The recipe for making great coffee all boils down to (mind the pun) unplugging the automated coffee machine, throwing away the pre-made coffee mixes and roasting and grinding it right from scratch.
If your goal is to discover full coffee flavours and aromas through high-quality specialty beans, then your automated home brewing system at home may be limiting you, as you can’t control the temperature of the water when it comes in contact with the coffee.
If you truly want to become a coffee connoisseur, you’re going to need to treat coffee like a fine glass of wine – learn how the process works, smell, taste and savor the experience.
1. Buy Fresh Coffee Beans
Find a quality local roaster or grocery market that sells freshly roasted coffee beans. Take home a quarter of a pound of a few different kinds of coffee beans to try them out and compare. However, also be wary about buying bulk coffee from supermarket display bins, as oxygen and bright light are the worst flavour busters for roasted beans. Look for coffee beans that are packaged by quality-conscious roasters and sold in sturdy, vacuum-sealed bags, if not other secure storage devices
Without question, coffee is best used within days of it being roasted to ensure you get the absolute freshest beans. Make sure you note how they are roasted. Smell the beans when you take them out of the bag, and then smell the coffee again after you grind the beans (smell it without anything added).
2. Choose Good Coffee
Venture beyond mass-marketed commercial coffee brands and explore specialty coffees that clearly state on their label the country, region and estate of origin the coffee comes from. A great idea is to head to your local ethnic market to see what exotic coffee beans are on offer there. Look for 100% Arabica beans. Cheaper alternatives are those that may contain Robusta beans (which are noted for their higher caffeine content but harsher flavours).
Don’t be afraid to experiment with coffee beans from all around the world – Latin America, Africa and Asia.
3. Keep Coffee Beans Fresh
Always store opened coffee beans in an airtight container. Glass canning jars or ceramic storage crocks with rubber-gasket seals are great choices. Never refrigerate (as roasted beans are porous and eagerly take up moisture and food odors). Favour experts also strongly advise against freezing coffee, especially dark roasts.
Buy a 6 to 7 day supply of fresh beans at a time and keep it at room temperature.
4. Grind Your Own Beans
Coffee loses quality as soon as it gets grinded. The best-tasting brews are made from beans ground just before brewing. Coffee connoisseurs prefer grinding their coffee ground in expensive burr mills (e.g Solis, Zessenhaus, Rancilio) but there are affordable electric alternatives in the form of “whirly blade” grinders (e.g. Braun, Bodum) which still do a serviceable job.
Finer grinds yield more flavour, as well as enable water to run through and extract more evenly. Be aware that you get what you pay for, and the cheaper the grinder, the less optimum grinding your beans will get.
For home use, try low-tech coffeemakers such as French press pots that employ a finely perforated piston (or plunger), or drip brew pots (also called filter pots) where you pour water over ground coffee beans contained in a filter. The French press method requires some patience and skill to master.
5. Use Good Water
Don’t forget about the purity of the water, as tap water with chlorine and other off flavours will seriously sabotage your coffee connoisseur efforts. Serious coffee-lovers use bottled spring water or water that comes from filtered taps.
Softened or distilled water makes terrible coffee – don’t forget – the minerals in good water are essential.
6. Avoid Cheap Paper Filters
Bargain-priced paper coffee filters yield inferior coffee. Look for “oxygen-bleached” or “dioxin-free” paper filters.
Alternatively, you can invest in a long-lived gold-plated filter (e.g.SwissGold) which are reputed to deliver maximum flavour.
7. Know Your Measurements
The standard measure of brewing coffee of proper strength is 2 level tablespoons per 6-ounce cup of about 2 3/4 tablespoons per 8-ounce cup.
Be mindful that tricks like using less coffee and hotter water to extract more cups per pound tent to make for bitter brews. Remember coffee differs and tastes differ. Investing in a small digital scale will give a truer reading if you are picky.
8. Don’t Overheat!
Water that is too hot will extract compounds in the coffee that are bitter rather than pleasant. about 45 seconds off a full boil. The proper brewing temperature is 200 °F or about 45 seconds off a full boil.
Once brewed, don’t expect coffee to hold its best flavours for long. Reheating, boiling or prolonged holding on a warming platform will turn even the best coffee extract compounds in the coffee that are bitter and foul tasting.
9. Keep Equipment Clean!
Cleaning your coffee equipment, storage containers and grinders every few weeks is vital so to avoid oily build-up.
Run a strong solution of vinegar or specialty coffee-equipment cleaner through your coffeemaker monthly to dissolve away mineral deposits. Always rinse your equipment thoroughly before reuse.
Feature Image Source: Splendid Table
Header Image Source: We Love Perth