I started regularly drinking coffee ten years ago while I was an accountant for the State of NY. At this time, my days were dragging and I was having problems staying awake after lunch. I mentioned this problem to a buddy of mine. He was surprised to learn that I didn’t drink a cup of coffee before starting the second half of my day.
The next day I approached the office coffee machine without hesitation and proceeded to pour myself the world’s worst cup of coffee. As nasty and watery as that cup of coffee was, it seemed to energize me for the rest of the afternoon and I was satisfied with the result. This horrible tasting coffee became my daily ritual and I was naively happy.
Then it happened…
I was traveling to see a friend and was treated with a cup of coffee that changed my life. It wasn’t watery or bitter. It had a sweet flavor that didn’t require any cream or sugar, along with rich notes of chocolate, dark cherry and a hint of almond. I didn’t know that coffee could have such a complex flavor, and damn was it strong. How was this beverage created? Why was I not aware of this sooner? I will never drink office coffee again.
I immediately interrogated my friend whom had presented this life altering gift. Where did these coffee beans come from? How was it brewed? What are your SECRETS!?!?
In the next ten years I quit working for the State, opened my own coffee shop, and soon created my own coffee company. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, including a method of brewing what I believe to be the perfect cup of coffee. Pay attention, the details matter here.
COFFEE: Fresh coffee may be the most important element here. Roasted coffee is at it’s optimal flavor is between 2 days and 2 weeks old if properly stored (air-tight dry container). Almost all varieties of arabica beans are flavorful when properly roasted. Robusta beans also add a pleasant element when properly roasted and blended. Experiment with different blends from your local coffee roaster or try online coffee stores that promise freshly roasted coffee delivered within 2-5 days of the roast date.
GRIND: Not all grinds are created equal. Different brewing methods call for different grind settings. Generally speaking, the shorter the brewing method the finer the grind should be. Read How to Grind Your Coffee, a blog we have written about different grind types and methods.
Water: Filtered or bottled water is required in my opinion. Coffee should be brewed at 200 degrees fahrenheit. Higher temperatures and brewing coffee for too long with pull unpleasant flavors out of the bean.
COFFEE TO WATER RATIO: This is where most mistakes are made when brewing coffee. We do not use enough coffee relative to the amount of water. I advise almost twice the “recommended” amount that is printed on most bags. Especially higher end brands where the flavor notes can really add to the experience. I use about 2 ½ tablespoons of whole bean coffee for 6 ounces of water. Here is a blog we've written about Proper Brewing Ratios.
BREWING METHOD AND EQUIPMENT: Clean equipment is crucial. I use the pour over method with either a ceramic brewing cup or a Chemex brewer. A paper filter works fine (currently I am using a Melitta bamboo coffee filter and am impressed with the results). The trick here I’ve found is to use a medium fine grind, pour the water in slowly to a point where the grounds bubble up to form a mushroom cap type shape, and then not letting the coffee brew for more that 3 minutes after the point that the coffee first touches the water. By pulling the coffee out before it is done brewing we eliminate the end of the brew which in my opinion contains unpleasant flavors. Read blog Alternative Ways Of Brewing Coffee for more info.
Everyone is different and preferences may vary. Trial and error with coffee types and brewing method can be fun and will help you zero in on what you like best. If this sounds like a lot of work and not much fun, just try my recommended method above with Death Wish Coffee. It’s my proven formula and daily ritual that I could not get by without.
I look forward to my coffee everyday and know through my 10 years of testing it doesn't get much better than this.