I’m a bit of an extremist when it comes to my beverages. I like to drink strong coffee most of the day until I relax with a strong kava tea (or a scotch, neat, if it’s the weekend - but that’s a different blog post).
Strong coffee - rich, smooth, potent - is a treat. But most people do it wrong. They burn it, they let it steep too long, they basically cook out the flavor. See, I’m a coffee extremist and I love mine highly caffeinated, but I’m also somewhat of a snob. It’s gotta taste good.
It’s a delicate balance, but it’s possible to deliver both taste and strength. Here’s how.
It All Starts with the Beans
Most people misperceive strong coffee for a coffee that is bold, bitter, or burnt tasting (darker roasts being the go-to cup of ‘strong’ coffee).
So first, let’s get something straight: the flavor of the coffee is mostly uncorrelated with its caffeine content. In fact, many lighter, floral scented roasts will pack a much greater caffeine punch.
Before we go any further, then, you have to consider what you actually mean by “strong.” Do you mean “strong,” as in “strong flavor,” or as in a higher caffeine content?
If you mean a strong flavor, typically associated with dark roasts, then you can just choose any given dark roast and that will give you a good strong flavor.
You can also drink Death Wish Coffee, which is roasted dark and also includes a portion of Robusta beans. Typically Arabica beans are used as they have a much better flavor profile, but Robusta beans are stronger in caffeine content.
If you really want both strong flavor and strong caffeine, Death Wish Coffee is an easy place to start.
If you want a delightfully crafted cup of java with a higher than average caffeine content (like yours truly loves), then let’s look into methodologies.
Three Methods for Making Stronger Coffee
There are three main ways to brew a stronger cup of joe.
- Water to Coffee Ratio
- Swap Your Brewing Method
- Go Cold Brew
1. Water to Coffee Ratio
The first method is obvious: how much coffee are you brewing compared to the water content of your drink?
The higher the proportion of coffee to water, the stronger. This is clear.
The ideal ratio is part science and part art, and it also depends on the brewing method.
For instance, if you’re brewing via the Aeropress (my favorite method), it’s typical to add one aeropress scoop (which is 17g or 2 ½ tablespoons) to 7 ounces of water. However, I’ll often add a bit extra, sometimes a half scoop measured with the aeropress scoop (about 1 tablespoon extra). It’s not much, but it packs 50% more caffeine, which is great for heavy work days (or recovering from late last nights).
A french press tends to have a similar scientific ratio - 8 ounces of water for every 2 tablespoons of coffee beans. Want a stronger cup? Add an extra teaspoon. Or an extra tablespoon. Or two extra tablespoons.
Again, this is the artistic part, and you’ve got to test some different formulas to find what you prefer.
In general, though, the absolute easiest way to brew a stronger cup of coffee is to add more coffee.
2. Choose the Right Brewing Method
Different brewing methods produce different flavors. There are a whole bunch of variables that determine the flavor and the caffeine content of a cup of strong coffee, including the water quantity, the water temperature, the water quality, the type of beans, the roast of the beans, how the beans were washed, the method by which you brew it, and oddly enough, perhaps even the cup that you drink out of (psychologically speaking at least).
Let’s cover a few of these methods.
We’ve already briefly walked through the aeropress method above, but here’s the gist of it:
- Measure and grind your beans (start with using 1 aeropress scoop and tweak from there)
- Prepare the filter (pour hot water over it to reduce the paper flavor)
- Place aeropress face/filter-side down on a cup and add coffee to aeropress
- Pour water (not boiling) to number four and wait about 1 minute 15 seconds
- Plunge the coffee into the cup
You can change variables here obviously: hotter water will produce a stronger/more bitter and burnt flavor. Letting it sit longer than 1:15 will also do the same. More coffee beans will do the same.
Drip & Pour Over
Drip coffee is probably the most common methodology, at least in the states. You take your typical Mr Coffee machine, throw in a filter, put two scoops of Folgers (preferably not Folgers, that’s a joke), put some water in the back of the machine, and hit “brew.”
Typically not the strongest brew, but of course, you can add extra scoops of coffee or stronger beans and have it your way.
You typically have more control with a pour over, where you can use cone filters to filter out less particulate.
French Press is quite similar to Aeropress. You basically follow these steps:
- Measure the coffee beans (again, about 2 tablespoons for 8 ounces of water)
- Grind the coffee beans on the coarsest setting
- Heat the water to boiling and then cool it for one minuute
- Add the water to the french press (whichever ratio you’ve calculated in advance)
- Stir it up
- Steep for four minutes
- Plunge the press
French press tends to be quite bold flavor, and it is one of my favorite methods (second to the Aeropress)
In reality, there are a few dozen coffee brewing methodologies, so I don’t want to waste all of your time describing them. Instead, let’s just answer, which one produces the strongest coffee brew?
The water to coffee ratio in espresso pulls is quite favorable. You’re typically getting quite an efficient punch with those.
If you want a full cup of coffee to enjoy (I, personally, am not a big espresso fan - my biggest complaint about traveling Europe, really, is the lack of a big cup of joe), then your best bet may be the Aeropress or the French Press. You’ve got a longer period of time where the coffee beans are soaked, thus picking up more flavor and potentially more caffeine.
If you want to do a drip or pour over method, you can use a cone filter instead of paper, which will filter out less particulate, leaving you a tasty and strong cup of coffee.
3. Go Cold Brew
Making a strong batch of cold brew is technically another brewing method, but when you’re looking for a stronger cup of coffee, it’s the master technique. You’re letting your beans soak for an extended period of time, which results in a (dangerously) potent end product.
I once made the mistake of drinking cold brew concentrate straight. I didn’t know I was supposed to mix it with water. The cold brew concentrate itself contains 60-70mg caffeine per fluid ounce. An 8 ounce cup, then, would contain 480mg caffeine, much more than the standard cup of coffee (80-120mg).
I quickly figured out why I was incredibly jittery!
Even if you do it the right way, which is to dilute your cold brew concentrate with 2 parts water for every 1 part cold brew, it’s still typically much stronger than the average cup of hot coffee, regardless of your brewing method.
You can typically buy cold brew kits to brew at home, or you can even ask your local cafe to sell you a gallon of the stuff (that’s what I do).
However you do it, if you’re looking for a strong caffeine punch but with a mellow, smooth, and non-acidic flavor, cold brew is an awesome choice.
Wrap Up on Brewing Stronger Coffee
So there you have it. It all starts with the beans (the type and the quality). Robusta is the strongest, but people tend not to like the flavor.
Roasting then becomes an issue - dark roasts tend to taste stronger, though the caffeine quantity is generally uncorrelated (though some say lighter roasts pack a stronger punch, there’s high variance).
Finally, the method you choose is important: french press and aeropress do the trick for a great balance and strong caffeine profile. Espresso is efficient. And cold brew is the strongest of all.
Or you could do things the easy way and just add an extra scoop of coffee beans next time!