Even a drip coffee machine can brew a cup with café quality flavor. If you love a good cup of coffee, you’ll want to check out these essential tips for making the best possible coffee at home.
Paying attention to these techniques will improve the quality of your coffee whether you use a simple drip brewer or fancier methods of extracting those delicious flavors from your preferred grind.
Start with fresh, whole bean coffee
Good coffee beans are table stakes when making a great cup of coffee.
You may be buying pre-ground coffee for the convenience, but fresh whole bean coffee will retain the flavor profile of the coffee longer. And if you are buying coffee from the grocery store, you will most likely not find a date for when that coffee was roasted. In fact, grocery store may have been on the shelf for months after it’s roast date. We recommend that you purchase only as much coffee as you can use in 2-3 weeks to have the freshest possible beans on hand.
Store your coffee beans properly
To keep the coffee you buy fresher longer, make sure you're storing it properly. The enemies of freshness are oxygen, light, heat, and moisture. To keep coffee fresh, store it in an opaque, airtight container at room temperature. We never recommend storing coffee in the refrigerator or freezer where it will absorb odors from other foods.
How you grind your coffee matters
For maximum flavor, always grind your coffee right before brewing
It is best to grind your coffee in batch sizes appropriate for what you plan to brew and consume vs. grinding and storing for later use.
Grind size for your appropriate brewing method is also an important factor in making a great cup of coffee. Grind too coarse and you will have a weak pot of coffee. Grind too fine and you will over-extract the coffee and it will taste bitter.
We recommend using a quality automatic burr grinder to produce a consistent grind. A blade grinder will work, but the inconsistent size of the coffee particles will have a negative effect on coffee flavor. And blade grinders can burn the coffee due to high-speed rotation of the blades.
Measure your coffee – don’t guess
Measuring by weight is better than measuring by volume.
The ratio of coffee per unit of water each time you brew is another key to a consistently good cup. Digital scales are rather inexpensive to use and will permit you to better control how much coffee and water is used each time. And a bonus is that you will likely waste less coffee and get more cups from a bag.
For a medium strength cup, about 10 grams of coffee to 6 ounces of water (standard home coffee cup) is a good place to start. In the long run, you must decide what tastes best to you. Removing the variables by weighing your coffee and measuring your water makes it easier to find that taste you prefer.
Pre-infusion – what’s that about?
Most drip coffee makers skip this crucial step.
Most automatic coffee makers don't properly prepare the coffee grounds for full extraction. Manual pour over cones (which are not unlike automatic drip machines) call for a pre-infusion or the so-called "bloom." This preps the coffee by pouring hot water over the grounds to help release any remaining carbon dioxide gas left over from the roasting process. Skipping this step will allow the carbon dioxide to repel water during part of the brewing process, effectively making the brew weaker. If you don’t own a coffee maker with a pre-infusion setting, here is a step you can take.
To manually pre-infuse your coffee, insert a filter into the hopper and add your coffee grounds. Then use a kettle to preheat roughly quarter-cup of water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly pour the heated water over the grounds, making sure to thoroughly wet all of them. Let this sit for approximately 45 seconds before starting the coffee maker.
The right brewing temperature is important
Most drip machines don't reach optimal brewing temperature.
The Goldilocks zone for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205, degrees Fahrenheit. Most drip coffee makers do not reach this temperature and only newer models have an adjustment. If you are in the market for a new brewer, check out these brewers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Best 2022 brewers.
Use the right water
The quality of the water you use is another often overlooked aspect of brewing coffee.
Using tap water that may not taste good will affect coffee flavor. And hard water that's full of minerals won't bond well with the dissolved particulates from the coffee, leading to an under-extracted, weak coffee. Not only that, this higher mineral content is what also leads to buildups in your coffee maker, such as lime deposits. This will require you to descale your coffee maker more often.
Heavily filtered or distilled water can be just as destructive for your equipment. While it doesn't cause as much buildup, distilled waters lack of ions and mineral content will force the water to leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine's performance over time.
Water marked as spring water is a good choice for coffee flavor and your brewer’s performance.
These steps may seem tedious and time consuming, but try a few pots of coffee this way and then decide if you think the better cup of coffee you are drinking is worth the effort.
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