Best Brewing Practices
Always buy coffee in whole bean form, purchasing enough to last for one to two weeks. If buying pre-packaged coffee, look for an airtight bag with a one-way valve that allows gases to escape without exposing the beans to air, which can cause flavor loss. When buying whole bean coffee from a bin, look for large-sized beans that have a consistent roast, and few or no broken beans. Stay away from coffee beans that appear to be spotted with oil, or that have no aroma—both indications that the beans are not fresh.
Store your coffee beans in a clean, dry, airtight container in a cool, dark place. Never store coffee in the refrigerator or freezer since it will absorb flavors and aromas of the other foods stored there. Freezing presents a double threat: it breaks down coffee’s natural oils and reduces its flavor.
Grind only as much coffee as you need for a single brewing. Once the beans are ground, the flavorful oils are exposed to damaging air. As these oils dissipate, so will the flavor of your coffee. To ensure the correct grind for your coffee maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your grinder.
A couple rules of thumb:
Grinding coffee too fine will cause it to become over-extracted, resulting in long brew cycle, which will result in a harsh, bitter flavor.
Grinding coffee too coarse will cause it to become under-extracted, resulting in a short brew cycle, which will result in a weak, unflavorful cup of coffee.
Begin with fresh, clean, cold filtered water.
Be sure to use a filter designed to fit your filter basket. Bleached white paper filters are the most common type, however unbleached brown filters are also usually available. Permanent gold-plated wire mesh filters also work well, and are environmentally friendly.
Measure two heaping tablespoons of coffee for each six ounces of water.
Transfer freshly brewed coffee to a clean, preheated carafe. Leaving coffee in a glass pot on the burner will cause the coffee to burn and take on a bitter flavor.
Using a French Press
When making coffee in a French Press, do not use boiling water. Boiling over-extracts the bitter flavors from the ground coffee. Instead, catch the water just before it boils, or remove it from the heat and allow it to sit for 45 seconds before pouring it over the grounds.
Cleaning coffee equipment after each use prevents trapped oils from becoming rancid and leaving unpleasant-tasting remnants in your machine. Occasionally run fresh water (no coffee grounds) through your machine to keep it clean, and help it to continue to make delicious coffee.
Know Your Grind Settings
Choosing the Best Grind Setting
How you grind your coffee is the first step influencing the final brew. Some machines will brew better if you make sure to grind your beans to the optimal size in the first place.
Cheaper grinders don’t always have coarseness settings, so you will have to experiment a little to establish how long to let your machine grind to achieve the right coarseness (or fineness, depending on your point of view).
Grinfding terms can be open to interpretation (just how fine is extra fine?) These comparisons might help you gauge your grind a little better:
Coarse – Very distinct particles of coffee. Like heavy-grained kosher salt. Downright chunky.
Medium – Gritty, like coarse sand.
Fine – Smoother to the touch, a little finer than granular sugar or table salt.
Extra Fine – Finer than sugar, but not quite powdered.