding the things that affect coffee freshness can help you keep your coffee tasting great. Below are the 3 main enemies of coffee.
Have you ever noticed how coffee bags are always opaque? This is by design. Light, particularly UV exposure, causes photodegradation in coffee. This causes the breakdown of chemical compounds, leading to less aromatic coffee. Keep your beans in the bag they came in or place them in an opaque container for optimal coffee storage.
When coffee is exposed to air, it oxidizes, and oxygen is what causes all foods to go bad. Never leave a bag of beans open where the air can get to it. Always close your coffee bag, and try to get as much air out of the bag as possible before closing. In addition, never grind a whole bag of coffee beans upon purchase. Only grind what you need, immediately before brewing.
Moisture can not only introduce new, unsavoury flavours to your coffee, but it can also cause the beans to mould and the oils to go rancid quicker. While it may seem like a good idea to refrigerate or freeze your coffee, this is where moisture can be introduced. We don’t recommend freezing or refrigerating as a means of coffee storage. In addition, a humid kitchen will cause your beans to go south, so make sure your coffee is stored in a cool, dry place.
We’ll debunk some coffee storage myths and show you some new ways to keep your coffee fresh. Let’s make stale coffee a thing of the past!
When you’re purchasing coffee at a coffee shop or online, there is usually the option to have all your beans ground at once. While you may not have the means to grind it at home, don’t rely on this forever. Get yourself a quality burr grinder for home, and grind whatever you need, right before you need it. Grinding all your coffee at once brings in the enemy of air. More surface area means more air attacking your coffee, and it will begin to stale immediately.
We don’t recommend freezing your coffee, and we especially don’t recommend refrigerating it. Freezing your coffee not only alters the chemical compounds (ie. flavours) in your coffee and dries up the oils, but it introduces moisture, one of the key enemies of coffee. What happens when you freeze your coffee is that condensation accumulates around the jar. As soon as you take it out of the fridge and open the container or jar, the condensation rushes in, introducing moisture. While freezing your coffee is a common piece of advice, we don’t recommend it as a means of coffee storage.
Coffee bags are opaque for a reason–to keep light out, a major coffee enemy. The best container to store your beans in? The bag they came in! While it may be tempting to store your beans in a glass mason jar on the counter, this will quickly lead to flavour degradation. The same goes for storing beans in the hopper of your grinder. It may look nice as a way to display them, but it isn’t proper coffee storage. Avoid leaving beans in your hopper, and if you must, leave a small amount. If you’re going to buy a container for your coffee beans, make sure the container is opaque (black is best) and has an air-tight seal.
Avoid leaving your beans near heat sources, such as on top of the fridge or next to the stove. This is an improper means of coffee storage, and it will quickly degrade your beans. This goes for brewed coffee as well. While it may seem nice to have a hot pot of coffee all morning, this is going to singe all those delicate flavour notes in your coffee.
Once your coffee has gone stale, learn to accept it. There’s nothing you can do to bring back stale coffee. Don’t try to add fancy flavour syrups to it to bring it back to life. It’s time to move on, and vow to change up your future coffee storage habits. The only thing you can do with stale coffee beans is grind them up and use them for compost.
While you may have been committing some coffee storage no-no’s, it’s never too late to change your ways. Fratello Coffee is sourced meticulously, and roasted carefully. We want you to get the best out of our coffee, and taste the difference. Want to learn more about how to perfect your home brew? Check out these useful tips about buying and using coffee!
Bright red cherries hanging off of shady coffee trees are a beautiful sight for coffee enthusiasts. But that wasn’t what brought Russ Prefontaine to Antigua, Guatemala this past February. The Fratello Coffee president and co-owner has been sourcing coffee at origin for the past 17 years, and he’s seen it all. At this point, he’s after one thing: great coffee.
But great coffee isn’t just about flavour; it starts with great people. We sat down with Prefontaine to chat about his most recent origin trip to meet the producers at San Miguel Coffees in Antigua and check out their coffee farm. He was impressed with what he saw, and tasted.
Apart from producing some of the world’s best coffee, Antigua, Guatemala is a popular tourist destination. It’s a Unesco World Heritage site, with wonderfully preserved Spanish colonial architecture. In Antigua, you’ll find enchanted cobblestone streets with candy-coloured buildings, ancient church ruins, views of the surrounding volcanoes, and the ever famous pastel-yellow Santa Catalina Arch. Not to mention, incredible authentic culinary favourites, like tamales, sopas and caldos (soups and stews), fried plantains, and spiced mangoes to name a few.
Prefontaine got to bring his two children, aged 8 and 10, along for the ride. When he wasn’t busy cupping coffee and observing the operation of the farm, he was taking his kids to enjoy the essential tourist sites, like riding up the volcano on horseback and roasting marshmallows over red-hot lava.
But tamales and marshmallows aside, Prefontaine was on serious business. He spoke about the ethos behind visiting the origin and meeting the producers, what he looks for, and what direct trade looks like to him. A healthy coffee community not only puts care and passion into growing and processing, but takes great care of its farmers.
