Brewing the perfect cup of coffee is an ideal within anyone’s reach. Just follow a few simple rules and choose a brewing method that suits your personal taste and your lifestyle.
Coffee Brewing Tips
Keep the following simple rules in mind when brewing any kind of coffee:
Start with fresh room temperature or cold water. The flavor of the water, or its lack of flavor, will have an effect on the cup of coffee. Use only good-tasting tap water or filtered or bottled water.
Start with good-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans. Choose coffee you like and make sure the beans were freshly roasted shortly before you bought them, and then stored properly at home.
Grind the coffee just before use. For the most flavor, grind the coffee just before brewing, and use a coffee grind that suits the coffee brewing method. (See Grinding Coffee.)
Have the right proportion of coffee to water. For each 6 ounces (180 ml) of water, use 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of ground coffee, adjusting the proportions to taste for stronger or weaker coffee.
Keep the brewing equipment clean. Coffee oils can collect on filter baskets and in carafes, turning rancid and giving coffee an “off” flavor. After use, always wash brewing equipment thoroughly with hot soapy water; then rinse well to eliminate any soapy residue.
Use water just off the boil. The optimum brewing temperature is slightly below water’s boiling point. Good automatic coffee makers control the temperature with a thermostat. If you boil and pour the water yourself into a coffee filter or French press coffee pot, bring the water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and wait just a few seconds before pouring.
Coffee Brewing Methods
Take your pick of a range of ways to brew a great cup of coffee. (See also Coffee Maker Reviews.) While a wide variety of coffee makers exist, most can be divided among four basic categories. (See also Espresso Making for instructions on brewing that particular type of coffee drink.)
Drip filter coffee maker:
Whether the water is boiled and poured by hand, or electric heated and automatically dripped, this method extracts coffee flavor by passing hot water through ground coffee in a porous paper filter, dripping it into an individual cup, a glass carafe, or a thermos bottle.
French press coffee pot:
This is a refinement of the old-fashioned jug method of brewing coffee, in which coffee is steeped in a jug of hot water. The French press coffee pot, or plunger pot, is cylindrical and straight sided, with a handle and a curved lip for pouring. On top of it sits a lid, through the center of which passes a rod attached to a fine metal screen designed to fit snugly inside the pot. After the desired steeping time, generally about 5 minutes, the rod is pressed down and the screen forces all the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot, after which the coffee is poured.
In this old-fashioned coffee maker, water boils in the bottom of the pot and rises through a hollow metal stem to drip down through ground coffee held in a perforated metal basket. The brew continues to circulate in this way, becoming increasingly strong. Overpercolated coffee can take on an unpleasantly bitter taste, and this method is no longer widely used.
Vacuum coffee maker:
In this ingenious method, still employed and recently adapted into electric automated form, water comes to a boil in the lower of two chambers, rising up through a tube into the upper chamber where ground coffee then steeps in the water. Removed from the heat, the lower chamber cools and the perfectly brewed coffee then drips back down into the lower chamber for pouring and serving.