How to Make Good Coffee
A cuppa joe, java, ink, mud. Just coffee. Black. Coffee that will make me sigh and close my eyes. Coffee that makes me regret giving up cigarettes. Coffee that doesn’t need cream, nor sugar. Coffee that smells the way heaven does.
My granddad, knew how to make great coffee over a campfire. The coffee from my friend’s $500 coffee system tastes no better. Cleo added one egg shell and a pinch of salt. What did that have to do with anything? The alkali of the shell is supposed to cut the acidity of the coffee. Does that really work?
Whenever I want to learn a new kitchen skill, I always start with the expert on all things domestic, Martha Stewart. I was disappointed. I could learn how to make coffee syrup, coffee cake and a coffee table, and how to decorate a coffee cup, but no instructions how to make good coffee.
So I had to do some research and this is what I found:
How to Make Good Coffee: Tip #1 The Equipment
Make sure that your coffee maker gets de-limed correctly and periodically.
Use unbleached coffee filters. I don’t notice a taste difference between the bleached and unbleached filters, but some people claim they can taste the difference.
Have a mug or cup that fits your hand nicely and can retain heat.
How to Make Good Coffee: Tip #2 The Ingredients
The Beans: On February 2, 2009, The Chicago Tribune published an article by Emily Nunn. She stated that the March 2009 issue of Consumer Reports has crowned Eight O’Clock coffee the best grocery store coffee. And it only costs around $6.59 a pack.
Read the label. You want Arabica (a RAB a ca) beans, roasted to please your palette. I prefer medium roast, nothing fancy.
Only purchase enough beans for a few weeks. Grind them at the store. Make sure you don’t put them in the grinder used for “flavored coffee.” Yuck! Take a sniff of the grinder before you dump your beans in. Select the grind appropriate for your coffee maker. Push all the air out of the bag as you close it up. When you get it home, dump it into an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. I like to put my coffee in a zip loc bag and then suck the air out with a straw. But that’s me.
The Water: We always have distilled water on hand. Distilled water is about as pure and pristine as water can be. At 89 cents a gallon at the grocery store, it’s going to add to the price of a cup of coffee, but it’s worth the indulgence. Mr. Coffee recommends that I start with cold water, so I keep a jug in the refrigerator.
How to Make Good coffee: Tip #3 The Right Ratio
None of the websites for Eight O’clock Coffee, Maxwell House Coffee, Folgers Coffee and Dunkin Donuts reveal the recommended coffee to water ratio. Folks who claim to be coffee aficionados suggest 2 tablespoons of coffee per 8 ounce cup. But many companies who manufacture coffee makers suggest 1 tablespoon for 6 ounce cup.
I knew right away that this was my problem. I assumed that a cup of coffee was an actual cup, eight ounces. There appears to be no standard cup size. I went onto Mr. Coffee’s website and looked up the manual for my coffee maker. Mr. Coffee considers 5 ounces a “cup of coffee.” (That sounds more like “half a cup of coffee” to me). In other words, to make eight 5 ounce cups of coffee, use 6.5 level tablespoons of coffee grounds.
This is where you start. If you like it stronger, use a little more coffee. Just remember, you can’t “fix” a pot of coffee that has been brewed too weak. On the other hand, you can always add a little more hot water to a pot that is too strong.
How to Make Good Coffee: Tip #4 Be Patient with the Process
Let the coffee drip all the way through. Coffee at the beginning of the cycle will be substantially stronger than coffee at the end of the dripping process. Give it a quick stir or swirl before pouring.
How to Make Good Coffee: Tip #5 Don’t Dilly Dally
In the restaurant biz, you wait until you see an oil-like sheen across the top of your coffee before you throw it out and brew a new pot. In reality, coffee starts to lose its integrity within 20 minutes of brewing. If you invest in an air pot, it will hold your coffee perfectly for a couple of hours. The burners on coffee makers will contribute to making the coffee taste bitter.
But isn’t the whole point of learning how to make good coffee, is enjoying it, savoring it, relishing it? Who wants to get in a huge rush, gulping down very hot coffee?
So, my final question was: what’s better, turn the burner off and reheat the coffee in the microwave or to leave the coffee on the burner? After testing several pots, I determined that it’s best to turn off the burner. If the coffee was good to start with, microwaving it within an hour or two of brewing isn’t going to wreck it. I’ll admit that it didn’t taste quite as good, but too good to dump out and start over.
How to Make Good Coffee: Tip #5 How to Drink It
Coffee connoisseurs said it for years; once you go black you never go back. Some of us think coffee is perfect the way it is and we don’t want anything to mask the flavor. However, what if you’re one of those that love their coffee lighter and sweeter? Don’t put that powdered creamer in your coffee. Do not insult it with a tab of saccharine. There are all kinds of specialty sugars out there as well as flavored syrups. Why not indulge in some real cream? Don’t you deserve it?