Coffee is one of the world’s great traditions. There are many different types of coffee and several methods to brewing it, each with a set of rules which will bring out the best in the coffee. While there are indeed many variables to be considered, they are not as complicated as they may seem at first. By observing a few good practices, one can brew coffee at home that is as good as or better than that which can be picked up at the local café.
Having the Right Supplies
The first step in brewing a good cup of coffee is to have the right equipment for the job. The most important element of this is, of course, having a coffee brewer. A standard auto-drip is by far the easiest and more popular way to brew, though one might wish to consider a French press. While it takes more time and care to brew with a French press, the resulting cup of coffee is going to receive a better steep and retain more of the natural oils and flavor.
Beans are the next part of the equation. One should always make sure to use fresh beans when brewing and grind them as they are used. Buying in bulk may save money, but after a week or so the coffee will begin to lose its flavor. Also, one should buy the best quality beans that he or she can afford. It can take a few tries to discover what one enjoys, but a little online research can guide one in making an informed decision.
Finally, a coffee grinder is a relatively cheap investment that will pay off in the long run. Beans can be purchased pre-ground, but the best cup of coffee is always going to come from grinding right before brewing, which requires a home coffee grinder.
Using Proper Technique
Once the equipment is ready to go, the next step is proper brewing. As already stated, beans should be ground right before using them. Leftover grounds should not be saved, as they will begin to lose their flavor almost immediately and within an hour will be stale. Also, one should make sure to have the correct coarseness of grind depending on what brewing method her or she is using.
A good cup of coffee requires good water. Filtered water is the best, as there are fewer elements in it which might spoil the coffee’s flavor. Using filtered water is good for the brewer too, leaving fewer deposits to build-up and cause damage. Water should be heated to the optimal temperature, around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cheaper auto-drip brewers often do not reach this temperature, so it is best to find one of a good quality or stick to using a brewing method which allows more control over the temperature of the water.
The correct ratio of grounds to water is partially a personal preference, though a general rule of about 1 ½ tablespoons of grounds per six-ounces of water is best. This will give the brewed coffee a rich, full flavor. Experimenting with the amount of grounds will allow one to customize the brew to be exactly what he or she wishes it to be.
Finally, grounds should be steeped for the proper amount of time. With an auto-drip, this time is determined automatically. With a French press, around three minutes is best, though this can vary based on the beans. Once the coffee is brewed, one should drink it as soon as it cools down in order to get the best flavor. Also, coffee should not be left on a heating plate beyond 20 or 30 minutes, as it will burn. For keeping brewed coffee longer than this, a thermal carafe may be used.
After enjoying a good cup, all equipment should be cleaned up as soon as possible. Old grounds and oily residue can pollute future cups and potentially ruin the flavor. A quick rinse of everything will generally do the trick, though using a commercial cleaner every month or so is good practice.
By keeping equipment in good form and sticking to the techniques above, one can produce a great cup of coffee every time. While it may take a little practice to get the hang of everything, the eventual results are well worth it.