5 Steps to the Best Cup of Coffee
The difference between brewing an average vs. a great cup of coffee is all in the details. Here is a quick guide to the five most important steps to making coffee like a pro.
Buy Fresh, Locally Roasted, High Quality Coffee Beans
Think of roasted coffee beans like produce. In order to experience the best flavors and unique nuances that your coffee beans can offer, they should be consumed within four weeks of roasting. Buying locally roasted coffee helps to ensure you’re getting the freshest available. Each roasting company has their own personality, which is reflected in the kind and quality of coffee beans they source, and their method of roasting. Explore what’s available and find your favorite.
Do you prefer coffee from a french press? A Chemex? A cone filter? There’s a wide range of ways to brew coffee and all have their pros and cons. Some yield heavy-bodied, syrupy coffees. Some yield delicate, tea-like coffees. A coffee’s flavor, acidity, sweetness, balance, body, and everything else we perceive are affected by the method in which it is prepared, so choose wisely.
Coffee Grind Quality
Invest in a high-quality coffee grinder. You can’t go wrong with a good burr grinder. Its two revolving abrasive surfaces pulverize coffee into a relatively even particle size. These come in many styles so read up and purchase the best you can afford. Evenness is the name of the game when it comes to grind. Your favorite brew method has a preferred grind size so definitely take that into consideration.
• French Press or percolator: coarse ground (kosher salt)
• Pour-Over, Chemex, or drip coffee-maker: medium ground (sand)
• Espresso machines: fine ground (powdered sugar)
Water Quality and Temperature
Brewed coffee is approximately 98.75% water. It is important to use clean, odorless, 200º F water for coffee brewing. In coffee-speak, “clean” means free of chlorine and other “off” flavors. Water that is under 200º will under-extract the coffee, which translates to sour, grainy, and grassy flavors. Water that’s too hot will over-extract your coffee and yield bitter, baked, and harsh flavors. 200º F is the sweet spot!
Hot water acts as a solvent to ground coffee. Allowing just the right amount of contact time between your water and coffee is the critical last step. Each brew method has ideal parameters for how long to brew your coffee (cold brew takes 12 hours while a french press needs to steep for 5 minutes), so read the instruction manuals for whatever brewer you end up using. Note, too, that when it comes to coffee, “perfect” is always subjective. So never stop exploring and keep striving for your “perfect” cup!