Coffee is life. At least that is how it feels first thing in the morning. Who doesn’t feel a little brighter at that first smell of coffee being made when you wake up, we know we do. That pales in comparison though to the moment that liquid gold touches our lips. A good cup of coffee seems to empower us with strength, patience, wisdom, and calm. Conversely a bad cup of coffee brings in clouds of frustration that can lead to, as Yoda would say, the dark side.
To help avoid the temptation of turning to the dark side due to a poorly made cup of coffee here are a few quick tips and suggestions to help make that first cup a beacon of light in your daily ritual.
Coffee Brewing Choices
There are multiple ways to actually brew your coffee at home. Of course there is the old reliable drip coffee maker. Much like Captain America it is the standard, old school reliable way to make coffee at home. With most drip makers being programmable now you can load everything up at night, set the start time for when you wake up, and enjoy the smell of coffee waiting for you in the morning. There are other increasingly popular ways to brew at home now though.
Pour-over coffee has gained popularity in recent years thanks to coffee shops regularly employing this method and producing some amazing cups for customers. Another incredibly easy, but effective at home method is the use of a French press. This is easily one of our favorite ways to make a superior cup of coffee. Both the pour-over and French press are methods we employ when we are on the road as well. Whether camping or staying in a hotel we use these two methods to ensure our coffee away from home is just as good as the coffee we enjoy from our own kitchen.
Measuring out your coffee is a personal choice. Some utilize measuring cups and spoons that can be found in the market today. These have lines or guides as to how much coffee should be used to generate specific numbers of cups. For true coffee connoisseurs however we recommend using a digital kitchen scale to use exact measurements for your coffee. As a general rule we recommend 15 grams, or 1 tablespoon, of ground coffee per 8 ounce cup. Of course personal taste and preference do come into play and we encourage a little experimentation to get your own coffee just right to your taste, the above is just a general rule of thumb.
So many people believe pour-over is the best way to make coffee at home, and it really is hard to argue the point. Pour-over coffee makers create a truly aromatic and delicious cup of coffee. Not to mention there are a number of portable pour-over makers that you can take with you on the road or to work so you are able to brew coffee the way you want instead of being tied to the office coffee or hotel room pods.
To make the perfect pour-over cup we recommend using the method below:
- First, bring cold water to a boil in a kettle.
- If using whole beans, grind the beans to a uniform consistency similar to granulated table salt.
- Meanwhile, put a filter in the brewer and rinse with hot water. This removes the papery residue on the filter and warms up the brewer, keeping your coffee hot for longer. Discard the water used for rinsing.
- Add the grounds to the filter, making sure the surface is level. When the water is between 195°F and 205°F (about a minute after removal from the heat), slowly and steadily pour just enough water over the grounds to saturate them completely, starting from the middle and working your way outward. Stop pouring before the coffee begins to drip through. This is called the "bloom" pour, which allows the coffee to de-gas.
- Slowly pour in the remaining water, keeping the water in the dripper between half and three-quarters full. This should take 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully remove the filter, then serve and enjoy.
The French Press Method
Ok we might be a little bias here thanks to owning an R2D2 French press found HERE but it also creates an incredible cup of coffee full of aroma and flavor (not to mention a little fun if using the R2 press, but we digress). Want to make the perfect cup using a French press? We’ve got you covered:
- First, bring water to a boil in a kettle.
- If using whole beans, grind the beans to a consistency similar to breadcrumbs (coarser than you'd want for pour-over). The grounds should be uniform in size, without a lot of fine grit. Add the grounds to the French press.
- When the water is between 195°F and 205°F (about a minute after removal from the heat), add it to the French press and stir it vigorously into the grounds. The brew time is about 4 minutes, then slowly plunge the press, separating the grounds from the coffee.
- Serve and enjoy. Note: if you're not planning on drinking the coffee immediately, do not leave it in the French press, as it will continue to sit on the grounds and become bitter. Instead, pour the coffee into a carafe to enjoy later.
The Trusty Drip Method
Yes a pour-over and French press both create some superhero level coffee, but sometimes life is throwing building sized problems your way right out of the gate, or you want to get ready for the gym and have your coffee waiting for you so you can grab and go. Enter the time honored drip method. With drip machines able to make anywhere from 4 - 12 cups of coffee at a time, and the ability to throw everything in the night before, press start (or program it before going to sleep) the drip method is easily the most convenient way to brew that ever important first cup. To do it right we recommend following the steps below:
- If using whole beans, grind the beans to a uniform consistency similar to regular table salt. Transfer the grounds into a filter-lined filter basket, then place it in the drip machine. Swivel the water spout over the center of the grounds.
