Agitation (flavor is just a stir away)
Here at GOAT STORY, we love pour-over coffee. In the office, at home, while camping. Everywhere. But as with every little process in our lives, there is always a way to complicate things. There is an everlasting debate in our team – should you agitate your coffee when brewing or not?
Okay, first thing first … we all agree that a proper pour-over coffee needs a few basics: good coffee beans, good consistent grind, optimal water temperature, blooming your coffee are just a few. Then agitation comes into the mix …
Oh, you didn’t know? Agitation is just a fancy word for stirring or otherwise putting coffee in motion. Yeah, as simple as that. But what stirring your coffee while brewing does to the final cup is not quite as simple.
Okay, back to the start …
The pour-over brewing process is basically a two-step process:
Step 1: Blooming
Step 2: Adding the rest of the water
Baaam! Finished! You made yourself a cup of delicious coffee. But then your buddy comes along and he goes: “Hey mate you didn’t stir your coffee?” So … should you stir it?
The agitation effect
Let’s handle the basics (again). We are grinding and brewing our coffee beans with one single objective: squeezing out as much flavor from the coffee. Period. And the proper way to do that is to ensure that your coffee is extracted consistently.
What can go wrong? It’s a simple pour-water-over-coffee-and-wait process right? Yes. But … (there’s always a but in coffee) if your coffee is not extracted consistently you will get a mix of over-extracted coffee, under-extracted coffee, and well-extracted coffee. That means combining bitter, sour, and balanced sweet flavors. But we only want those balanced sweet notes in our coffee!
Channeling oh dear
One of the main reasons why we’re missing out on flavor in our cup is channeling. Water is a smart fluid. It will find its way through coffee in the easiest possible way. If it finds one narrow path through coffee it will just pour through without touching the whole amount of coffee. We call that channeling. And we don’t like that (obviously).
It happens to all of us; maybe you didn’t soak your coffee evenly or the coffee bed is uneven or maybe it’s just a matter of a crappy grind (yes, grind quality is super important). If water flows through channels it will extract too much from the coffee close to the channel(s) and the rest of the coffee will just sit there with nothing to add.
Channeling can also be caused by pouring water too quickly or unevenly. Oh and sometimes coffee can get stuck on the filter as well above the coffee bed. That’s not a good thing either.
Agitate for consistency
If you are not a world-class coffee brewing master that masters all the techniques of coffee brewing, a little bit of agitation (stirring the coffee, remember?) could do the trick for you. Stirring the coffee will help to disperse your ground coffee and you will get an even extraction. Oh, and you’ll get consistency in coffee brewing!
Remember, the method is not set in stone. It is simply a little trick you can use to your advantage when trying to achieve a better cup of coffee.
How to agitate?
Well, the first method is quite obvious – use a spoon or a stick to stir your coffee when brewing. Just be careful not to touch the paper filter as you might rip it and you’ll have coffee grounds sitting in your cup. Don’t go there.
The second method is holding your dripper firmly and swirling the coffee in the funnel. Be gentle or you’ll have coffee spilling over your paper filter and you’ll again get grounds in your cup. Or a mess on your table.
When to agitate?
There are (again) no set rules here. But to get your coffee grounds soaked evenly and assuring you get a good extraction you should agitate your coffee just after your first pour, before blooming kicks in fully.
There are also people who stir later in the brewing process. We won’t get smart here, it’s your call. Just be aware that agitating coffee in the brewing process will also speed up the extraction process and you will get a more intense cup of coffee compared to a brew that was not agitated.
Does it make sense?
It does. And it doesn’t.
Ask a kick-ass barista who will not settle for anything but the clearest and crispest of flavors in a cup and they will tell you that agitation is a big NO. It simply extracts too much from your coffee.
But if you are struggling with finding balance in your cup of coffee, you should give it a spin (pun intended). It’ll just make life easier for you. Bottom line – experiment and find out what works for you.
What we do at GOAT STORY is closing the valve in our GINA for the blooming part of brewing and stirring the coffee before the full bloom. Then we let it flow and take care that we pour the water evenly and gently until the end.