Making the Best Cup of Coffee
American diners have long been known for their ready cup of hot coffee with an endless bottom. The reputation of diner coffee may not be living up to today’s taste standards, but you can always find a fresh brewed pot. If you are looking for upscale coffee, micro coffee roasters have created a new tradition in American culture of gourmet coffee drinking.
A bond does exists between the coffee diner and coffee house today, where the basics remain—that it’s still about serving it fresh and hot in a ceramic mug to make it taste the best. If you can’t make the trip to the coffee house, though, and are in need of a great cup of java, here are some tips to making the best tasting coffee yourself.
It’s All in the Bean…
What makes the best cup of coffee? The actual ingredients are simple; water and coffee beans. To make the best cup of coffee, start with fresh roasted coffee beans and filtered water. Also, the equipment you use and the process will make a difference. Let’s start with the bean.
You have many choices of coffee bean types from a range of countries, each producing their own taste. What’s the best tasting coffee bean? A fresh roasted one. And then the debate begins as to which region produces the best gourmet bean. Also, the type of roast from light to dark is more personal taste. So why not taste a bunch of bean varieties and roast types to decide for yourself?
Whichever type you select, purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted as possible. When you buy grocery store coffee you really don’t know how long it’s been there. Avoid buying large amounts unless you consume lots of coffee. Ideally, you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1–2 weeks. Coffee beans are perishable items, which begin to lose flavor if not stored properly or used quickly after roasting.
Water: The Other Ingredient
The water you use is basic to the quality of your coffee. If your tap water has a bad smell or taste to it, use filtered or bottled water instead. Be sure to use cold water. Do not use distilled or softened water.
The Brewing Process: From Simple to Sophisticated
The equipment you use to make a cup of coffee can make a difference and keeping it clean after each use will avoid a bitter, rancid flavor to future cups of coffee. Clean up used grounds that are sure to collect on the equipment and the build-up of coffee oil. Using water and a paper towel wipe is ideal.
There are many choices of coffee makers from the simple French press to expensive complete grinder-to-brew coffee machines. Without distracting from the high-end benefits of the coffee maker, it is good to note you can still make a great cup of coffee with the very inexpensive French press. The choice is yours and regardless of budget, good cleaning skills will still matter in the proper care of your coffee equipment.
Grind it Out!
Grinding coffee beans just before brewing is best. If you don’t have a coffee grinder it is important to match the grind type to your machine. When grinding before brewing, don’t underestimate the importance of the size of the grind to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be ground too fine. On the other hand, if your coffee tastes bland, the grind is too coarse. Before brewing the coffee, try rubbing some of the grounds between your fingers so that you can ‘feel’ the grind and become acquainted with the differences in size. Never reuse your coffee grounds—sorry, you only get one brewing per grind.
If you are grinding your own coffee beans here are some suggestions:
Coarse: 5-10 seconds, typically used with percolators.
Medium: 10 seconds, used for the French press and drip coffee makers.
Fine: 15 seconds, used for vacuum method equipment, which is less common in the United States.
Extra fine: 25-30 seconds, used by espresso machines.
Measuring Coffee Beans to Water
A general guideline is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences. Be sure to check the ‘cup’ lines on your brewer to see how they actually measure.
Temperature & Time
Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195–205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal brewing. Brewing should take between four and five minutes. If brewed at a lower temperature, this will not bring out the full flavor in the beans, while a higher a temperature could ‘burn’ the bean leaving a bitter brew. If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not over-boil. Take it off the burner and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.
Relax and Enjoy in the Best Coffee Cup
Coffee tastes best in a diner style mug. Yes, a coffee mug will add to the taste, or more importantly, by not adding any taste of it’s own. Unlike styrofoam or paper cups, ceramic mugs are not porous. Metal is okay, but doesn’t hold the heat like those classic diner mugs that preserve the flavor. These mugs are also reusable, so they’re environmentally friendly too.
If you will not be drinking your coffee right away, avoid leaving coffee on an electric burner for longer than 15 minutes. Coffee is meant to be served right after being brewed.