The 5 Steps to Today's Perfect Cup of Coffee
Perfection is not a word to be used lightly, or possibly at all, when it comes to life. Or even coffee. After all, one person’s definition of “perfect” might be another’s “meh.” If there’s one thing we’ve learned at The Roasterie since starting the company in 1993, it’s that caffeinated bliss is always evolving. What’s in your cup today may be better than yesterday and what you have to look forward to tomorrow will undoubtedly evolve a step or two further. Consider this brief coffee history lesson—best digested with your favorite cup of coffee. Back in the late 1700s, during a tumultuous time in American history, the Continental Congress named coffee as the national drink and the mere act of sipping a cup of coffee was considered a patriotic act to protest excessive tea taxes imposed by King George III. In that century long ago, coffee was a symbol promoting the spirit of a young nation taking bold steps toward building a democracy. And you can bet that the coffee our forefathers consumed while hotly debating politics and business wasn’t nearly as good as what we enjoy in the 21st century. The quality of the ancient coffee bean, roasting techniques and even making an excellent cup have advanced to heights probably never imagined by the folks gathering in colonial coffee houses. Which brings us to brewing a cup of coffee that will, if you follow the steps precisely, produce the coveted morning cup. Take the extra effort to follow these guidelines and we guarantee the results will be today's perfectly delicious cup of coffee. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? Below are what we hold as the Big 5 of coffee brewing; the main variables to consider, control and adjust to maximize your brewing and tasting experience.
How to brew the perfect cup of coffee
- Use proper water to coffee ratio: Any food or drink preparation requires correct ingredient portions to achieve a quality end-product. Preciseness is especially true with coffee, considering water and coffee are usually the only two ingredients used. Some people prefer their coffee brutally strong, while others need to tone down the taste. We recommend starting with a ratio of 16-parts water to 1-part coffee by weight. This is the equivalent of 10.5 grams of coffee (two tablespoons of ground coffee) to 6 fluid ounces of water. If using a pour-over or French press, we recommend using a scale to weigh your coffee and water as you pour to ensure precise measurements. After trying this ratio, adjust to taste if necessary until you find your sweet spot!
- Brew with ideal water temperature: Similar to the water-to-coffee ratio, the ideal water brewing temperature can be adjusted slightly according to your taste preference. Generally, the coffee should be brewed with water between 195-205 degrees °F. We recommend starting with 200 degrees. Consistency is key here – coffee that is brewed with water too cool will taste under-extracted; sour, weak and watery. Coffee brewed with coffee too hot will taste muddled and unclear with a minimized complexity and sweetness. So, whether using a thermometer or a digital variable temperature kettle like this one (product being added to the site) which we prefer from Bonavita, finding a way to brew with the same water temperature every time will only elevate your coffee experience. It’s critical to note, too, the importance of water quality. Since 98 percent of coffee is water, it stands to reason that the way your water tastes will ultimately affect the way your coffee tastes. Fresh, cold, filtered water is always the best option.
- Use correct grind for brewing method: There’s no such thing as a universal grind for all coffee—but there is a different grind for every brewing method. If your grinding method is a French press, choose a coarse grind; for an espresso, the grind should be very fine; and for an auto-drip machine or pour over, a medium to medium-fine grind is best. Grinding incorrectly can ruin your batch of coffee and, in turn, probably your day. A consistent grind is also crucial! A high-quality burr grinder is one of the most important tools for brewing a great cup of coffee. The burrs in the grinder produce a consistent particle size, unlike other cheap grinders which use a blade or imitation burrs which will shatter the coffee beans or quickly wear down resulting in an inconsistent grind. Inconsistent particle size means some of the grounds will extract too quickly, resulting in bitter and astringent flavors, while others will extract too slowly, resulting in sour and weak flavors. Only a portion of your grounds will be appropriately sized, and the negative flavors from the inconsistent particle size will dominate the taste of your coffee. So if you really want the best possible cup of coffee, invest in a great grinder like a Baratza Encore and learn how to customize your grind to suit your taste.
- Brew the correct amount of time: This is the step where the magic happens! You’re ready to brew a great cup of coffee with a great ratio, great water quality and perfect temperature, and a consistent grind. Brew time is the final of the Big 4 variables of brewing. Maybe you have an automatic coffee maker – great! If you’re using a manual method like a French press or pour over, however, knowing how long your coffee should brew is a significant factor in producing a great cup. Brew time is all about water contact time – the larger your grind particle size (coarser grind), the longer you’ll want that water to be in contact with the coffee. Larger particle size means less surface area, which means a longer brew time will be necessary to properly extract the coffee’s flavor. For a method like French press that uses a coarse grind, you’ll want to try a brew time of 4:00, adjusting to taste from there. If the coffee tastes too weak, sour or watery, try a longer brew time; if it tastes too bitter or strong with a lack of flavor clarity, try a shorter brew time. For methods that use a finer grind, you’ll want a shorter brew time; 4-5 minutes for Chemex, 2-3 minutes for V60 pour over, all the way down to a very fine grind and 25-30 second brew time with espresso. The correlation of brew time, grind size, ratio, and temperature are the key to achieving the perfect cup of coffee, every time.
- Choose the best coffee beans: Perhaps this should be Step 1, but it’s important to pick a quality coffee if you want a great cup of coffee. Luckily at The Roasterie we have a large variety of air-roasted coffees from producing countries all over the world, including the award-winning Costa Rica Don Quijote, Colombia Pitalito Estate, Kenya Estate, Kansas City Blend, and Super Tuscan Espresso Blend. Visit our website or come see us for more information on each handpicked coffee, tasting notes and more to help you elevate your coffee experience!