In our (frequently) hectic, always-on-the-move world, starting the day with a bit of caffeine in the form of coffee is practically essential, and we have built up a whole industry and culture around that idea. Indeed, while not everyone may agree, for many people one of the best parts of their morning is the moment they take their first sip of coffee; and downing the rest of the mug is a necessary prelude to heading out the door.
If you are one of those folks who absolutely needs their cup of Joe in the morning, then you may as well treat yourself -- and your coffee beans -- right by making the best darn cup you can. By abiding by a few relatively simple guidelines, you can not only guarantee yourself an energy boost when you roll out of bed, but a great taste experience as well: Because there is a right way and a wrong way to brew coffee!
The following information is courtesy of the National Coffee Association.*
Make sure that your equipment is thoroughly cleaned after each use by rinsing it with clear, hot water and drying it with an absorbant towel. Check that no grounds have been left to collect on any part of the equipment and that there is no build-up of coffee oil.
Purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted as possible. Fresh roasted coffee is essential to a superb cup of coffee. And purchase your coffee in small amounts: Ideally you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1-2 weeks.
If you purchase whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible. Also, do not underestimate the importance of the size of the grind to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be overextracted, or ground too fine. On the other hand, if your coffee tastes flat, it may be underextracted, meaning that your grind is too coarse.
The water you use is VERY important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or imparts a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine. If you are using tap water, let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Be sure to use cold water.
Ratio of Coffee to Water
Use the proper amount of coffee for every six ounces of water that is actually brewed, remembering that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods. A general guideline is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.
Water Temperature During Brewing
Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, underextracted coffee while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee.
The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a plunger pot, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso, as the name implies, means that the brew time is short -- only 20-30 seconds. If the taste of your coffee is not optimal, it is possible that you are either brewing your coffee too long, or not long enough.