There is no such thing as the singe best cup of coffee because individual preferences vary so much. This article is aimed to help you perfect your personal favorite coffee and be able to rinse and repeat the process each and every time you prepare it.
It is not only about how your coffee tastes, but as much about when you drink it, what is the environment and so on. When you have slept well, are amongst people you love and at a location that you really enjoy, have a good cup java from a nice cup can feel like the best cup ever. When you drink that exact same coffee some other time or at another place, it might not be that great. The key word here is good.
Most of us can easily spot the difference between good coffee and bad coffee. There can be a lot of different brews that are good but you can’t make the difference which is the best, and there can be a lot of coffee that is brewed with too hot water to make it bitter, used a poor filter which leaves a taste on it, or just made from a grind that is not suitable for that particular brewing method.
This article is not meant to be the final word on brewing coffee, but the purpose here is to get you thinking about how you are making your coffee, and how you can easily improve your “Joe”. Here are laid out some of the most important things that affect the quality of your coffee.
I find it quite interesting that most of us don’t really think that much what type of coffee we buy. We usually buy something that we are used to purchase, something that our mother of father always bought, or something that is on sale.
The world is revolving around coffee these days, and you can easily find all kinds of varieties of beans online, or even from your local stores. Merchants and roasteries have noticed an uptrend around coffee, and are providing us with ample varieties of beans from around the world available at different roasting levels. Every single choice you make has an effect on how that cup of coffee will eventually taste, and choosing the main ingredient correctly makes a huge difference. Though some might argue that water is the main ingredient, since the end product contains mostly just water, but we will get to water later.
The environment in which the coffee bean grows has a huge effect on how it will taste. How much sun is it exposed to, how is the humidity, what are the nutrients that the plant absorbs from the soil, all make a difference in the nuances and if you pay attention you can start to notice these small differences.
Different plantations around the same area might even produce beans that have different tastes due to the way that they grow their coffee plants. I recommend being explorative and open to new brands and different varieties, since there are so many options to choose from you most likely have not yet found your favorite. Just something that you like a lot.
Below you will find some of the most popular coffee varieties and a small description of each. Some of the varieties originate from selective breeding and some from simple natural selection as the plants have been accommodating to the environment in which they are growing.
Most of the coffee that you are able to find around the world are either Arabica or Robusta. Robusta is mostly grown around Vietnam and in the Philippines from where originates the legendary and fancy coffee that is passed through the digestive track of a civet cat called Kopi Luwak.
The Colombian Arabica is one of the best known varieties of Arabica, and it is well known for the intense aromas and light acidity. Popular ready made grinds include such as Sello Rojo
Ethiopia is another large produces of Arabica and three varieties originate from that region. The Ethiopian Harar, Ethiopian Sidamo and the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. They all come from different regions of Ethiopia which is where the names derive, and are known for their complex and fruity flavors.
A complete and detailed list of all the kinds of Arabica known to man can actually be easily found from Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_coffee_varieties.
Once you find the types of beans you like and find a the perfect roast for your preferences, you need to store the beans correctly. Moisture and air do not do good things to your coffee beans, so you want to store them in a cool, dry and air tight place.
What we do here is quite simple and doable. Just get mason jars for each type of coffee you have, and store them in the fridge. That way you can have plenty of different varieties and roasts at hand, and you can be quite sure that they will keep for a long time. You want to grind them just before the use, so you’ll need a grinder too.
Now let’s see… You have your coffee beans in order, and you have been storing them the right way. And you got yourself a good grinder? First taking the coffee beans from your mason jar, and pulling out your coffee grinder will really impress your friends if you know what I mean.
You don’t need to have a high tech super expensive grinder to get your coffee beans the way you like, but you need to be able to tweak the settings. The grinder has to be able to produce consistent granule size and you don’t want it to heat when you use it. Low noise is just a bonus here, but great if you have kids who are still sleeping when you are preparing your morning coffee! We actually recommend that you don’t get one with an electric motor. They are fast, but fast means heat and noise when it comes to a coffee bean grinder.
Basically you want a conical burr grinder, and not one of those that have spinning blades or any other way of grinding the beans. This type of grinders will produce the most consistent results and often you are able to change the coarseness of the grind in very small increments to get the right one for you.
