How to Prepare a Great Cup of Coffee

The Basics

To prepare a really great cup of coffee, the most important thing is the quality of the ingredients as well as choosing the right way of preparing it. The same coffee beans can be altered to taste differently depending on how you brew them. Some people prefer a strong espresso, while others enjoy classic filter coffee. There’s no better or worse way to prepare coffee, but each method has its secrets for getting the best out of your beans.

For any method of brewing, you’ll want to use high-quality coffee beans. The quality of soil the beans are grown in, where they come from, how they’re cared for, and how they’re roasted, all have a large impact on the flavor of your coffee. Look for Arabica coffee, which is used in most specialty brews for its rich, aromatic brew. You’ll also probably want to determine which type of coffee you like best. Do you like a bright, acidic coffee from Latin America, or a citrus coffee from Africa? Take some time to experiment with coffee from different regions to find your preference. Next, look at how the coffee is roasted, and decide which you like best. From dark to light roast, it’s a matter of preference.

How your coffee is ground is also crucial to how it will taste in the end. It’s best to buy whole bean coffee, and grind it freshly each time before brewing. Buying whole bean coffee preserves the flavor and natural oils of the beans, so they’re released when you grind them for a flavorful, fresh cup. Now, you’re ready to start brewing a great cup of coffee!

Filter Coffee

Filter Coffee Maker

Filter coffee is easy to make and common around the world, especially in Central & Northern Europe as well as in the United States. You’ll need finely ground, fresh coffee, filters, and your coffee maker. Place the coffee filter in the coffee maker, and spoon in the grounds. There should be about two tablespoons, or 30g of grounds per 473ml of water. Next, pour filtered water into the coffee maker to the desired amount of cups, and press ‘start.’ This simple method is a favorite in offices and homes around the world for its ease and efficiency. If you want to have more control over brew time and water temperature, another very simple and inexpensive way to prepare filter coffee is the V60 method. It´s a little bit more work, but definitely worth it! Just boil some water, put a filter into the dripper and wet the paper filter by pouring approx.  100ml through it. This will serve to pre-heat the cup and dripper as well as rinse the filter. Now put the coffee inside the filter and pour 90ºC hot water slowly over the grounded coffee. This should be done slowly, the total time of pouring water over the coffee should be between 3-4 minutes. Et voilà, a great cup of coffee!

French Press

French Press Coffee Maker

Another way to prepare a great cup of coffee is with the French Press. There are several advantages to brewing coffee in a French press, namely that you have complete control over temperature and brew time, and don’t need extra accessories like filters. To brew with a French press, you’ll need evenly ground coffee. There will always be a little sediment at the bottom of your cup, (which is made up for by a fuller body throughout), but with unevenly ground coffee the amount of sediment can be too much.  Once you have the fine, evenly ground coffee that’s still just coarse enough to not flow through the filter, you’re ready to go. Take the lid and plunger out of the glass beaker of the press, and scoop in your coffee. A 354ml press usually takes about 3.5 scoops of coffee. Next, pour your water into the press, making sure to not overfill it. Pour slowly, and allow the coffee to float to the surface. Your water should be around 200ºF, or 90ºC. Now, pick up the plunger and hold it so that the lid is against the screen. Place it on top of the press to keep the heat in, but don’t push it down yet. Leave it here for one minute. After one minute, remove the lid and stir the coffee with a spoon for a few seconds. This agitates the brew and allows the grinds to sink. Once the grounds have been infused for 4 to 6 minutes, you can start plunging. Hold the lid in place, and push the plunger screen downward. Go slowly at first, so the grounds don’t escape. It will take about 20 seconds for the plunger to reach the bottom of the press and then, you’re ready to serve! French press coffee should be served within the first 10 minutes of brewing, so drink up and enjoy.

Espresso

Espresso Machine

The quintessential coffee drink in much of Europe, espresso is enjoyed as a quick pick-me-up or as a lingering end to a nice meal. To make your own, you’ll need a high-quality espresso machine and a good espresso roast. Grind your beans very finely, until they feel just short of a powder when you rub them between your fingers. To prep your espresso machine, fill it with fresh, filtered water and turn it on, allowing time for the water to heat.  In the meantime, pack the filter full with espresso grounds, and tamp it so they lie flat. They should be packed densely to allow for higher water pressure and a stronger shot, but not so tightly that water can’t flow through. Attach the filter to the machine, twisting it into place if needed, and place your espresso cup below. Press the button for a single shot, and watch your espresso drip into your cup, finishing with a light layer of crema, a light brown foam. The more crema, the better your shot of espresso, so experiment with different beans, grinding techniques, and amounts of coffee to reach the perfect level.

Aeropress

AeroPress_Coffee Maker

The relatively new Aeropress uses paper filters, making it ideal for easy clean up. It has several pieces, so it looks confusing at first, but after using it you’ll find it’s actually quite simple, and produces a great cup of coffee. Start out by placing a paper disk filter in the plastic cap, and twisting it onto the clear brew chamber. You’ll need two scoops of medium-fine ground coffee for a 354ml cup. Pour the grounds into the brew chamber, and add hot water, (about 200ºF, or 90ºC), making sure to thoroughly wet the grounds while pouring. You can pour the water up to the markers on the side of the brew chamber showing numbers of ounces. Now, stir the grinds vigorously with the stirrer paddle for about 20 seconds. Then, take the plunger and plunge for 20 seconds, pushing with even, light force. Now your coffee is ready to drink! The Aeropress is a fast brew method, and letting coffee steep for more than 3 minutes will significantly alter the taste, so make sure to pour, stir, and plunge consecutively.

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