Saturday, February 1, 2014

Making the Perfect Cup of Coffee 

By Bonnie Weinstein Crowe 

Whether it’s a cup of Joe, a mug ‘o mud, a lavish latte, or your morning addiction delivered light and sweet in a Greek paper cup – coffee is the preferred drink of over 100 million Americans. Over 86% of coffee drinkers serve up their own home brew each morning, according to The Specialty Coffee Association of America.

If you’re like me, you don’t just love coffee -- you live by it. While others may be satisfied with watery automatic drip pot slush, made from ground beans that have been sitting on the grocery store shelf longer than it takes the Pittsburgh Pirates to get into the World Series; there are those of us who treat every coffee experience as a chance at creating java nirvana.

For those who want the perfect cup of coffee, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

• Get Good Beans 

There are as many different tastes for people who love coffee as there are types of shells at the beach. Coffee beans are affected by the plants, soil and climate of where they were grown; Arabica and Robusta are the two main types of coffee produced around the world with 36 different coffee profiles contributing to an array of distinct flavors. Roasting is an art in itself and each has its own method. There are some small independent roasters out there that come up with amazing things and if you’re lucky enough to live near one of these, get some of these in small batches, freshly roasted. Beans that have been sitting for more than a week or two are not going to be as good as fresh beans. Find out when your local roaster will be getting in a fresh batch and get there before your favorite blend is gone. Try different roasts, beans and blends from time to time. You might want to stock up on your favorite roast, but also buy an alternate to try something new and different and switch it up from time to time.

• Get Fresh Beans 

Some local roasters have gone online to sell their beans that are fresh and ready for consumption. It might cost a bit more when you have to pay for shipping, but if you love coffee, it might be a luxury that’s worth it. Other high quality chains, such as Peets and Starbucks, sell fresh beans in their stores as well as in grocery stores. If you can spend the extra money, buy the beans fresh roasted in the stores; if not, the grocery store versions can be quite tasty and more reasonable when bought on sale, but check the date on the bag to see when the beans were roasted. Don’t buy anything that has been sitting on the shelf for too long. Some grocery stores and specialty stores, like Trader Joe’s sell their own beans that also can be freshly ground in store, are great values and very tasty. As long as your beans are fresh and high quality, they can produce good coffee.

• Use Fresh Water 

Use the best water you can, plain and simple. If the best you can do is cold from the tap to the kettle, that’s fine, it just won’t be as good as bottled or filtered. Never use distilled or softened water, it just does not work for coffee.

• Get it Ground by a Pro 

You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by grinding your beans every morning in a cheap coffee grinder but honestly, your better off buying pre-ground coffee. The type of grinder you use matters. Cheap blade grinders will mash your beans mercilessly, destroying their fragile composition and giving you an uneven grind. Unless you have a high quality burr or mill grinder at home, grind it at the market where you buy it (grind it for a French press pot, typically the first setting for drip coffee). Don't grind it too coarse, or it will produce weak coffee; but be careful that it's not ground so fine that it will produce a bitter cup. Also, an ultra find grind will make it impossible to plunge with a press pot.

• Use a French Press Pot 

Plain and simple, this is the best way to brew coffee, and the only way to make the perfect cup. I like the Bodum Press Pot. This is the exact pot I use: Bodum Chambord Coffee Press Keep the pot clean and make sure you clean the filter. I don’t use soap on the filter and just use hot water and rub it clean with my fingers. The filter is delicate, don’t break it, keep it clean and it will last a long, long time. You can also buy a replacement filter after a period of time, but I’m frugal.

• Measure Accurately 

Get a good coffee scoop that will measure accurately each time. This one looks like the one I use: Espresso Supply Stainless Steel Doser Scoop, 1-Ounce

Some brewers will say use one to two tablespoons for each ounce of water. I am numerically impaired. I like to know what works for my taste buds and so experimented and found that exactly 6 scoops of properly ground coffee work for my Bodum press pot (which is what they call the 12 cup version… I don’t know what kinds of cups these people drink out of, but I get 2.5 mugs of fresh coffee out of my press pot). You really need to find a ratio that makes your perfect cup and stick with it each time.

• Boil, Pour, Stir and Sit 

Boil the water and take it off the stove immediately. I like to slowly pour it from a bit of height to make a nice, creamy foam on top of the pot. Once it’s poured, stir the coffee well with a wooden chopstick. Don’t use a metal spoon, it will ruin the taste of the coffee and could break the glass beaker. Trust me, wooden chopstick is cheap and works every time.

Let the coffee sit for about 3-4 minutes. If you go over by a minute or two, it won’t kill the taste, it just may not be perfect though. After 3-4 minutes, plunge the coffee all the way down, so that all the grinds remain on the bottom.

Serve your fabulous cup of coffee while it’s hot. The press pot will keep your coffee fresh for a short period of time. After about 20 minutes, the stuff will be undrinkable, unfortunately; but I’ve usually downed my two cups way before that anyway and with coffee this good, so will you.


The National Coffee Association USA: All About Coffee 

The Specialty Coffee Association of America: Specialty Coffee Facts and Figures 

Statistic Brain: Coffee Drinking Statistics