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How to make the best cup of coffee

Posted on November 30th, 2013 — Recipes · Products

How to make coffee (the right way!)

Although coffee is an affordable luxury or maybe even necessity, many coffee drinkers may not know how to properly brew the perfect cup.

Here's a definitive guide and how-to that Full Circle Foods wrote some years back:

Millions of people drink coffee everyday. It is quite likely that society simply could not function without it. Coffee as a commodity, is second in importance only to oil and despite its vital importance, very few people know much about coffee, where it comes from or how to brew it properly.

The 20th and 21st centuries have not been kind to coffee. Modern living and technology have not improved coffee one bit. One can make a pretty good argument that modern day coffee standards have reached abysmal new lows.

Nowadays, cheap, poor quality coffee from tropical low growing areas is flooding the market and no amount of chemical/mechanical adulteration of the product is going to disguise or mask unacceptably bad coffee.

There is some hope though. A more knowledgeable consumer is starting to become aware that coffee is not just a large plastic tub of brown sawdust purchased at the local department store.

And, that coffee can be as interestingly diverse as wine with a whole new universe of unique tastes and flavours.

So, here are the basics and essentials of coffee preparation you need to know in order to prepare a perfect cup of coffee. This is the “French press” method of preparation which we will describe here.

The Coffee House Rules

  1. Toss out your automatic drip coffee maker. These mass produced kitchen appliances (regardless of price) do not have the proper temperature control to make a proper cup of coffee. If it has a hotplate ( a guaranteed coffee scorcher) – relegate these coffee torture devices to the nearest flea market! There are only a few models in the world that are approved by the SCAA. Go to coffeecrew.com for more information on these brewers.

  2. You do not need fancy electric brewers to make superb coffee. Buy a simple French press, press pot, or Bodum. Despite the various trade names, these are built pretty much the same way. These consist of a glass cylinder and a plunger with a fine mesh stainless steel filter. These brewers are inexpensive and are readily available everywhere.

  3. The most important rule of all is to obtain FRESH roasted whole bean coffee. Coffee is a perishable food product. Just because it hasn’t turned green or moldy, doesn’t mean it is any good. Coffee is good for about a week (maybe two) after roasting and then quality starts to decline rapidly.

  4. Buy freshly roasted coffee in small quantities. Ideally, you should buy just enough for the week.

  5. Artificially flavoured coffee beans are a abomination against nature. Do not go there.
    Instead, add a natural, organic flavouring syrup directly to your brewed coffee for a pleasant coffee-like beverage.

  6. Buy filtered, chlorine-free water that ideally has some mineral hardness in it. A cup of coffee is 99% water. Bad tasting water is not going to make a good cup of coffee. Use the good stuff.

  7. Buy an accurate digital “stick” type thermometer. Correct water temperature is very important. Aim to get around 200 degrees F.

  8. Proper grind. You want a fairly coarse grind. Too fine and the fine metal screen will get plugged up and you won’t be able to plunge the coffee. Too coarse and the coffee will be thin and flavourless. Seconds count. Grind your beans just moments before brewing.

  9. Proper brewing time. This is your call. It depends on the fineness of the grind and the temperature of the water. Try for a three or four minute steeping time to start. A very coarse grind may require longer. Feel free to experiment.

  10. Brewed coffee is good for 15 - 20 minutes only! Coffee is always best consumed immediately. Do not drink stale, oxidized coffee. Always make a fresh batch.

How to

The rules say to obtain fresh coffee, yet this is the most difficult thing to do of all. With very few exceptions, there are no roast dates on coffee.

Pay no attention to expiry dates. You want to see a roasted on date! If you see an expiry date on a package of coffee, do not buy it unless you know when it was roasted. It could be sitting on a shelf for months or even years!

Pre-packaged ground coffee in grocery stores is pre-staled before packaging. The coffee is essentially dead before you even open it.
Ground coffee starts to oxidize the instant it is exposed to air and even exotic packaging methods using inert gases can not preserve freshness for very long.

The secret is to use fresh roasted whole bean coffee that is ground just before brewing.

Coffee enthusiasts can roast their own green coffee beans at home and be assured of a fresh supply of coffee however, home roasting is a somewhat messy process and there are some limitations. Home roasting is covered in detail elsewhere on coffeecrew.com.

So where can you get freshly roasted coffee?

There have been an increasing number of specialty coffee roasters that will deliver fresh roasted coffee right to your door. Use the internet to find a supplier close to you. Unfortunately, there might be minimums and shipping can be expensive.

If you live close to a café that roasts their own beans in-house, chances are they are selling coffee beans to their customers as well.
Some specialty food stores dealing in bulk goods may be able to supply you with fresh coffee.

Regardless of where you are sourcing your beans, ask WHEN it was roasted. If they don’t know – move on and don’t waste your money.

Now that you have the beans, you will have to grind them. Unfortunately, those inexpensive rotary blade coffee/spice mills aren’t going to do the job.
They just aren’t capable of producing a uniform particle size. Buy a good quality burr coffee grinder so that you can precisely adjust grind fineness.

The next step is to boil a kettle full of water making sure it is at a rolling boil. Remove from heat and wait. Do not pour boiling water directly on coffee grounds. It will be ruined.

The trick is to wait long enough so that the water cools down a bit. Your target is to get about 200°F as the final temperature of the mix of hot water and coffee grounds. An inexpensive “stick type” digital thermometer works nicely here.

Give the coffee a gentle stir with your charismatic wooden stirring stick, wait a few minutes. Plunge slowly and gently and voila! you have coffee that has been brilliantly and expertly prepared.

That’s it. Nothing complicated. Superb coffee at its barest essential elements; fire, water, coffee and the passage of time.