Coffee Brewing Hacks for Students ft. Settlement Co

DSC_0885Settlement Co.’s team graciously let me sit in on their exclusive coffee workshop yesterday. For those unfamiliar with the brand, S.Co is a new coffee roaster and shop in Uptown Waterloo. The experience was fantastic, and I learned a lot of tips we can adopt. Read on to get caffeinated the better way.


Coffee School was led by Nick Hollier, one of the cafe’s owners. He’s a New Zealand native who grew up surrounded by espresso culture. You’ll find Nick behind the cafe’s bar some days, and when you do, I recommend you say hi. He’s very friendly and laid back, and is known for shooting the sh*t with clientele.

how to upgrade budget-friendly coffee

As students, we’re generally in a rush, underfunded, and in desperate need of delicious pick-me-ups. The following tips are [thankfully] relevant to us all.

DSC_0930Don’t Boil water

Coffee should be brewed in water that is 91-96 degrees celsius, says Nick. This is good news: we don’t need to wait for the kettle to fully do its job before brewing! This tip puts my beloved Bialetti stovetop espresso maker out of commission, sadly. [Side note: most teas also don’t need boiling water for brewing.]

DSC_0893Store coffee in anything but Metal

For best flavour, keep coffee in ceramic or glass or porcelain cups (or to-go mugs). Simple.

DSC_0902Try the golden ratio

A big rule in coffee is that there are no rules. But one recommendation is to use a 1:15 ratio of coffee grounds to water for brewing. So for 1L of water, you could use 60g of grounds. Nick prefers a 1:16 ratio, though, citing the decreased intensity as a way to more easily appreciate different flavour notes in your coffee.

DSC_0920use a french press

This is the best way to consistently brew a great cup. A straightforward guide to french-pressing coffee can be found on Settlement Co’s website here. The only tip the guide doesn’t mention, which was taught at Coffee School, is to barely cover your coffee grounds in the french press first. Gently agitate that slurry to equally drench all your coffee grounds (shown above), before filling the press with hot water. A puffy crust of coffee grounds – called a bloom – will form. Let that sit for a minute, then break it up gently. For those interested, blooms are ground beans releasing gas and flavours into coffee. Give the mixture three minutes of rest, then drink. “You can’t screw it up,” says Nick.

How to manage acidity (sourness)

I always wondered what to do about a sour taste in some of the coffees I’ve had. A coffee-world way to describe sourness is acidity, and the longer coffee blooms (described above) the more of it there will be.

Choosing between light and dark roast

The darker a bean is roasted, the more flavour and caffeine content it loses. Meaning a light roast packs more flavour and energy than a dark one. Going a step further, dark roasts hide signs of poor-quality in coffee (by taking away its flavour). If you’re in a pinch financially, go dark.

Final notes

Hope this collection of tips helps upgrade your next cup o’ joe! Big thanks to Settlement Co. for letting me sit in on Coffee School and teaching these awesome tricks. I loved the atmosphere of the place. They’re located by the Valu-Mart in Uptown Waterloo, on the corner of Erb & King. You now know where to go when craving a yummy cappuccino in Waterloo (ratio 1:1:1 of espresso, milk and foam I learned).

Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for a 100 Cups of Coffee interview with Nick, one of Settlement Co.’s owners. Happy sipping!


Have more time? Read this. How a Coffee Date Turned Jagneet Singh into a TEDx Speaker

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