A few simple rules to follow for that perfect cup of coffee:
Clean Coffee Pot – A clean coffee pot is essential and can make a substantial difference in the taste of your coffee. The type of coffee pot that you use is also very important (buy the best one that you can afford).
Coffee Beans – Purchase coffee beans as soon after they have been roasted as possible. Fresh roasted coffee beans are essential to a superb cup of coffee. Also purchase your coffee beans in small amounts, only as much as you can use in a given period of time. Remember that coffee is a perishable produce that is less than spectacular when it has staled.
Ideally you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1 to 2 weeks. I suggest you contact your local coffee roaster and select from their fresh-roasted coffee beans. It doesn’t cost more money to purchase good coffee beans. Your local specialty coffee roasters are solely in the business to sell coffee beans. You can be confident that their beans are fresher, and thus the coffee that you serve in your home or restaurant will taste better.
Water – The quality of your coffee is heavily dependent upon the quality of the water that you use. Use only fresh cold filtered water. If you are using tap water let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Depending on your tap water, your coffee can turn out tasting sulfurous, metallic, tinny, flat, or worse. An alternative is to buy Artesian water (do not use distilled water). For optimal extraction, maintain a water temperature between 195 degrees F. and 205 degrees F.
French Press – Use very hot water, but not boiling, in your French Press Coffee Maker. Learn How To Use a French Press.
Coffee Grinders – There are basically two different kinds of grinders: Blade Coffee Grinders or Burr Coffee Grinders (preferred):
Burr Coffee Grinders: The best coffee grinders are the Burr Coffee Grinders. The Burr grinders crush the beans between a moving grinding wheel and a non-moving surface. The positioning on the burr is what regulates the ground size, which allows for a more consistent grind. This style of grinder provides a much more consistent particle size than the blade grinders that most people are familiar with. Consistent grounds yield a sweeter, more enjoyable cup of coffee.
Very inexpensive coffee grinders use a metal blade to chop up the beans. The blade cuts up the beans, and you control the fineness by how long you let the grinder run. Unfortunately, the resulting coffee grounds can be uneven in size, leading to inconsistent brew quality.
Grinding Coffee Beans – Always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible. Coffee deteriorates quickly after grinding and you should grind only the amount you are going to use at one time. If your coffee is too strong, try adjusting the grind of the coffee coarser rather than using less coffee.
Coarse Grind: 5 to 10 seconds – used for percolators and the cold water brewing method. This is the least popular grind used today.
Medium Grind: 10 seconds – used for electric drip/manual drip and French press methods. Should be about the size of medium coarse sea salt. The drip method is the most popular in the United States.
Fine Grind: 15 seconds – used for vacuum and Neapolitan flip methods. Vacuum method equipment is not easy to locate in the United States.
Extra Fine Grind: 25 to 30 seconds – used for espresso machines.
Coffee Filters – Always use a coffee filter if your coffee pot requires one to keep the grounds from blocking the drip and making the coffee overflow the basket. Use an unbleached (brown) paper filter or a gold filter. The bleached (white) ones affect the flavor of the coffee, so avoid them.
Amount of Coffee – Using the right ratio of ground coffee to water is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a good cup of coffee. Use enough coffee, and don't use too much or too little! If the below measurements sound like a lot, then you have probably been making less than full strength coffee. Make sure to spread the grounds evenly in the coffee filter so full brewing is achieved.
Professional coffee tasters use: exactly two (2) tablespoons (7 to 9 grams or 2 scoop of a standard coffee measure) of ground coffee beans for each six (6) ounces of water.
For 4 cups (6 ounces each) of coffee, measure out 8 generous tablespoons (30 to 35 grams) of fresh ground coffee beans.
Drinking Coffee – Brewed coffee should be enjoyed immediately! Pour the fresh-brewed coffee into a warmed mug or coffee cup so that it will maintain its temperature as long as possible. It begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing, so only brew as much coffee as will be consumed immediately. If the coffee is not to be served immediately after brewing (and your coffee pot doesn't have an insulated coffee carafe), it should be poured into a warmed, insulated coffee carafe thermos and used within the next 45 minutes.
If you are displeased with the taste of your coffee, there are a number of things you can do like change the water to coffee ratio and/or use different coffee beans. It ends up being a matter of your own personal taste!
This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Linda Stradley from the What's Cooking America website.