Published: Sep 4, 2021

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.

We published the original Coffee Compass in 2017, and it has been used by tens of thousands of readers since then. Today, we are re-releasing the Coffee Compass as an interactive app. The app takes the guesswork out of dialing in, and makes it easier than ever before to perfect your filter coffee brewing.


Using the Compass

The Coffee Compass is very simple to use:

  1. Brew a coffee
  2. Taste it
  3. If you experience any negative flavours, find them on the compass wheel (or use the search bar)
  4. The app 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 app guide you

This interactive version is searchable, so it now works with even more flavour defects than can be shown on the compass. Just type in the flavour you find, and the app will automatically direct you to a similar flavour — 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 below. Find your flavour 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.

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 flavour faults, but the methods you need to use to get towards a balanced coffee are a bit different.

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 flavour is intrinsic to the coffee. For example a raw, peanutty flavour 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 flavour is still there, then it’s most likely not an extraction fault but a processing or roasting one.

Enjoy using the new app, and let us know how you get on in the comments below!

September 2021

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  1. alexlazaridisferguson

    Is there any reason this compass won’t work for espresso?

    • BHLearn

      The biggest reason is that there is a limit to how much grind size can affect extraction in espresso. We’ll go into this in more depth in future when we remake the Espresso Compass

      • alexlazaridisferguson

        Looking forward to the new espresso compass. I think this compass is still useful for espresso as a general guide, no?

  2. cstrydom4

    You guys should actually make an app for this in iOS and Android, because navigating to a web page every brew can be tedious

    • BHLearn

      Thanks for the suggestion cstrydom4, it’s certainly something we’re considering. The web app version will also be added to the BH Apps archive later this week to make things more convenient.

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