Russ Prefontaine: I visit origins when I want to start establishing relationships. When I start getting more serious about sourcing larger volumes of coffee, I want to really find out who they are as business people. I consider coffee a very important business, and I want to work with people who see it the same way. The producers are passionate, they’re knowledgeable, they’re educated.
RP: You can look around and see the overall organization, the cleanliness. Are they taking care of the environment? Are they taking care of waste water, the trees? How does everything look? We can have conversations about their overall operations, if they have programs within their operations that benefit their employees. Do the people look happy? I get an idea of who they are and if they are running the operations in a way that we can trust working together and get a consistent product.
I like to see education programs where the producers have schooling systems on their farms. Because these farms are very remote, accessing education is almost impossible for the people that live around there. Schooling is mandatory, but not always enforced. What you might see in coffee growing communities is that families aren’t encouraging their kids to go to school because they don’t have a way to get them there. So when you’re driving around the towns near the farms, what are you seeing? Do they have any services? Do the people look healthy? Is there a store around there? What is there for them?
I like to see healthcare programs. San Miguel has a dental clinic and a healthcare centre right on their facility. So you start to see differences between producers who are truly investing in the people and the community to improve it. My job is to support the people who are doing that. I have the choice. I can work with nice people! [Laughs] I get to work with people who are passionate about coffee, business people who get this.
I feel great about who we’re buying from. They’re taking care of any wastewater and environmental issues that they can. And the coffee tastes great! When everything’s working together, I say, “Now I consider you a direct trade partner.” But it doesn’t happen in a year. It’s a very long process to build that trust.
Anyone can just throw “Direct Trade” on their bag. All you have to do is fly down there and take a couple of pictures, and there you go.
RP: Every year there’s something. In Brazil last year, they had huge floods followed by frosts that they’ve never had so bad. This year, winter season is just starting in Brazil (end of May), and already they have had mild frost damage. Last year it destroyed approximatly 30% of their coffee harvest. Within Central America, more and more, leaf rust is showing up at higher elevation, which is unique. Initially it was just a lower elevation where it was really warm. But what that’s showing is that the overall temperatures are increasing, creating the possibility for rust to enter a higher elevation. So that really affects the coffees that roasters like us are purchasing. In addition, fertilizer costs have sky-rocketed more than 3 times the regular price this year alone.
Did you know that your friendly neighbourhood coffee roaster has been silently donating to local charities for decades? Fratello Coffee Roasters is heavily involved in the Calgary community, donating funds and supplying hundreds of pounds of fresh coffee every month to a host of different charities whose causes range from homelessness, to food insecurity, to addiction.
Co-owner Russ Prefontaine says it’s a way to give back to a community that has supported the company from the start. It was his father, the founder of the company, that started the tradition. “We were raised with the attitude of giving back […] it makes us feel good. If we want the local Calgary community to support us, we should then be the first in line to be supporting the local community when we can. That is what it truly means to Support Local….it needs to be a full circle.”
Roasting and sourcing ethically has always been top-priority, but the company’s generosity is yet another reason you can feel good about drinking Fratello coffee. Here are just a few of the wonderful causes the company donates to every year.
Every year, Fratello takes part in the Calgary Food Bank fundraiser in partnership with the CBC, which happens around the holidays. The Calgary Food Bank is the city’s main charitable food hub, serving families, individuals and organizations. Their programs include emergency food hampers, food linking (making sure food gets to the people who need it), and rescuing perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste.
Fratello has taken part 10 years in a row, and has donated close to $300,000 total. In December of 2021, they donated 1,400 bags of coffee and raised just over $59,000 in coffee sales.
The Calgary Dream Centre is an organization dedicated to helping people overcome addiction and homelessness, two interrelated issues. They offer resources specifically geared towards men and women, and their approach is to pair individuals with case managers who guide them along their journey. The programs include mindfulness training, professional counselling, and life skills mentoring (cooking, driving, and job interview preparation). They also work hard to provide transitional and community housing to homeless and precariously housed people.
The Seed is a Christian non-profit organization founded in 1984 on a mission to care for individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty. They cover basic needs like emergency shelter and meals, and also offer programs for health & wellness and employment guidance. The organization also has a waiting list for supportive housing. Fratello has been making significant coffee donations to this organization for 30 years.
The Alex is a food program offering free healthy meals on a drop-in basis, and hosts an affordable produce market every Friday morning. Their New Roots program is geared towards new immigrants facing food insecurity and hosts culturally themed affordable food markets. Other programs include cooking and gardening classes for kids and adults, and community projects to advance Truth & Reconciliation.
The Calgary Drop-in serves adults at risk of experiencing homelessness. They offer emergency shelters, meal programs, health clinic services, permanent housing, and hygeine and laundry services. In addition, they offer the Free Goods program, where new and lightly used goods (such as furniture, clothing, electronics and cookware) find their way to low-income & no-income Calgarians.