If you are using a dripper, you usually want a relatively small, fine granule size. Not as fine though as you would want an espresso grind to be or for turkish coffee. For a french press you can use a bit coarser grind, but we do recommend using the finest possible to make sure that as much of the coffee is surrounded by water as possible.
Peugeot actually makes some of the best coffee mills in the world, but for example the Hario hand grinder does a good job too. Both of these are of a good size for grinding a few cups at a time.
For espresso the game is completely different though. Trying to save money can actually bite back quite easily. At around $200 you start to get machines that can do the job quite well and also are very handy and easy to clean, but we’ll get to the grinders in another post you wait for that!
After all, your coffee is mostly water. Water actually makes a big difference in how your cup of coffee tastes, since it too can have some tastes of its own. We recommend filtering your own water if you live in an area which has a water supply with a notable taste to make sure that you get a neutral tasting base for your coffee. You can of course use neutral bottled waters.
The taste of the water is not the only thing that affects your drinking pleasure, but the temperature makes an even bigger difference. If you are using a chemex, presso pan, high quality espresso machines, vacuum brewers, or even an Italian mocha pot, you are able to control the temperature.
If the water gets too hot, the end result will be a bitter coffee as the fatty acids in the coffee bean will start to oxidise. One excellent way to avoid this is to actually cold brew your coffee for around 10-16 hours in the fridge. Cold brew coffee will have a very different taste to other ways of brewing and you might even get hints of cola and beer from the brew.
The perfect temperature for your coffee when brewed with hot water is between 193 F (89,5 C) and 205 F (96 C) and never ever use boiling water. Some will argue that the closer to 205 F you will get the better, but all in all it is easy to understand why you need a reliable thermometer in hand when you are making your coffee. If you don’t want to use a thermometer or don’t have access to one when brewing, we recommend boiling water, removing it from the heat and adding 4-5% ice cold water and mixing it quickly before pouring it on the coffee.
This is a very handy method as not all thermometers are that reliable either, but honestly you should be able to get a reliable thermometer quite cheap off Amazon if you are serious about perfecting your cup of coffee. You will also need a really good quality scale to be able to accurately measure the water to coffee ratio correctly an reliably.
Brewing the coffee
Now let’s talk a bit about the actual brewing. Above are listed a lot of things about making good coffee in which you have very little control over. The things that you have a lot of control over are choosing the type of bean, grinding it to the perfect level of coarseness, having the right temperature water, perfect water to coffee ratio, and last but not least the brewing time.
Water temperature here is pretty much the only thing that is relatively constant, but the rest vary quite a lot depending on the brewing method. Typically you would use around 0.38 ounces (10.6 grams) of ground coffee to 6 ounces (or 177ml) of water. But like we have gone through above, these figures can vary on individual preferences.
When you are dripping coffee, you want the water to drip through the coffee grind in about 5 minutes. If you are making just a single cup of coffee, this can be quite difficult to achieve though so slightly less might be accepted. When you are using a french press you can deduct 1-3 minutes from this time. Cold brewing coffee can take easily up to 16 hours of you want to, and making a cup of espresso will actually require a very short time to brew. It takes longer to heat that 25-30ml of water to 190-192F (88-89C) than it takes to pass through the coffee in high pressure.
As you might realise from the brewing times. the smaller the grind the less time it usually takes. That is why you should actually try to use a grind that is as fine as possible for the method you are using and try to shorten the time, since almost all of the water soluble components are extracted rather quickly.
It might seem trivial, but we recommend setting a timer for your brewing. water temperature can vary a few degrees and it will not make a big difference, but brewing for a few minutes too long can make huge differences in the taste, as now different components of the coffee bean are starting to dissolve and can produce unwanted tastes.
To be honest… Those single serving french presses are probably the best things known to man. Even if you have more than one person drinking coffee at your house, you can get more than one and each of you can drink their favorite coffee. And if you want to have more than just one cup, it honestly takes 2-3 minutes of maceration and you are good to go for another cup.
Also a small one is very easy to clean by hand as you can rinse all the coffee crumbs and fat under hot water. Every now and then you should wash it thoroughly with dish washing liquid.
But basically you are done here. No matter which way of brewing coffee you choose, you need to keep an eye out for grind size, coffee bean freshness, water cleanness, water temperature, coffee-to-water-ratio and brewing time. Also choose your favorite coffee beans and have them roasted to the level you like to enjoy your coffee.