Making a great cup of coffee would seem to be a somewhat simple task at first – after all, we’re talking about a drink that requires nothing more than beans and water to make, so it can’t be all that difficult, right? Well, discerning coffee drinkers the world over would definitely beg to differ.
Learning how to make the perfect cup of coffee is somewhat akin to learning how to cook the perfect steak – there are a myriad of subtle factors involved that can make or break the entire process. It would benefit us, then, to gain a better understanding of the alchemic art of coffee making, so that we can consistently crank out great cups of joe instead of operating in a “hit-or-miss” type of manner. Below is a step-by-step guide that will give you everything you need to know to make the perfect cup of coffee.
4 Steps To Making The Best Cup Of Coffee
1. Get the Grind on Your Mind
The first thing that we have to get out of the way is to rid ourselves of any notion that pre-ground coffee will produce a superior cup of joe – it’s just not so. Now this doesn’t mean that all pre-ground coffee is bad. In fact, many brands of pre-ground coffee are actually quite tasty. It just means that pre-ground coffee is not the most ideal choice if we’re looking to achieve perfection in our coffee making endeavors. So if you’re looking to take the flavor and richness of your coffee to the ultimate level, you have to “get the grind on your mind” – that’s right, you will need to grind your own coffee beans. We’ll cover grinding in more detail in just a moment, but for right now, let’s talk about beans.
2. Great Coffee Starts with Great Beans
Let’s face it: It’s hard for anyone to get a fantastic cup of coffee from crappy beans. The classic computer programming principle of “GIGO” – Garbage In, Garbage Out – applies to the art of coffee making as well. What this means is that you’re going to have to invest in some gourmet coffee beans if you want to experience the richness of flavor that can only come from using high-quality ingredients.
So let’s talk about buying gourmet coffee beans. Does it matter where you get them from? Should you obsess over whether or not to choose beans that are harvested in Colombia, Guatemala or Sumatra? While it is true that various geographical regions can produce distinctive flavors, the more important issue is whether those beans are Arabica or Robusta. Whatever coffee beans you buy, whether in your local Starbucks or at the store or online, double-check the label to make sure that you’re purchasing Arabica beans. Although they’re slightly more expensive, Arabica offers a more textured and complex flavor. Robusta beans are generally considered to be more bitter, and they are typically used as a filler in coffees of lesser quality.
Now before we go any further, it must be mentioned that there are several schools of thought as to which type of bean is better, and depending upon who you ask, you might get a different response. Many espresso lovers swear by Robusta beans because they contain nearly twice the caffeine that Arabica beans do, so in a way, it boils down to what your personal preference is, and whether you’re going for flavor or for the “jolt” of caffeine that you might need to get through a busy day. But the bottom line is that when it comes to achieving rich flavor, Arabica is your pick.
There are three other factors to consider as well:
Factor 1 – Source
One sign of good quality is when a coffee company will list the country or farm of origin for their beans on the label. This will give you a clue as to whether or not you’re getting your beans from a source that complies with fair trade principles.
Factor 2 – Roast
This is simply the amount of time the beans have been roasted. If you shoot for light roast, you’re going to get the closest thing to straight-out-of-the-ground coffee flavor. Medium roast takes on a sweeter taste because the sugars in the beans have had more time to carmelize due to the slightly longer roasting time. Dark roast offers a very smoky taste, for those who like a little more “bite” in their beans.
Factor 3 – Roast date
Be sure to pick coffee beans that have the roast date listed on the bag, and try to get the freshest date possible. Older roast dates mean that certain flavors may have seeped out over time.
3. Time to Grind
As mentioned, grinding your own beans is the only way to go if you want outstanding flavor. The grinding process releases all kinds of olfactory delights that make for an awesome, fresh-tasting cup of coffee. Many coffee connoisseurs assert that the method you use to grind your coffee is the single most important factor that determines the quality of the final product.
There are two primary grinding tools that people use today: Blade grinders (also known as coffee mills) and burr grinders.
Blade grinders are less expensive than burr grinders, and as the name suggests, they essentially “chop” the beans into small grinds by means of a propeller-like spinning blade. There are two main drawbacks of blade grinders: First, the high-speed grinding action generates quite a bit of heat in the beans, which can prematurely break down the coffee particles and negatively affect the flavor. Also, blade grinders often do not produce a consistent-sized grind, which means you may get some larger chunks of bean in your coffee filter when it’s time to brew. The best method to alleviate this issue is to pulse the blade grinder while grinding, which means that you will use short bursts applied every few seconds.
The far better choice, which is also the most preferred option by coffee lovers is to use a burr grinder. Well, your Bröyêur is the perfect burr grinder. The hand grinder essentially “pulverize” the coffee beans in the ceramic conical style burr, producing a remarkably even and uniform grind. There two main types of burr grinders – flat and conical that can span a wide range of price points, but generally speaking, conical burr grinders are considered to offer the higher quality grind. Conical burr grinders will take more time, but it’s well worth it because the slower grinding process will prevent any build-up of heat, enabling the coffee to retain a more robust flavor.
4. Some Quick Brewing Tips
Coffee is literally a “just add water” type of drink, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to nail the perfect cup of coffee on the first try. Even the most experienced coffee makers will tell you that there is a learning curve to consider when it comes to making high-quality coffee. For best results, try to brew your coffee immediately after grinding (but no longer than a half-hour later), so that you can capture the most flavor. One aspect of coffee making that often goes overlooked is what type of water you use. Tap water is definitely not optimal, especially if you live in an urban area, so use filtered or bottled water instead for better purity. You will need to experiment with your water-to-coffee ratio in order to achieve the results that will best accommodate your individual tastes.
For starters, a good rule of thumb is to use the “Magic Ratio”: 28 grams (5 tablespoons) of coffee along with 16 ounces of water in order to brew two big cups of coffee. Another popular measurement to keep in mind is a 1:16 coffee-to-water ratio: 1 gram of coffee for every 16 milliliters of water. Adjust these measurements as you see fit; just remember that the more coffee you have in proportion to water, the stronger and more “intense” the coffee will taste.
Again, learning to brew the perfect cup of coffee will take some time, and a little bit of trial and error. Using this guide will definitely help you trim down the learning curve. Make notes if you need to regarding what proportions, brewing time, temperature, etc., seemed to work best, and then you’ll have more of a repeatable pattern to use for the next one. Just remember to be patient with yourself and with the process, and you’ll be well on your way to consistently producing perfect cups of coffee.