Learning how to brew coffee is easy once you know a few techniques and tips. The ultimate goal in brewing a pot of coffee is to get the best flavor from whatever coffee you choose. The variety of coffeepots and automatic coffeemakers available has made it easier. There are some important and often neglected factors to consider. Here we will teach you how to brew coffee and how to optimize the flavor from the coffee you use. There are several factors to consider in brewing a great cup of coffee. We have received many emails asking us how to make coffee. Ever wonder why coffee always tastes different from pot to pot or why a pot of coffee is not quite as good as the same brand coffee brewed by someone else. Everyone wants to know how to brew a perfect pot of coffee. Once you understand and consider all the variables, and optimize them, you will be on your way to the perfect cup of coffee. Below you will find the steps to make coffee and get the most from the coffee you are using.
To brew coffee you will need coffee, a coffee pot, a measuring spoon or scoop and a cup or mug. Other suggested items are proper storage container for your coffee, an insulated carafe and, if you will be using whole bean coffee, a coffee grinder.
Learning how to properly brew coffee involves more than just filling the coffee pot with water and adding coffee grinds. Good coffee involves proper selection of coffeepot and coffee, proper storage of coffee, good water and proper temperature.
Begin by selecting the type of pot you want to use. As discussed in Coffeepots and Coffeemakers the main types of coffeepots are press pot, percolator and automatic coffeemaker. Each will make good coffee and it is a matter of personal preference. Whichever coffeepot you choose be sure to properly maintain it by cleaning after each use and on a monthly basis. Cleaning coffeemakers is an easy but very important step in optimizing brewing. Please see Cleaning your Coffeepot for more information. Always start with a clean coffeepot.
The quality of the water used in brewing your coffee is important. If the water used has a taste or odor this will become part of your cup of coffee. A good rule of thumb is if your water doesn't taste good out of the tap, filter it or use bottled water. If using tap water always allow it to run a few seconds. (We conserve water by saving this water for our houseplants.) Do not use distilled water. Distilled water has minerals removed and these minerals are necessary for proper coffee brewing. Always start with fresh cold water.
Coffee is made from coffee beans and a good cup of coffee starts with a quality coffee bean. Experiment with different brands and varieties of coffee to find those you like. Some of the factors to consider are the body, aroma, taste, acidity, the freshness and freedom from defects like musty or grassy taste.
You must decide whether you will grind your own coffee or use already ground coffee. It may be easier to buy your coffee already ground but once you experience coffee made from freshly ground beans it will be hard to go back to using already ground coffee. Grinding coffee is easy, takes only minutes and will enhance flavor. Optimal coffee flavor comes from freshly ground beans. Please see Coffee Grinders Grinding Fresh Coffee with a Blade or Burr Coffee Grinder to learn how to grind coffee beans and to learn more about burr grinders and blade grinders. Whether or not you grind your own beans use the proper grind for your coffee pot. Check the owner's manual of your coffeepot for their suggestions. In general use a medium fine grind for electric pots and a slightly coarser grind for press pots. If you grind your own beans experiment; if your brewed pot of coffee lacks flavor the grind is too coarse and the water passes too quickly. If you have a bitter taste the grind is too fine and the water takes to long to pass though. As for how much coffee to use, a general guideline is 1-2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 ounces of water. When you get a new pot check to see what the cup lines on the pot mean as they rarely measure a 4 ounce cup, they usually range from 4-6 ounces. Adjust the amount of coffee to suit your tastes and according to the coffee being used.
It is important to store coffee properly. Storing coffee properly will maintain maximum flavor. To maximize the flavor of coffee you need to minimize its exposure to light, air, heat and moisture. If you buy coffee in a larger than two week supply, separate it into smaller proportions and freeze in an airtight container. Once taken from freezer keep it at room temperature, again use an airtight container. We do not recommend storing your current weeks supply in refrigerator as the changes in temperature (when you take it in and out) will cause condensation and the flavor will degrade. Far better to find a spot in a cabinet away from extreme heat and store in a sealed container that blocks light. Also, your best choice for in-cabinet storage is a ceramic container as plastic may import a plastic taste into your coffee and also absorb some of the coffee oil and gases.
When referring to temperature we are talking about the actual brewing temperature. The industry standard is that the brewing temperature should be 195 -205 degrees Fahrenheit. What does this mean to you? This means if you are using a press pot bring the water to a full boil but allow water to cool a bit before pouring it into your press pot. If using an electric pot make sure the brewing temperature is right. If the coffee is not hot enough, it is probably time for a new pot. As mentioned in Coffeepots it is also important to use the right size pot.
Optimally, coffee should be served immediately. Try not to allow coffee to sit on the hot plate for over 30 minutes as it will start to develop a burnt taste. If you like to enjoy an entire pot of coffee over a longer period of time a ceramic thermos or coffee cozy will hold the coffee best. Warm the thermos to be used with hot water so the coffee does not lose heat warming up the thermos. Traditional insulated plastic or metallic lined thermoses can be used but might impart a flavor over extended storage times. Whichever holding container you use wash thoroughly after each use.
Cup or mug? Though the terms are often used interchangeably coffee cup generally refers to a cup that holds 6 ounces of hot beverage and a mug is larger. Most coffee drinkers will use a mug that holds anywhere from 8-32 ounces and save the regular coffee cup for more formal service to guests. There are also specialty cups for special coffee drinks. Espresso cups are generally smaller and cappuccino will usually fall somewhere in between the regular cup and mug size. The size of your cup is an individual choice but for purer flavor ceramic or glass are the preferred materials. Plastic can impart outside flavors. Paper is the least preferred as it will add paper flavor and at same time absorb the coffee flavor. Regardless of size, an important feature to examine is the handle; make sure it is a practical and usable size.
To summarize here are the steps involved in brewing a great pot of coffee. First start with clean equipment; this means a clean coffeemaker or coffeepot and all the parts, and clean cups or mugs. Use fresh cold water. Use coffee that has been properly stored. Using either already ground coffee or whole coffee beans you have freshly ground with your coffee grinder, measure out 1-2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water. Check your coffee maker for the size of the "cup" markings. Make sure the temperature of the water during the brewing process is hot enough. After coffee has finished brewing fill your cups or mugs. In order to enjoy a second cup prevent burning by pouring any leftover coffee into a thermos or insulated carafe. If desired add milk, cream, sugar or other flavorings. Sit back and enjoy.
Our final advice is to take time, stop and smell the coffee. Enjoy!