I often go to sleep thinking about the cup of coffee I am going to have the next morning. I adore it! Whether your morning coffee is an estate-grown brew or just the best supermarket blend you can afford, these basic rules from Eating Well Magazine’s editors and contributors will help you learn how to make coffee to prevent unwanted bitterness and almost guarantee a satisfying cup of coffee every time.
Rule 1: Buy fresh beans.
Without question, coffee is best when used within days of being roasted. Buying from local roasters (or roasting your own) is the surest way to get the absolute freshest beans. Be wary of buying bulk coffee from supermarket display bins. Oxygen and bright light are the worst flavor busters for roasted beans, so unless the store is conscientious about selling fresh coffee, the storage tubes coated with coffee oils, which turn rancid. Coffee beans packaged by quality-conscious roasters and sold in sturdy, vacuum-sealed bags are often a better bet.
Rule 2: Keep coffee beans fresh.
Always store opened coffee beans in an airtight container. Glass canning jars or ceramic storage crocks with rubber-gasket seals are good choices. Never refrigerate (roasted beans are porous and readily take up moisture and food odors). Flavor experts strongly recommend against ever-freezing coffee, especially dark roasts. Optimally, buy a 5 to 7-day supply of fresh beans at a time and keep at room temperature.
Rule 3: Choose good coffee.
Snobbism among coffee drinkers can rival that of wine drinkers, but the fact is that an astonishing world of coffee tastes awaits anyone willing to venture beyond mass-marketed commercial brands. Specialty coffees that clearly state the country, region, or estate of origin can offer a lifetime of tasting experiences. Look for 100% pure Arabica beans. The cheap alternatives may contain Robusta beans, noted for their higher caffeine content but harsh flavors. Arabica devotees a term commonly link “Nasty” to Robusta coffees.
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Rule 4: Grind your own.
Coffee starts losing quality almost immediately upon grinding. The best-tasting brews come from beans ground just before brewing. Coffee connoisseurs prefer to grind in expensive burr mills (e.g., Solis, Zassenhaus, Rancilio), but affordable electric “whirly blade” grinders (e.g., Braun, Bodum) will do a serviceable job, especially if the mill is rocked during grinding to get a fine, even particle size. (Scoop for scoop, finer grinds yield more flavor.)
Rule 5: Use good water.
Nothing can ruin a pot of coffee more surely than tap water with chlorine or off flavors. Serious coffee lovers use bottled spring water or activated-charcoal/carbon filters on their taps. Note: Softened or distilled water makes terrible coffee-the minerals in good water are essential.
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Rule 6: Avoid cheap filters.
Bargain-priced paper coffee filters yield inferior coffee, according to the experts. Look for “oxygen-bleached” or “dioxin-free” paper filters (e.g., Filtropa, Melitta). Alternatively, you may wish to invest in a long-lived gold-plated filter (e.g., SwissGold). These may deliver maximum flavor, but may let sediment through if the coffee is ground too finely.
Rule 7: Do not skimp on the coffee.
The standard measure for brewing coffee of proper strength is 2 level tablespoons per 6-ounce cup or about 2 3/4 tablespoons per 8-ounce cup. Tricks like using less coffee and hotter water to extract more cups per pound tend to make for bitter brews.
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Rule 8: Beware the heat.
T hot water will extract compounds in the coffee that are bitter and not pleasant. The proper brewing temperature is 200°F, or about 45 seconds off a full boil. (Most good coffee makers regulate this automatically.) Once brewed, do not expect coffee to hold its best flavors for long. Reheating, boiling, or prolonged holding on a warming platform will turn even the best coffee bitter and foul-tasting.
Rule 9: Keep your equipment clean.
Clean storage containers and grinders every few weeks to remove any oily buildup. At least monthly, run a strong solution of vinegar or specialty coffee-equipment cleaner (e.g., Urnex) through your coffeemaker to dissolve away any mineral deposits. Rinse thoroughly before reuse.
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