- Pour clean water into the back of the machine (not over the grounds) and press the on button.
- Turn off the machine as soon as the coffee is done brewing (it will stop bubbling) to avoid a burnt taste. Be sure to clean your machine once a month by filtering through a mixture of water and vinegar, which removes any built-up residue.
Superpowered Coffee Tips
Making a superior, amazing, spectacular cup of coffee isn’t just about the brew method however. In order to create that Clark Kent / Superman level of coffee here are some useful suggestions that we have found over time lend themselves to that next level coffee game.
Super coffee Tip #1 - Fresh Beans
This is the most important tip on the list. There is no question that making coffee within days of the coffee actually being roasted makes the best cup of coffee around. Get coffee from small batch roasters that roast to order your beans, like Coffee ‘n’ Capes. Beans on average have a fresh shelf life of around 2 months after being roasted. Most coffee you find in a supermarket was roasted 6 - 18 months prior to purchase, making it far from fresh. The lengthy shelf time also lends to the inside of the bags becoming coated with coffee oils which can turn rancid. Beans from small batch roasters like Coffee ‘n’ Capes may cost a little more but they are well worth it.
Super coffee Tip #2 - Keep Your Beans Fresh, Not Cold
There is a misconception that in order to keep coffee beans fresh they should be stored in the fridge or freezer, this is a big time no-no. Storing your beans in this way means they pick up moisture and food odors which negatively impacts their taste and quality. Instead utilize an airtight container to store your beans and try to use them within a week after purchase.
Super coffee Tip #3 - Grind Your Own Beans
The quality of taste in the beans drops significantly the moment it is ground and degrades faster. Grinding your own beans before you brew each time will ensure the freshness of each cup. We recommend using burr mill grinders for the perfect grind, but even bladed grinders are better than nothing. Burr mills usually have more settings allowing you to reach the specific grind needed for the brew method you employ.
Super Coffee Tip #4 - Water Matters
Just like no one wants to drink bad water because it tastes funky, so will using that same funky tasting water ruin your favorite coffee. While purists will use bottled spring water you can also use a solid charcoal/carbon filter on your water tap. Never use softened or distilled water as the lack of minerals in the coffee leave coffee tasting, well, not good.
Super Coffee Tip #5 - Spend For Filters
Cheap coffee filters make cheap tasting coffee. Ideally you want to search out “oxygen-bleached” or “dioxin-free” paper filters. The gold-plated filters that come with some drip and even pour-over systems can deliver amazing results, but they can let some coffee sediment through when coffee is ground super fine. This often leads to a villainous experience for some.
Super Coffee Tip #6 - Don’t Use Less
Skimping on the amount of coffee you put into your brew method will diminish the flavor profile, strength, and aromatic experience significantly. Skimping often results in a bitter brew experience.
Super Coffee Tip #7 - Overheating Kills Coffee Too
Heatstroke can do serious damage to the human body. Overheating coffee can do some damage as well. When we overheat coffee water it will extract compounds from the coffee that are overly bitter. The perfect brewing temperature is right at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or right around 45 seconds away from full boil. Beware reheating coffee as this can turn a great cup of coffee bad.
Super Coffee Tip #8 - Clean Your Gear
Batman is meticulous in cleaning and repairing all his wonderful toys to ensure every night his equipment can help him in his mission. We are willing to be he is the same way about his coffee making equipment and you should be too. Clean storage containers and grinders every few weeks to remove oily buildup. And at least once a month (at least) run a solution of vinegar through your coffee maker to remove mineral deposits and then rinse thoroughly before you reuse it.
Super Coffee Tip #9 - Use Heroically Great Beans
None of the above matters if you are using mass-marketed store-bought coffee beans. Great coffee starts with great beans farmed with care. There is a big world out there that produces incredible coffee from a wide array of countries, each producing unique flavor profiles that can be appreciated on the same level as those of wine connoisseurs. At Coffee ‘n’ Capes we seek out the very best beans we can find from farms that are fair trade, practice sustainable farming, and care about the quality of bean that they produce. Sure it might cost a little more than what you find on the shelf at your local grocery store, but the experience, taste, and joy from each cup is a much more elevated coffee ritual. And lets face it, coffee has become such an important and meaningful part of our daily ritual that we deserve a little higher quality bean.