It will not matter how fresh your beans are; it will not matter if you have spent $150 on the latest coffee maker or if your best friend has bought you a fancy french press ‘plunger’: if you brew coffee poorly it will taste horrible, too thin and almost certainly too bitter.
There are, however, a number of guidelines that you can apply to almost any method of making coffee. If you follow these guidelines, you will ensure that a consistently good cup of coffee is brewed.
First, make sure that any equipment you are using is clean. Leftover residue, oils and grounds will leave strange flavours in your brew. You should always clean the removable parts of your machine with soap and hot water. Rinsing alone will not remove stale coffee oils. Use a mixture of 2 parts water to one part vinegar and run it through the machine every couple of months, followed by fresh water to rinse. A french press, etc. can be washed with soap and hot water.
Buy and start with fresh, quality coffee beans. No matter how good the coffee is, if it is stale it will be very flat. Freshness is based on the roasting date of the coffee. The optimal best time frame to consume your whole roasted coffee is 10-20 days. Remember, Kyoto Coffee roasts each order individually in small batches. 98% of a cup of coffee is water. Bad water means bad coffee. Use fresh, clear water to prepare your coffee.
Always grind your coffee, if possible, immediately before brewing. This will give a fresh taste and avoid bitter or stale flavours in the coffee – and the smell is incredible! Make sure that the grind of the coffee that you are using matches your method and taste. See below for more details.
Use the right amount of coffee. The most common mistake made is not using enough coffee, resulting in a thin cup that lacks depth of flavour and does not have the distinctive qualities that help make each coffee unique. A good rule of thumb to make an excellent cup is 2 level tablespoons for each 6oz cup of coffee. For some this may seem strong, but it is the optimal place to start, then make adjustments to your taste.
Coffee should be brewed “just off the boil”, between 95-98°C. If the coffee is brewed with boiling water, delicate flavours will be lost. If the water is not hot enough you will not extract all of the flavour from the coffee, ending up with a thinner cup.
Before serving, stir the coffee (drip/filter). Heavier oils and inconsistent extraction will cause differences in the consistency of the coffee.
If you are making more than you intend to drink, store the coffee in a quality thermos. Leaving the brew in the coffee warmer will slowly destroy its flavour.
Drink your coffee freshly brewed. Never reheat coffee or let it sit on a warmer for more than 20 minutes. At best, it will taste dull and stale; at worst, it will develop a bitter, acrid flavour.
Coffee beans are naturally sweet in flavour and that distinctive bitterness comes from extraction when hot water is added. As a general rule, the longer the coffee is brewed the more bitter the taste – as caffeine is extracted last of all. Prior to this there is an acidic flavour, which is why coffee made too quickly tastes thin and sour.
Serve it right – turn off the heat! You are most likely to ruin your coffee when you store it after brewing! Ten or fifteen minutes of sitting on a warmer will undo all your careful work. Sustained heat will concentrate salts, convert proteins to tars and tannins and generally foul the coffee and taint it with a burnt smell. We recommend immediate transfer to a carafe. A thermal carafe can keep the coffee in its perfect state for five hours.
The Art of the French Press
Basically, a French Press consists of a glass beaker to which hot water and ground coffee are added and allowed to steep. Then, a plunger with a screen is pressed, filtering out all the grounds and sediment. According to some, they make the best coffee. The fresher your coffee is, the more delicious foam it creates (it’s my personal fave…)
There is definitely an art to brewing the perfect cup of coffee using a French Press, but by following a few basic steps you should be able to brew great coffee consistently.
Warm the glass container by running some hot water in it before starting.
Grind the appropriate measurement of coffee for the size of press you are using. Grind your coffee to a semi-course consistency and place in the press. The beans must be ground slightly coarse. If the coffee is ground too finely, it will be difficult to press and if it is too course the coffee will be weak.
Bring your water to a boil. Take the water off the heat and let it sit until the boiling stops (when the bubbles have stopped rolling.) Pour the water into the French Press, slowly at first (to avoid excessive sloshing.)
After you’ve poured the water into the press, put on the lid. Press just below the foam line, the lid is put in place only to trap the heat in – let the press stand for 1 minute.
Now it’s time to press the coffee! Push the plunger lightly, evenly, and very slowly so that the grounds will be less likely to get around the screen.
If you encounter a lot of resistance, don’t give into that urge to press hard. Too much force will cause a spray of hot water to spurt out and it may burn you.
Remember that the remaining coffee will continue to brew unless you push the plunger all the way to the bottom firmly. Even with a firm bottom, the remaining coffee will likely be stronger.
Where would we be without our Automatic Coffee Makers! This is the most popular way to brew coffee in the home. Drip brewing is simply pouring hot water over grounds in a filter and letting the brew drip out the bottom. Drip brewing is a very good way to brew and can give an excellent cup if the correct equipment is used. A primary issue with auto drip machines is that they don’t brew at the right temperature! Although more and more manufacturers are making drip machines with temperature control, these are still “specialist” and higher priced. If one has a good auto drip machine, the next issue to surmount is the filter (see our page on choosing the right filter.) Even the most basic drip machines come with a plastic net type filter basket, this should be used at all times with a filter . Paper filters can impart a taste on the coffee and also do not allow many of the coffee oils and organic compounds through. A good gold-plated reusable filter is a great option for drip brewing. Provided you clean and rinse it well after each use, it will not impart a taste on the coffee and they don’t trap as much of the coffee’s essence as a paper filter.
So there you have it – enjoy your ‘perfect’ cup of coffee!