Friday, January 18, 2013

How to brew a perfect cup of coffee

English: coffee filter Deutsch: Kaffeefilter
English: coffee filter Deutsch: Kaffeefilter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Much to the dismay of the baristas in your corner coffee shop, brewing the perfect cup of coffee is more science than art. Don't get me wrong, I love the artfully designed mugs of steaming, frothy coffee. For me, decorator coffee is all about indulging. These coffees rely on much more than the perfect brew to reel you in. They rely on flavor syrups, whipped cream, chocolate shavings and more. The cup of coffee I am going to teach you how to brew is what coffee purists refer to as the “Perfect Cup”.

The Perfect Cup must start with clean equipment. Equipment that is dirty has sediment and oil build up that produces a bitter, off tasting brew. If your coffee maker is dirty, I highly recommend giving it a thorough cleaning before progressing any further. You will want to mix a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water and run it through your machine. If your machine has been neglected for awhile, you will want to do this twice using fresh solution of vinegar and water for the second cleaning. Let your machine cool for 15-20 minutes then run fresh water through your machine for 2 brew cycles to remove all traces of vinegar.

Now that your machine is sparkling clean, make sure you are using the best beans you can afford. I highly recommend visiting your local coffee retailer and skipping the grocery store. You never know how long the beans have been sitting in the grocery store bins, and the more the beans are exposed to air, the less fresh they will be. Make sure to only buy the amount of coffee you will actually be using. It doesn't make sense to purchase coffee in bulk because of a great sale when it will only sit and go stale waiting to be used. To ensure you have the freshest coffee possible, purchase a grinder for your home and grind your coffee just prior to brew time. If you grind more than you will be immediately using, store it in an airtight container and place it on your shelf or counter.

The proper grind for your machine is essential to brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Here are the guidelines for brewing:
  • Coarse Grind- Grind for 5-10 seconds. This grind is best for percolators and cold water brewing. This is the least popular grind in the US.
  • Medium Grind- Grind for 10 seconds. This grind is best for electric and manual drip machines and French presses. This is the most popular grind in America,
  • Fine Grind- Grind for 15 seconds. This is for vacuum and Neapolitan flip methods.
  • Extra Fine or Espresso Grind- Grind for 25-30 seconds. Works with espresso machines.
Probably the most important ingredient in brewing the perfect cup of coffee is having good clean, cold water. When you consider your cup of coffee is 99% water, making sure it tastes good is top priority. If you are using tap water, you want to avoid strong flavors, odors or textures. If your water looks, smells or tastes off, so will your coffee. You will want to purchase spring water instead of using the water from your tap. Make sure your water is cold, and if using from the tap, let it run for a few seconds to aerate the water. Next, be sure to measure your coffee and the volume of your cup. Too many of us are drinking weak, poorly flavored coffee simply because we don't any better. The rule of thumb is two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water.

After your coffee has brewed, whether it be one cup or an entire pot, stir it before you drink. Particulates settle at the bottom of your brewing vessel-stirring it up disperses this particulate and provides a consistent flavor as you drink. If you plan on taking your coffee with you, be sure to store it in a pre-heated air pot or thermos. This will help your coffee retain the correct temperature and quality.

This may seem like a lot of work to brew a cup of coffee, but trust me, it is worth setting up the routine. Once you are in the habit of cleaning your coffee maker monthly, it will go much faster than the initial cleaning. Once you have tasted coffee made with freshly ground beans and quality water, your taste buds will thank you. You will never look at coffee the same way again!
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