Brewing Basics…

What’s Important in Making a GREAT cup of coffee?

  • Quality — To make good coffee, you need good beans, that’s a given.
  • Freshness — Good coffee has to be made from freshly roasted beans, perhaps even MORE important than quality!
  • Grinding — Ideally, you should grind your coffee right before brewing it. Whether you grind it yourself, or buy it ground, your coffee will taste better if it is evenly ground to the fineness or coarseness appropriate to your brewing method.
  • Water — Your water must be good tasting and free of any notable taints (such as chlorine).

Generally, you should start with one heaping tablespoon for each six ounce cup of coffee you plan to make. If you want a stronger, full bodied decaf, then you may want to use two tablespoons. Don’t be afraid to adjust the amount up or down according to your taste!

What’s the BEST Method of Brewing?

The first thing to remember about brewing methods (and coffee in general) is that there is no perfect answer! It’s what you like that’s important. If you really like your coffee on the weaker side, okay, go for it! Second, what you like may be a result of what you’ve tasted and grown accustomed to. But with a little stretching, there’s often something a lot better right around the corner. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment! Here are some thoughts and tips on common brewing methods…

French Press
The key to the French Press is using a little extra coffee and grinding it more coarsely. If you haven’t used one before, try letting the coffee in the pot steep at least four minutes before pushing the plunger down…

The (Dreaded) Percolator
Timing is the key here. Percolators can actually produce a halfway decent brew if they are only allowed to perk until the coffee bubbling up is deep reddish brown in color and not getting darker… often as little as four minutes, never more than six max. And PLEASE. never, never “cook” your coffee for 15 to 20 minutes!

Electric Drip Brewers
With drip brewers, make sure that the normal cycle does not exceed 5 to 6 minutes. If it does, try making a half pot at a time.

The Melitta filter and cone can make great coffee. Whether you’re using a paper filter or a metal mesh filter, always rinse it (while it’s in the funnel) with hot or boiling water immediately before brewing to get rid of that papery taste. With both Melitta and Chemex, we recommend stirring so all the grounds get wet, but some experts say no to this, so try it both ways and see which you like.

The Chemex paper filters are thicker and therefore make a clearer cup of coffee. Again, rinse the filter and pot with hot water immediately before use. GENTLY pour the water from the pot, so the filter doesn’t fall out! Also, try a little more coffee since the thicker filter can remove a little more flavor than the thinner Melitta filters.

Some people swear by the “cold brew” method that removes most of the acids in coffee. (We happen to like the balance of acidity and body.) It does produce great coffee extract for iced coffee and recipes that use coffee in cooking.

Making Turkish coffee requires the traditional “Ibrik” or Turkish coffee pot, which is a long handled metal pot that narrows toward the top. This method uses the finest grind possible and gently boils the coffee so that it foams up to the top of the pot three times. It produces a strong bitter cup of coffee (even with the copious amounts of sugar used to sweeten it) and is loved by those that drink it. The small cups of Turkish coffee, when finished, leave grounds in the bottom that fortune tellers read… maybe the best part of the experience!

Traditionally, you boil a pot of water, take it off the heat, add ground coffee and stir. When the grounds sink, it’s ready to drink. Don’t leave it on the heat, though, either during or after brewing, no matter what that cowboy tells you!

Our best advice is to get espresso brewed by professionals at your favorite espresso bar. If you do want to make espresso at home, buy the best machine you can afford, make sure it will generate NINE atmospheres of pressure (if you dealer doesn’t know what “nine atmospheres” means, take your business elsewhere). Use your machine regularly and always throw out the first cup (it tends to be metallic and bitter).

My Husband’s Favorite Method
My husband uses the filter basket from a restaurant coffee maker and the flat bottom filters he buys at Costco (500 for about three dollars). He puts the paper filter in the black plastic basket and fills it with hot water and lets it drain. He pre-warms a thirty-two ounce glass-lined carafe and puts 4 ounces of medium grind coffee in the basket. He then slowly pours just boiled water (but not actively boiling) over the grounds while gently stirring with a big spoon. Brewing takes a little over two minutes, and yes, the coffee is strong, but that’s the way he likes it!