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Barista Hustle's Coffee Compass

Barista Hustle's Coffee Compass

At Normal Coffee, all of our team members use this compass. It's the standard of learning about grind styles and pairs well with the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel.

Note: the content below is largely supplied by the Barista Hustle

Using the Coffee Compass

The Coffee Compass is a simple tool that makes it easy to improve your filter coffee brewing. If your coffee tastes anything less than perfect, the Coffee Compass shows you exactly what direction you need to go in to achieve smooth, rich, and balanced brews.

Barista Hustle published the original Coffee Compass in 2017, and it has been used by tens of thousands of readers since then. The company recently published a Coffee Compass App. The app takes the guesswork out of dialing in, and makes it easier than ever before to perfect your filter coffee brewing. You should check it out. 

The Coffee Compass is very simple to use:

  1. Brew a coffee
  2. Taste it
  3. If you experience any negative flavors, find them on the compass wheel
  4. The compass will tell you what you need to do to travel towards the centre of the wheel
  5. When you brew the next cup, let the compass guide you

This interactive version is searchable, so it now works with even more flavor defects than can be shown on the compass. Just type in the flavor you find, and the app will automatically direct you to a similar flavor — for example, if you find your brew tastes ‘lemony’, then the app will give you the instructions for ‘sour’.

You can also use the stationary version of the compass on their website. Find your flavor on the compass map on the left, then look at the guide on the right to see what you need to do to travel back towards the center of the map.

In short, the following 'tricks' are advised to change the profile of your coffee through grind size. 

Extract More: Finer grind and/or longer brew time.
Extract Less: Coarser grind and/or shorter brew time.
Less Coffee: Increase Brew Ratio — fix water weight and reduce the dose, OR fix the dose and increase brew water weight.
More Coffee: Decrease Brew Ratio — fix water weight and increase the dose, OR fix the dose and decrease brew water weight.

The compass is designed for filter coffee brewing. It works equally well for both percolation and immersion methods. Espresso can have a similar range of flavor faults, but the methods you need to use to get towards a balanced coffee are a bit different. Different guides are typically used for espresso. 

This is mainly because increasing extraction in espresso is harder than with filter coffee. Grinding finer only increases extraction up to a point, but then channelling kicks in and extraction begins to decline again. On the other hand, changing the brew ratio in espresso also strongly affects extraction, as well as strength. For more on this, take a look at the Espresso Compass.

Brewing Faults and Coffee Taints

The compass is designed to help you find the right extraction and strength for your coffee.  The app assumes that you are using good-quality, well roasted coffee, and a sensible brewing method.

Sometimes, however, a negative flavor is intrinsic to the coffee. For example a raw, peanut flavor can result from under-extraction, but can also be the result of under-ripe coffee, or under-roasting. If you’ve followed the advice the calculator gives you and the flavor is still there, then it’s most likely not an extraction fault but a processing or roasting one.

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