Do you remember your first experience with coffee? I'm sorry to say that I do. All I remember is that it was powdered and freeze dried and worst of all, decaf. I remember sitting in a restaurant with my mother and stepfather asking a waitress for Sanka, and explaining to my mother that I'd had it before and avoiding her disapproving stare. What was wrong with a ten year old drinking coffee? It was Sanka for God's sake!
My remaining experiences between ten and thirty five were noncommittal and mediocre to say the least. Mixing Tasters Choice in tepid tap water, graduating to Maxwell House and a Mr. Coffee; suffice it to say that there was no passion in my coffee. If I asked a girl out for a cup of coffee, it usually meant a Styrofoam cup at a Dunkin' Donuts or a Winchell's somewhere.
Then I stepped into my first Specialty Coffee Shop. Now that I remember well. It was a combination bookstore and coffee shop called the Upstart Crow in San Diego, California. The most important thing to me was the feeling I got when I walked in there. Complete comfort. There, I was able to sit in one of their comfortable armchairs, sit back, cross my legs and enjoy a cup of joe while reading a good book. Back then I was into science fiction and I remember vividly reading 'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card while sipping some of the most wonderful coffee from a paper cup.
Oh that coffee! Rich and smooth, I fell into it's flavor; jumped actually. I spent many a day off sitting in that shop in Seaport Village... then I left San Diego for Atlanta and it was back to Maxwell House and Sanka. sigh...
Then, simply because I was unemployed and late with the rent I walked into a local Starbucks and asked for an application. I was hired and that's where my obsession with coffee renewed itself. I was sent to their training center for intensive classes teaching not only how to promote the product, but how to differentiate the taste between two coffees and most importantly, how to brew and serve the perfect cup. This, my faithful reader is what I am going to teach you now. Get ready to learn how to brew the perfect cup of coffee!
The Fundamentals of Coffee
All coffee, no matter whether you get it from your local coffee shop or the supermarket has four basic fundamentals:
Let's look at each of these one by one...
The ratio between coffee and water is an important one. Anyone who's ever had coffee that's too weak or too strong knows what I'm talking about. When it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee, the proportion should be two tablespoons of ground coffee to every six ounces of water. No more no less. A lot of people try to stretch their coffee for two weeks or more without realizing what a sacrifice to the taste this is. Use too little coffee and it tastes weak. Use too much and it becomes bitter and you risk a terrible nights sleep.
The best way to measure two tablespoons is with a measuring scoop. There are scoops that are specifically measured for two tablespoons but if you don't have one made especially for coffee measuring then you can use a standard 18 cup measuring cup. If you don't have that you can use regular run of the mill tablespoons, but that method isn't as precise. If you want to purchase a coffee scoop, you can get one at a specialty coffee shop or online. Starbucks is a good place to get one.
The type of grind you use for your coffee depends upon what kind of coffee maker you brew your coffee in. If you use an espresso machine you use a fine grind. For automatic drip coffee makers (such as Mr. Coffee), you use a medium grind and you use a coarse grind for coffee presses (my preferred way of brewing). There are other grinds as well, just as there are other ways to brew coffee such as percolators and Turkish coffees.
If were going to talk about the way a coffee is ground, then we also have to talk about grinders. Basically there are two types of grinders: blade and burr Blade grinders have two blades that rotate at a high speed to grind your beans. The pros of this method is that blade grinders are affordable. The cons are that they generally break down quicker.
Burr grinders grind the beans between two textured plates and the grind is much more consistent than a blade grinder. Also, it's easier to adjust the grind with a burr grinder. To get an espresso grind with a blade grinder, you have to hold the grind button for x amount of seconds. A burr grinder allows you to turn a dial and voila! Your grind is done. Obviously, I prefer a burr grinder.
It's pretty much a good idea to use fresh, clean water to brew your coffee. If at all possible, try not to use tap water; you should always use filtered or bottled water. Before you begin screaming at me that you don't have that kind of money, don't worry. Yes, using nothing but bottled water is not exactly cost effective but there are inexpensive water filters available to purchase. Water filtration pitchers are also a good way to get fresh water for brewing.
Your water should be heated to just below boiling, around 190 degrees. You don't want your water to be too hot. It could overheat the grounds and spoil the taste of your coffee.
This is pretty obvious. Once a bag is opened, the freshness lasts about a week. After grinding, it lasts about two days. The best way to keep your beans and ground coffee fresher longer is to keep it in an airtight container like the one shown here. And never, ever freeze your coffee no matter what you've heard or read. Coffee that is frozen is a high risk for freezer burn and take it from one who has experienced the horror: freezer burnt coffee is not a great taste!
Well those are the basics. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and Happy Brewing!