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What’s the best way to store coffee? How much coffee should I use for a pot of coffee? Does dark roast coffee have more caffeine? These are just a few of the perennial questions that people have about coffee. Here’s a list of tips that answer some of the most frequently asked questions about coffee, along with some hints for getting the best flavor from your coffee, no matter how you choose to brew it.
It’s all about freshness. Green, unroasted beans stay fresh for up to a year without noticeable loss of quality. Once you roast the little buggers, though, you’re fighting the clock. You’ll get optimal flavor from roasted coffee beans between four hours and four days after roasting.
If you can, buy your coffee directly from a roaster who can tell you when a batch of coffee came off the fire. Vacuum packing will preserve that freshness to some extent. If you can’t buy directly from a roaster, then definitely buy whole roasted beans in vacuum packed cans or bags. Don’t buy from open bins and dispensers in stores and supermarkets. You’re almost guaranteed to get stale coffee that way.
The watchword for coffee storage is protection. Air, heat, light and moisture are the enemies of roasted coffee beans. Once the bean has been roasted, it releases volatile oils and essences to the air. The longer the bean is in contact with the air, the more flavor it loses. Heat and light speed up the process of flavor loss, and moisture adds its own detrimental influence.
Store whole roasted coffee beans and ground coffee in airtight, opaque containers away from heat sources. The optimal temperature for storing coffee is ‘cool’ – about 70 degrees. Avoid keeping coffee near the stove or above a heat source.
In most cases, keeping your coffee in the freezer is not a good idea. There is one exception to this rule – if you’ve bought more coffee than you’ll use up in a week’s time, you can wrap the remainder in “one week” airtight packages and store them in the freezer. Once you’ve removed a package from the freezer, do not return it. Instead, store it in an airtight, opaque container just as you would fresh coffee beans.
Ground coffee should be used immediately. Grinding the coffee increases the surface area that is releasing volatile oils to the air. That’s why it smells so good when someone is grinding coffee. If, however, you buy your coffee ground, follow the same rules that you would for storing whole bean coffee – dry, airtight, opaque containers stored away from the heat.
Start with freshly ground coffee and cold water.
Keep your coffee making equipment clean to avoid tasting yesterday’s rancid coffee oils in today’s coffee cup.
Use enough coffee. Some connoisseurs recommend as much as 2-3 tablespoons of ground coffee per cup if you’re making drip coffee. That may make coffee a bit strong for your tastes, and it really is all about your taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find an amount of ground coffee that makes coffee that you like.
Believe it or not, the cup that you serve coffee in can affect the flavor and enjoyment. Much like wine, the flavor of coffee is carried in part by the aroma, and cups that “deliver the aroma” to the nose will make your coffee taste better. So will cups that are thick enough to keep the transfer of heat from coffee to air to a minimum. Espresso is most often served in small, thick-walled cups with a gentle flare to the top for exactly that reason. The thick walls keep the coffee at the right temperature for drinking, and the slope of the cup allows the aroma of the coffee to expand.
Remove brewed coffee from the heating plate or element as soon as it’s done brewing. Leaving it on the heat keeps the coffee oils cooking until you have an undrinkable brew. Instead, if you’re not drinking it immediately, pour it into a thermal carafe to keep it hot till you’re ready for the next cup.