Brew Better: The Pyramid of Coffee Quality

Blog Home

The internet is wrong when it comes to coffee. Most Google Trends searches on coffee are about a cold brew recipes or the best drip coffee maker. Entire internet forums are dedicated to home espresso, which has a really high entry level equipment price tag.

Here at Black Oak, we find that to be a bummer. We drink a lot of coffee in preparation for competition and in fact most of our award winning coffees are brewed with a simple brew method: water, a cup and some spoons.

We decided to create a pyramid of hierarchy for the essentials of a quality cup. With all of the seemingly magical coffee devices out there, we wanted to enter our signal into the internet’s noise in order to simplify your quest for a better brew.

The idea here is to make sure you are focusing on the foundational elements first: water filtration, great coffee beans and a quality grinder. From there we move up the hierarchy. As you follow, you will get a better and better cup. Finally, you will ascend to coffee heaven.

First Level

Quality green coffee

It all starts with great green coffee. It’s grown by meticulous farmers, processed with care and shipped around the world to make it into your cup. This is by far the hardest part of the whole process to get right.

Roast degree

If you roast great green coffee the wrong way, you can roast all the nuances of complexity and joy right out of the seed. Common pitfalls include roasting coffee too dark, too long, or even too light so that the starches aren’t broken down.

Clean water of the right mineral composition

Entire books have been written about this subject. What you need is carbon filtered water that is not too “hard” with respect to mineral content. If you try to brew with dirty or excessively hard water, your coffee will be lifeless, no matter what you do.

Coffee grinder

A grinder is the only critical piece of equipment in the lowest tier of the hierarchy. You can’t brew a great cup unless your grinder can produce a fairly even particle size. This means that at least an entry level burr grinder such as those made by Baratza, Breville or Oxo is vital.

Second level needs

Water temperature

You can brew coffee at any range of temperature, it just depends on how much time you are willing to spend.

Grind evenness

This factor is what separates home grinders from commercial grinders and why coffee from coffee shops might always tastes a bit better than what you can achieve at home. Commercial grinders are really good at producing uniform grind sizes.

Brew recipe / ratio

This is actually more important than your brew device, though they are interrelated. If your ratio of water to coffee is wrong your coffee may taste like water.

Third level needs

You’ve read this far, you know that the mind can play tricks on you sometimes. You must believe in your coffee and yourself. You can brew a great cup!

Brew device

Many brew devices can do a good job. Although many of the expensive devices will make a great cup of coffee, a cup and spoon with a 3 dollar Melitta drip cone and filter will do just as well. If you want to brew large batches, you may have to spend a bit more for an auto drip machine that can brew at the right recipe and water temperature.

Filter medium

A clean filter medium is necessary to brew great coffee and is just as important as the brew device. Coffee flavors are delicate and unbleached paper or an unclean metal or cloth filter will wreak havoc on a good cup.

Fourth Level

Also known as the upper echelons. You are almost there!

Serving temperature

Serving and drinking coffee too hot will rob your cup of its flavor and subtlety. We recommend 100 to 140 degrees as an ideal drinking temp (especially for light roasts), much cooler than you might think.


To taste the complexity in coffee, sugary foods are a bad combination. The sweetness in coffee is subtle, at least a tad more subtle than a jelly donut. If you want all the flavors to come through, eat more neutral breakfast foods like croissants, buttered toast, oatmeal or bananas.

Fifth level

You have reached the holy grail.


This one is mostly to make you feel fancy (you deserve it), but your vessel will have some effect on aroma and flavor.

by Black Oak Team | July 19, 2019 | 134 Comments


December 08, 2019



December 08, 2019



December 08, 2019



December 08, 2019



December 08, 2019



1 2 3 4 27

Add a Comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up.