The question I get asked the most from people about coffee is: “How do I brew a great cup of coffee?” This is often a difficult question to answer. You can make coffee several different ways and there are countless variables involved in each method that can significantly alter the quality of your cup.
Often, the simplest things can throw off your cup more than anything (including even the quality of the coffee you are brewing). The best thing you can do, regardless of the way you brew your coffee, is to use good clean water. Filtered water, be it bottled or filtered through a Brita or Pur system, is always a great safeguard for preventing a sub-par cup. Eliminating contaminates that would otherwise interfere with the brew process and flavor of the coffee is never a bad idea. While we are on the topic of water, if you are using a type of press or pour-over, your water should be just off boil, around 200 degrees Fahrenheit or so. With other methods that don’t allow you to control the temperature of the water, don’t be alarmed. Your brewing method be it a drip or quick brew system like a Kurig typically won’t allow the water to reach temperatures near boiling. And if you cold brew(also known as “toddy coffee”)you have nothing to worry about here either.
The size and quality of your coffee grounds play a role in the flavor and quality of your cup as well, however this is dependent on the method of coffee brewing you use. Presses work best with larger grinds. The water has residence time during the brewing process in a press so you don’t need finer grinds. Drip machines and pour-overs are best suited to a medium grind. And of course, if you are pulling espresso you want a fine grind. Most burr grinders (be it a flat or conical burr) allow you to control how fine your grinds are. If you have a blade grinder and use a press, pulse the beans in the grind like you would pulse a blender or food processor. You just want to break the beans up, not pulverize them. You could use this method as well for drip machines and pour-overs with a few extra and longer pulses. It’s also best to grind your beans just prior to brewing your coffee for the best possible cup.
Beyond the water and grinds, it really comes down to specifics in regards to the coffee brewing methods you are using. If you are using a press, it’s best to pour the coffee out of the press immediately after pressing the grinds (be it into cups or a carafe). If your drip machine has a heating element that warms the pot, it’s best to turn it off or remove the pot after the brewing process has completed. These heating elements tend to keep the coffee much too hot(180+degrees)which after extended amounts of time will “over cook” the coffee and kill the subtle flavors(especially true in fresh roasted coffee)and give you a very hot but very stale tasting cup of coffee. (This also holds true for percolators. Once the coffee is finished percolating, turn off or unplug the heating element.)
It’s also a good idea to use high quality filters with drip machines and pour overs. There are some great paper filters out there (Filtropia), bamboo filters are excellent, and the stainless mesh filters are a great investment as well. No matter what you use, be sure to use a fresh filter (or properly clean your reusable filter) and clean your filter holder.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Coffee is and should be a personal thing. Try different brewing temps, quantity of coffee, and grind of the coffee and you might find that perfect cup so often sought after. Most important of all, use the freshest and highest quality coffee you can find. We recommend Honest Roast Coffee for selfish reasons. Enjoy!