The world of coffee is quite big, with many drinks that appeal to different tastes and preferences. While some of us drink coffee for the mouthfeel and taste, some of us drink it purely for the caffeine.
Strong coffee is something that we are used to hearing a lot, as most of us are looking to have a beverage that will pick us up in the morning and get us ready for the long day ahead. Unfortunately, brewing a strong cup of coffee isn’t as easy as increasing the amount of coffee, which is why most people struggle with brewing a pleasurable drink.
To understand how to make strong coffee, we should first define what strong coffee is in an in-depth manner, so let’s jump right into it.
What Is Strong Coffee?
Technically speaking, strong coffee means a high coffee to water ratio. As the coffee amount gets larger, so does the strength. That being said, if you go ahead and do this, you’ll notice that your cup of coffee tastes very weak and lacks any real flavor, as throwing the coffee to water ratio off too heavily will cause your coffee to be under-extracted.
If you’re confused about how adding more coffee can cause your coffee to taste weaker, let us explain. To put it simply, the extraction of a coffee bean has different stages where acidic (sour) components are extracted first, followed by the oils, sugars, and aromatics that give coffee its flavor and body. If the coffee to water ratio is too high, the extraction process won’t be able to continue to the point where the components that provide flavor and body are released, causing your coffee to taste weak.
So, what do we really mean when we say strong coffee? Truth be told, we found that the definition of strong coffee depends on the person. A strong cup of coffee could simply mean a high caffeine content, a strong and bold flavor profile, or even both, depending on who you ask. In fact, some would simply say that a cup of coffee that tastes bitter is strong, which is actually a quite wrong thing to say.
As you can see, there are a lot of different things that come to mind when the words “strong coffee” are used. At this point, making a strong cup of coffee becomes a lot more complicated than simply changing the coffee to water ratio.
Making Strong Coffee
Now that we know what strong coffee is, it’s time to understand the variables that can affect strength. Delicate adjustment of these variables is the key to an optimal brewing process that produces a strong cup of coffee.
The first thing to consider is the variety of coffee beans you’ll be using. Since Arabica and Robusta are the most popular varieties, the choice to be made is often between these two.
Between these two varieties, Arabica coffee is the one that is considered to be of higher quality in terms of flavor, known for its bright flavors as opposed to the bitterness of Robusta. For this reason, you’ll often find that coffee blends are composed mostly or completely of Arabica beans. As Arabica beans are harder to grow, they are naturally more expensive.
On the other hand, Robusta beans are often associated with a very bitter flavor, which is why they aren’t the primary choice for coffee beans. Instead, they are often added to coffee blends in small amounts to bring some balance to the flavor profile of the blend. Compared to Arabica beans, they contain roughly twice as much caffeine.
If you’re looking to increase your caffeine intake, choosing a blend with a higher amount of Robusta beans can be helpful. That being said, you’ll notice that a higher yield of Robusta will also bring extra bitterness to your coffee. As going overboard with Robusta beans can make your coffee way too bitter, you most likely won’t find a coffee blend that contains more than 15% Robusta anyway.
Next up is roast level. As strong coffee is often associated with a bold, smoky flavor and a full body, opting for a dark roast is the way to go.
You can often find dark roasted coffee labeled as Espresso roast, French roast, or Italian roast. That being said, these roast levels aren’t identical.
The darkest roast level is Italian roast, also known as Espresso roast. It is followed by a French roast, which is slightly lighter. The last roast level before going down to medium roast levels is conveniently named dark roast. Feel free to experiment between these roast types to find out which flavor profile you enjoy the best.
While lightly roasted beans are considered to have more caffeine than dark roasted beans, the difference is negligible to the point that this difference shouldn’t be impacting your decision.
Even though we don’t usually notice that our coffee isn’t fresh anymore since coffee doesn’t exactly spoil, coffee actually starts losing freshness rather quickly after being roasted.
When roasted coffee comes into contact with air, a process called oxidation starts taking place, where the soluble components of coffee start degrading. Because of this, your coffee loses its taste over time.
For this reason, you should brew with fresh coffee grounds to ensure that your coffee turns out strong.
It’s recommended that you use your beans within two weeks of the roast date for optimal freshness. To make sure that your beans stay as fresh as possible while they aren’t being used, keep them in an airtight container in a dark and dry place.
As coffee grounds are prone to losing freshness quicker than coffee beans, it’s a good idea to grind only as much as you need for a single brew.
While the grind size you should use largely depends on your brewing method, you can still make small optimizations on this front.
As grind size gets smaller, the surface area of the grounds gets larger. A large surface area means that water will be able to come into contact with the coffee grounds more easily, which increases the extraction rate.
If you feel like your coffee isn’t strong enough, you can try to experiment with slightly finer grind sizes and see how it affects your brew.
Coffee to Water Ratio
Even though this may seem the most obvious way of making your coffee stronger, using a high coffee to water ratio will make your coffee taste weak, as we mentioned before.
We recommend using the golden ratio of coffee (17 grams of water for 1 gram of coffee) as a starting point and adjust to your preference. If your coffee tastes too weak, it’s actually a better idea to use less coffee to ensure that extraction is optimal.
If your goal is to increase your caffeine intake, it’s a better idea to drink 2 cups of properly extracted coffee rather than adding too much coffee and drinking a cup that is under-extracted and weak tasting.
As a last resort, you can completely go for a different brewing method to brew stronger coffee.
Coffee that has been brewed with an espresso machine or a Moka pot can show a great difference in strength compared to drip coffee and deliver the bold taste that we associate with strong coffee.
Brewing Temperature & Brewing Time
While brewing temperature and brewing time are very important factors for coffee extraction, we recommend not tinkering with these variables too much.
Using the optimal brewing temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit and the optimal brewing time for your brewing method is the best way of ensuring that you brew a strong cup of coffee.
Increasing the temperature above the optimal can cause your coffee to burn, and brewing for too long will almost always result in over-extraction.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can you boil coffee to make it strong?
No, you should never boil coffee as it will cause your coffee to burn and taste very bitter.
Following the best practice of using a water temperature that is 200 degrees Fahrenheit is the best way to ensure that your coffee turns out strong.
With the term strong coffee being used for various things, it could be hard to find out how to strengthen your coffee in the way you want to.
Hopefully, our guide has been helpful for you to understand how you can make your coffee stronger.
Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!