Brewing coffee can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. To get the perfect brew, a lot of little things need to be addressed in order to make it just right. Not all of us want to go breaking bad on our coffee; our mornings are complex enough. Yet there are some things we can tweak now to make your coffee THAT much better, and the process a little easier.
1. Your Water Temperature
Not all of us have thermometers at home, and that's okay! Taking your water to the boiling point and letting it sit for 10-15 seconds will do just fine. For those that use thermometers, do you remember to calibrate them? It's easy to do and can drastically change the quality of your coffee.
Some coffees need higher or lower temperatures than others. Typically, you want to brew light roasts at higher temperatures (200-205℉/93-96℃) and darker roasts at lower temperatures (196-200℉/91-93℃). Brewing your coffee at the boiling point (212℉/100℃) can result in a lot of bitterness and a waiting game to have that first glorious sip. Water below 196℉ will result in the dreaded weak, grassy brown water we all hate.
2. Filter Your Water
We've all heard the stories about the crazy things in our tap water. We've even noticed the difference in taste depending were you're receiving it from. There is quite a lot different elements in our water that won't play nice with our coffee. So do yourself a flavor and get yourself a filter for your faucet, or a filter pitcher to use over night so its ready for your coffee routine in the morning.
3. Learn Proper Dosage
This one is a little more tedious than the rest because it involves weighing out your beans, but it'll eventually become instinct. First things first, why is weighing out coffee better than just scoping out coffee with measuring tools?
No matter what kind of coffee drinker you are you'll be trying coffee of all different kinds. Coffee isn't a uniformed crop. They're not all the same size or density. In fact this is one of the reasons why we love coffee so much. It's vast differences results in its vast display of flavors. You'll find beans that are huge, but low in density or beans that are tiny but denser than your ex. The difference in volume will result in a different amount of coffee every scoop. But weighing out your coffee solves this issue.
Get yourself a scale that measures in grams. Eventually you'll get a good enough feel to do some A+ eyeballing.
4. Store Your Beans Right
Grandpa was wrong on this one. The old method of storing your beans in the freezer to keep them fresh has been utterly bunked. Coffee is already a dried product, so there isn't much you need to defend it against aside from light and moisture. Your freezer not only has a lot of moisture, but the cold affects the oils in such a way that they will start attracting the flavors of you freezer. Gross. You also run a chance of shocking your beans once you take them out to brew with that nice, filtered, hot water.
You want to store you coffee like a fine red wine: air tight and in a dry place, like your cabinets, away from heat and light. In many cases, you'll come across bags like ours which block out the light and also have a circle-thing that you often end up sniffing at for that aroma we all love. That lovely sniffer thing is a one way valve. It lets the gases from the coffee out, but no coffee aging oxygen in. If you're lucky, the bag will include a handy dandy zipper to make the bag air tight. So all you have to do is place it on your shelf knowing its stored safely.
If not, simply invest in a air tight, non plastic container.
5. Get A Conical Burr Grinder
This is possibly the most important of all to improve your brew. The best secret to a perfect cup is having the water flow through your grinds evenly (for even extraction) and that starts at the size and consistency of your grind. A whirly blade grinder pulverizes the bean and gives us an ensemble of grind sizes as a result. Instantly setting us up for failure. And yes, different grind sizes are that bad. We'll explain why in another post next week to spare you of the extreme geek fest.
Invest in a conical burr grinder. And a good one too. You'll want learn from my mistake. At the beginning of my coffee obsession, I pulled together what money I had to invested in a cheap $60.00 flat burr grinder. This machine was LOUD and broke after a 6 month period, forcing me to buy another one that broke in a 3 month period. I ended up spending $120.00+ tax in disappointment when I could of gotten a Baratza Encore (the best intro grinder for anyone starting to take coffee seriously at home) for just a little more. It's lasted me ever since and still grinds even coffee years later.
The other benefits to having a burr grinder is its versatility. Most Burr grinders have a grind size options ranging from super fine to very coarse. This opens up the coffee world to you as you're able to use this one grinder for all of the brewing methods you discover.