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Want your coffee brewing skills to rival those of the barista at your favorite coffee shop? Consumer Reports recently shared its top tips to brew the best coffee ever. These coffee brewing tips will come as no surprise to any true specialty coffee lover, but they always bear repeating.
Coffee has two ingredients – coffee and water – so it makes sense that to get the best cup of coffee, you have to start with the best of both ingredients. That doesn’t mean you have to buy water – though many people do – but you should start with water that has no off flavors. That means filtering your water before pouring it over your coffee grounds. Many of the best coffee machines and espresso machines come with built-in water filters. Make sure you replace the filter according to the manufacturers’ instructions – or more often if the coffee starts tasting off.
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Smell that delicious coffee aroma when you open a can of ground coffee? The more you can smell it, the more flavor you’re losing. In fact, coffee starts losing flavor the moment it’s done roasting, and grinding just accelerates the process. The longer you wait to brew coffee after grinding it, the less flavor you’ll get in your cup. Store whole coffee beans in an airtight container away from heat, light and strong odors, and grind it just before brewing for the best tasting coffee.
Even a blade mill will make fresher, better tasting coffee than you’ll generally find in a can. If you really want to taste the flavor difference, though, invest in a good quality coffee grinder that allows you to set the grind for your coffee brewing method. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.
Okay, we may be getting into the weeds (or going down a rabbit hole) here, but the size of your coffee grounds is actually kind of important. Ground coffee is not one-size-fits-all. There’s science behind this, but it essentially goes like this: coffee gets its flavor from water-soluble compounds in the coffee beans. We extract these compounds by exposing the coffee to water. The water temperature and amount of time that coffee is in contact with water play a major role in determining the flavor of the resulting coffee. When coffee is underextracted, it tastes weak and flavorless. When it’s over-extracted, it’s bitter. The size of the ground particles can help speed up or slow down the progress of the water, and determine how much — and which — flavor compounds are extracted. Check the manufacturer instructions for the best coffee grind to use with your coffee brewer.
Measurement is everything when it comes to superb coffee. The Atlantic informs us that the optimal ratio of water to coffee is 17.42 units of water to 1 unit of coffee, but that’s a bit too scientific for first thing in the morning. In more general terms, use about 2 tablespoons of coffee to 6 fluid ounces of water – and adjust the measurements until you find the flavor profile you like best.
Ideally, your coffee brewer should heat the water to between 195 F. and 205 F. and keep it at that temperature for five to six minutes, according to Consumer Reports. Specialty coffee organiations are even more precise, and the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) has a certification program for coffee makers. If you want to make sure you’re getting the very best flavor from your coffee, choose an SCAA-certified automatic drip coffee maker. If you’re brewing with a manual coffee brewer like a coffee dripper, bring the water to a boil, then let it sit off heat for about a minute before starting your pour.
While the best temperature for brewing coffee is 195 to 202 F., the best drinking temperature for coffee is about 140 F., which your coffee reaches far sooner than you’d expect. Keep in mind that the longer your coffee sits after brewing, the more flavor it loses. Letting your coffee sit – even in a vacuum thermal carafe – will result in degraded coffee. Your best bet is to only brew the amount of coffee you’re going to use within half an hour or so.
Coffee leaves residues on everything it touches, including most of your coffee brewer. The residues are oils, which means they get rancid – and rather quickly. If you’re making coffee in a dirty coffee brewer, your coffee will contain some of those rancid oils – yuk! Clean your coffee brewer according to manufacturer instructions to keep your coffee tasting its best.