Coffee. Need I say more? The ancient drink, which dates back to at least the 15th century, still finds its way into many of our kitchens today, sustaining us and comforting us on a daily basis. If you're the type to brew it yourself at home rather than buy it at a coffee shop, you probably already have a pretty good idea of how to make a cup of joe. But how do you make the perfect cup? Here are 10 essential rules for both novices and professionals alike; you may just learn something new.
1. Buy your beans whole. I suggest a medium to medium-dark roast, as this is where you get the best balance between bean and roast flavors. Always buy whole beans when you can, but don't grind them just yet.
2. Store your beans correctly. Until you’re ready to use the beans, keep them in a cool, dark pantry or cabinet in an airtight container.
3. Prepare your coffee maker. Make sure your coffee maker is completely clean, taking care to make sure there isn’t any old coffee residue or soap residue left. (Ed. note: I also clean my coffee maker's innards monthly by brewing 10 cups of filtered water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar; my wonderful coffee maker has lasted me nearly 10 years.)
4. Measure. I suggest 16 grams of water for every gram of coffee. That also works out to 1 ounce of coffee for every 16 ounces of water as well.
5. Grind your beans in a burr grinder. Only grind your beans just before brewing. Coffee beans, once ground, will begin to lose their oils—and therefore their flavor—very quickly.
6. Heat the water. If you’re not relying on your machine to heat the water, then it’s up to you. Using a thermometer is most precise (90-96°C or 194-205°F) but if you don’t have one, bring the water to a boil, then remove from the heat and let sit about 10 seconds.
7. Bloom the coffee. Pour enough water over the ground beans to wet them all; give them a little stir if necessary. Wait 30 seconds for the coffee to bloom before continuing brewing. Blooming is a process whereby CO2—which likes to attach itself to the side of the ground beans, thus preventing water from reaching them—is allowed to escape from the bean.
8. Brew your coffee. Depending on your preferred method of brewing, this is where you steep the coffee (3-4 minutes for a French press) or slowly add water for pour over and Chemex brewing (never fill either to the top with water). Only make enough for what you plan to drink.
9. Decant and serve immediately. Coffee doesn’t like to sit around, especially in its own grounds.
10. Don’t reheat. Brew more. The only thing coffee dislikes more than sitting around is being reheated—and this includes being left on a warm burner or on the hot plate of a coffee maker. The excess heat quickly degrades the coffee, turning it bitter.