Just like a superb dining experience, making a great cup of coffee leaves much to personal interpretation. While some enjoy a strong brew that is full-flavored and robust, others may prefer a mellow, flavored coffee drink. The key to achieving your perfect cup is to understand the five fundamental elements inherent in all coffee brewing; water, grinding, filters, brewing, and freshness & storage. Once these essentials are in your control, you will be able to produce the perfect cup every time. Here are our suggestions on the five fundamentals:
Coffee is 98% water, so the water that you use will have a large effect on the coffee that you make. If your local tap water has no unpleasant favors, feel free to use it. Otherwise, make your coffee with filtered or bottled water. Avoid water from a water softener, city water that tastes like chlorine, well water that tastes like iron or sulfur — or any water with a strong flavor.
The temperature of the water changes the flavor that comes from the beans. Water that has just been boiled extracts just the right amount of flavor from ground coffee. If it is any cooler, it can’t adequately extract the coffee’s complete range of flavors.
If you use an automatic coffeemaker make sure that the one you buy gets the water hot enough. (See our Gift & Accessories section for an excellent selection of brewing machines.) When using a pot or kettle to heat water, bring the water to a boil. Then remove it from the heat and wait a few seconds before you pour it over the ground coffee.
Use the right proportion of coffee to water. This is the most important stage of brewing coffee, because the ratio of coffee to water is the most critical element in the taste of the brew.
We recommend 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to every 6 ounces of water. But, if you really like strong coffee be sure to experiment and try being generous in your measurement. Take note, most coffeemakers come with a measuring spoon, but they usually only hold one tablespoon.
Use the right grind of coffee for your coffeemaker. Different brewing methods require different grinds, because how finely or coarsely your coffee is ground determines how quickly water will pass through it. The taste of the coffee is dependent upon extraction. Extraction is determined by the grind of the coffee and the amount of time it is in contact with the water. A grind that is too coarse for the method you use allows the water to pass through too quickly, yielding under-extracted, watery coffee. A grind that is too fine for your method allows the water too much contact with the ground beans, over-extracting flavors and producing a bitter cup of coffee. Keep in mind that the best flavor is always extracted at the beginning of the process, and that a fine grind is only for espresso or one-cup coffee makers.
A blade grinder, whose twin stainless-steel cutting surfaces whirl and chop coffee beans, makes the beans finer the longer you process them. These grinders do a good job, though you have to pay careful attention to get the right grind. If you’re going to use a blade grinder, be sure to shake it while grinding to even out the grind. We recommend a burr-type grinder which uniformly grinds the beans to your desired consistency. See our Gifts & Accessories section for Aroma’s recommendation on quality grinders.
The big question is, paper or metal filters? Aroma prefers metal, and here’s a short comparison.
Paper: If you can’t stand even a bit of sediment at the bottom of your cup, you’ll want to use paper. In recent years consumers have grown wary of them because of concern about dioxins that form during paper bleaching and which are thought to be potent carcinogens. Thus arose the use of unbleached filters, which in turn raised health concerns about resins and other impurities that remain in unprocessed paper. Now there are “oxygen-bleached” filters that remove the risks of traditional bleached and completely unbleached filters. Paper filters do offer the quickest cleanup: just dump the filter with the grounds after brewing.
Metal: Gold filters come in sizes to fit most brewers, and on some coffee machines they come standard (see our Gift and Accessories section). They must be washed after every use. hey can go into the dishwasher, but after a couple of years, the plating will begin to wear away and you’ll have to buy a new one. Aroma believes a gold filter improves the taste of your coffee, over time will save money spent on paper filters, and in a small way, helps the cause of environmental conservation.
The Brewing Machine
Another important consideration in the preparation of your coffee is the machine that will brew the beans into that palette-pleasing cup. Different methods will produce different results, but here are our favorites.
Electric Drip: There are two types of Auto Drip machines available: the cone-shape filter and the flat-bottom filter design. We prefer the cone-shaped filter because it delivers slightly stronger flavor and better body than the flat-bottom design. Your machine may include extras such as automatic timer, thermal carafe, etc.
Look for: Thermal carafes instead of glass pots. Wattage ratings of least 850 and preferably 1,000 watts. Gold-washed metal filters that fit into the basket as a substitute for paper filters.
Buy: A thermal carafe and metal filter if the machine doesn’t come with them. Also, packets of cleaning powder to be run through the machine’s brew cycle once a month.
French Press: This popular method uses a cylindrical glass carafe and a stainless steel mesh filter to separate the coffee grounds from the water. The grounds stay at the bottom and strained coffee stays above the filter, ready to pour. A French Press is excellent for highlighting the darker roasts and blends. However, expect some sediment to pass through the filter into your cup, giving the brew a slightly fuller texture. This method brews cooler, so be sure to preheat your plunger pot first with hot water.
Look for: A metal filter screen, not nylon mesh. A tight fit of filter screen into glass container. A wide knob for pushing down the screen, which will ensure even pressure and reduce risk of breaking the carafe.
Brew tips: Rinse the glass container with hot water first. Wrap a terry-cloth towel around the pot during steeping.
See: Our Gift & Accessories section.
Freshness & Storage
Freshness is essential. Start with high quality, freshly roasted Aroma Coffee beans, then grind freshly for each brew. Use fresh water and a newly washed coffeepot. Be sure to drink the coffee freshly brewed.
Fresh purchased coffee beans should be used within two weeks. If you cannot use a one-pound bag of beans within two weeks of purchase, we recommend taking half the bag and storing it in the freezer immediately. Keep the beans in the smallest practical airtight container. Coffee’s main enemies are oxygen and moisture so, to maintain freshness, store it in an airtight container at cool room temperature, away from light.
Keep brewed coffee in a thermos. Never reheat it or let it sit on a warmer as it will taste dull and stale, or worse yet, will develop a bitter, acrid flavor.