There are numerous ways to prepare coffee. From a basic automatic drip to the fancier pour-over techniques and espresso based drinks, most people have a favorite. For me, it’s the pour-over and occasional Americano, always black, never adding cream or sugar. No matter what method of coffee preparation you choose to enjoy, this basic information can greatly improve your experience.
It may seem a bit intimidating to think that you could replicate a coffee experience at home or at work, but the good news is, it’s not difficult to greatly increase the quality of your coffee.
It may be a little too obvious, but you can’t prepare coffee without the coffee. The difference is in the age of coffee. Coffee should be fresh. Like cereal or chips don’t taste the same after being opened for 4 weeks, you shouldn’t expect your coffee to be amazing after that length of time either. Coffee is perishable, and has a 3 to 4 week time period in which it is best consumed. Coffee is grown around the globe, and each growing region produces different flavors in coffee. When you add the different plant varietals, growing elevations, processing, and roasting methods into the mix, the flavors which can be produced are wide and varied, and you will find you will eventually have your own favorites.
What about flavored coffee?
Personally, I’m not a fan, but for those of you who love it, I’ve tried what I feel is the best way to flavor coffee, the inbru line of products. Inbru is added to the grounds, making your fresh coffee flavored with no sweeteners, creamers, calories, and is gluten free.
Nothing can increase the quality of your coffee more than a good quality burr grinder.
Coffee begins to stale within minutes of grinding. Coffee should be ground just prior to brewing. Oxygen is the enemy of coffee, so the more surface area is exposed, the faster your coffee will degrade. Coffee that is extracted uniformly (via a consistent grind throughout) will not over-extract and under-extract at the same time. A burr grinder does not chop coffee like blade grinders, but crushes the coffee to a uniform size. Like boiling packaged noodles, you can’t expect them all to be the same level of doneness if you boil one third five minutes before and add another third five minutes later. A third will be overcooked and another third will be undercooked.
What if I have a blade style grinder?
You can use a blade grinder for coffee, but you will find that repeating a coffee grind will be difficult. It will however, get you by until you’re ready to purchase a burr grinder. I recommend and personally use a Baratza Solis Maestro grinder. Two generations later, the Baratza Virtuoso is the model that is the equivalent to what I own, but much improved. Baratza also has the Encore grinder, which is a great start to preparing course ground french press to finely ground home espresso. The best part about these grinders is that they are top quality. I’ve owned mine since 2004, used it daily, and only now is it needing new burrs, which cost $22.00. They are an extreme value.
Water is the second ingredient in coffee, and the quality of water will drastically affect your cup of coffee. The best advice I have is to use water that you like. If you have awesome tap water, try it. Most tap water though will quickly destroy equipment if not cleaned regularly due to all the minerals. I personally use a 2 stage under the sink filter. It does a decent job of removing impurities. Many refrigerators now have filters, or you can purchase bottled water. The only water to avoid is distilled water. Spring water might work, but you’ll find best results from water that has been filtered in some way. When brewing, water needs to be between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, unless you’re trying a cold brew. Most inexpensive coffee makers do not achieve 195 degrees. If you’re brewing for a lot of people, I recommend a high quality Bonavita, BUNN, or Technivorm coffee maker. If you’re brewing for one to two people, a nice Chemex, French Press, pour-over, or Aeropress coffee maker is a great choice, and what I use daily.
Brewing your coffee can include a lot of trial and error before you feel it is perfect. Everyone likes their coffee at different strengths, so the amount of coffee you use may be different from what I recommend. The best way to measure coffee is by weight. Coffee beans from Yemen are super small, while a coffee from South America might have a much larger size. For this reason, the only way to accurately measure coffee is by weight. For most people, myself included, this is sometimes not very practical. I recommend an average of 2 one ounce scoops to prepare one 12 ounce cup of coffee. That is the amount that fits in my travel cup and most mugs. With a little bit of practice, doing things by eye isn’t very difficult.