Aaah, coffee—one of life’s simple pleasures. Nothing like an espresso in the morning to jumpstart your day, or a frothy cappuccino after a delicious lunch.
And you don’t have to go to a café to get a good cup of coffee, either. You can brew the perfect cup right yourself! Once you master these simple techniques you’ll wonder why you ever paid so much for those ‘gourmet’ concoctions, or (gasp!) settled for instant coffee or the mud dispensed from vendo machines. So… ready, get set, brew!
1. Invest in a good coffee maker.
You can find really cheap, generic coffee pots, but you won’t always get a high-quality brew. Many of them don’t filter grounds well, so you’ll get those nasty grains in your drink. They also tend to break quickly, so you’ll end up buying a new one in a year or two. A high-quality coffee maker, on the other hand, will last for years, and deliver perfectly brewed cups after cup.
When you choose a coffee maker, think about how much coffee you’ll brew at a time. High-volume coffee makers (that make five or six cups) are obviously built for bigger crowds. However, models that produce just one or two cups will give you more control over the flavor. Plus, the flavor of coffee deterioriates if it’s reheated, so you’re better off brewing a fresh pot rather than warming up a batch that’s been sitting around since morning.
2. Keep your coffee pot clean.
Coffee grounds can accumulate inside your coffee maker. These will make your brew a little bitter, or downright unpleasant. It’s not enough to wash the parts. Instead, check this article on cleaning small appliances so you can clean your coffee maker from the inside out. All you need is white vinegar and water—and don’t worry, the vinegar taste or smell disappears almost immediately.
3. Use good coffee beans.
Buy the best beans you can afford, and use them as soon as you can. There’s really nothing like the flavor of coffee made from freshly roasted beans. If you don’t drink coffee that often, buy smaller packs. Ideally, you should consume each pack within two weeks of purchase.
4. Store beans properly.
Don’t store coffee beans in glass canisters, which allow air in. You want air-tight containers, which should be placed in a cool and dark place. Never place coffee near an oven (the heat affects the flavor) or in the refrigerator (the beans will absorb the odors). If you won’t be using the beans within two weeks of purchase you can store them in the freezer. However, once you take the bag out, don’t put it back in.
4. Grind the beans right before you’ll use them.
There are two kinds of grinders: blade coffee grinders, or burr coffee grinders. The latter uses a grinding wheel and gives you more consistent coffee grounds (which taste sweeter). Blade coffee grinders, on the other hand, are more affordable. You just have to carefully watch the consistency and process the grains in smaller batches.
In general, you need a coarse grind for percolators and machines that use the cold dirp method. This takes about 5 to 10 seconds in the coffee grinder. Medium grind (10 seconds) is necessary for electric or manual drip coffee makers. Many people compare the consistency to coarse sea salt. Fine grind (15 seconds) and extra fine grind (25 to 30 seconds) are used for espresso machines.
5. Use cold water
This really makes a big, big difference in flavor. Many restaurants and gourmet coffee stores are very strict about using water that is about 195F and 205F. Hey, they should know what they’re doing, right?
6. Use unbleached coffee filters
Apparently, white coffee filters have chemicals that affect the flavor of the brew. Unbleached filters are brown (check the label just to be sure, though).
7. Stick to the right coffee-water ratio
According to professional coffee tasters, the best ratio is two tablespoons (or two scoops of standard coffee measurers) to every six ounces of water. So, to make six cups of coffee, you need 8 tablespoons of coffee grounds. Here’s a useful tip. If you find that your coffee flavor is too strong, don’t change the coffee-water ratio—make the grounds coarser.
8. Stock up on coffee flavorings.
A perfectly brewed cup of coffee can be enjoyed on its own, but you don’t have to stop there. You can get flavored syrups, or special creamers. You can also use some of the spices and seasonings you probably already have in your pantry: cinnamon, nutmeg, honey. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can also browse the internet for coffee desserts. Why not make coffee jelly, or add a huge scoop of ice cream and sprinkles of dark chocolate?