Have you ever stopped to notice the stream of coffee coming out of your brewer, and asked yourself:
"Wait, have I always been able to see through my morning coffee? Or did that radioactive waste spill last week give me new powers?"
First, the bad news: You don’t have powers. "Ghost Brew" can strike home brewers of all ages, occupations, and creeds.
It's a classic symptom of under-extraction—and the tell-tale sign of a weak cup of joe. Perhaps even worse, it can be a sign that you’re not getting the most out of your home brewing setup.
When brewed correctly, coffee of decent strength should take the form of a fairly-opaque, dark-colored liquid.
If your coffee is coming out looking translucent, light brown, or clear-ish instead of its typical dark appearance, it's probably not going to taste great either.
The good news? There are only 2 likely causes for this phenomenon—and both of them can be addressed with seriously minimal effort.
Solution #1: Ease Off the Water There, Chief
If you're using too much water for the amount of grounds that are in your filter, then the flavor won't be as concentrated and can result in not-so strong coffee. To rectify the issue, use less water or more ground coffee to ensure that you get an appropriately-flavored beverage.
A common mistake people make—ironically when trying to do everything perfectly—is interpreting their coffee : water ratio incorrectly.
For instance, a well-meaning home brewer might use 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon of coffee for every 16 ounces of water, when the ratio should actually be 1 gram of coffee for every 16 grams of water. Those units are important!
If you’re trying to get the most flavor out of your coffee (or at least not have it come out looking like Crystal Pepsi) consider investing in a scale that can measure exactly how much ground coffee and water you use for each brew.
Solution #2: Check That Grind
Finer Grounds = Finer Flavor. (Well, as long as you don't go overboard.) If your coffee grounds are too coarse, then it may be difficult for the water to extract caffeine and flavor from the beans. If this is the case, try grinding your beans a bit finer before brewing.
Tip: It can help to use a burr grinder (instead of a blade grinder) as they provide more consistent and precise grind size.
The size of the grind should also match your brewing method: if you’re using a French press then use a coarse grind, and if you’re using an espresso maker then go for something fine like table salt.
Beans that have been ground too coarsely can lead to low extraction yields, and can cause the finished cup to be flat, dull, and translucent. However, if you grind your beans too finely it can also result in a bitter flavor or grainy texture. So use the appropriate grind size for whatever coffee brewing method you’re using and make sure that it’s consistent each time.
Remember: You can't rush the process. More coarsely-ground coffee may "brew" a lot faster, but the taste (and translucency) of the finished cup will reflect that. If you want the best flavor and richest cup of coffee, it’s worth taking the time to grind your beans properly.
The Final Word on Clear Coffee
Ghost brew can be a nuisance, but it doesn't have to be. If your brew is coming out looking more like iced tea than coffee, these are the two most-likely culprits. Want to make stronger coffee? Take the time to double check your water-to-coffee ratios, and make sure that you’re using the right grind size for whatever brewing method you’re using.
Don’t settle for diluted coffee—take the time to do things right and enjoy a rich, full-bodied cup each and every time.
Remember—a well-crafted cup of coffee is worth the effort. While you're at it, make sure your coffee is up to par as well. Check out our bold and strong Extreme Caffeine Coffee.
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