coffee

The Perfect Cup of Java

I have to admit I’m loving this new coffee trend.  Coffee shops are popping up all over the place and many are becoming much more aware of the quality of the coffee they serve. While I love my local coffee shops, the atmosphere and social gathering opportunities they provide, I still think a cup of home brew is better. As a long time self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur I have been home brewing organic, fair trade coffee by small craft roasters for years.

If that perfect home brew has been eluding you follow these simple steps and you can skip that daily trip to the coffee shop unless you’re meeting friends of course!

Start with Fresh Beans

Coffee beans stay fresh longer than ground coffee but are still best within a couple week of being roasted. Roasted beans contain oil, which can quickly go rancid, especially when exposed to light and oxygen.  Basically air and light are the enemies of coffee so store yours in an airtight, dark container.

Buy freshly roasted beans in small quantities and invest in a good coffee grinder to grind as your brew as ground coffee deteriorates at a much faster rate.

Quality Matters

With an abundance of coffee choices out there it has become much easier to purchase quality beans, not just fresh, but sustainable.  Coffee is one of the top traded commodities on the planet. Meeting that demand is no easy task. So over time, farming methods have been developed to maximize production – but often at the expense of human and environmental health.

This includes a heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides putting the local environment and people at risk. In addition, forests are cleared to make room for open fields in which to grow mass amounts of hybridized sun-loving coffee varieties.  Coffee naturally grows in the shade, providing support to the surrounding ecosystems, protecting rainforest cover and the coffee farmers.

When making your coffee purchase look for organic, fair trade varieties that protect the environment, the local farmers and support a sustainable future of coffee production.

Choose Your Favourite Method

There are many methods to brew coffee, all include the addition of hot water to ground beans. Here is a quick review of some of the most popular.

French Press – A quick and easy method that involves throwing some beans in a pitcher with hot water. Let it steep for 5 min, push the strainer and Voila – hot strong coffee. The longer and more thoroughly your grounds are steeped, the higher the caffeine content in your brew, making this method ideal for those in need of a serious early-morning wake-up call. But that extra caffeine comes at a cost. French pressed coffee contains higher amounts of Cafestol, the molecule in coffee that can cause cholesterol spikes.

Chemex –  this slow-and-steady approach to coffee brewing has made a comeback in the last few years. Just like a standard-drip machine, the Chemex method involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds. But the Chemex is special because it requires a filter that’s up to three times thicker. As a result, the finished coffee has smoother texture and purer flavor, with fewer fatty oils than what you’d get out of a standard-drip brew.

Cowboy Method – The art is in heating coffee beans and water over a small flame (but a stovetop burner works, too). Right before the water begins to boil, sprinkle a handful of cool water into the pot and then pour the brew straight into mugs. In addition to being cheap and perfect for the great outdoors, this brewing method packs a serious flavor punch, since nothing is strained or filtered.  However, some find the results a little too bitter; others don’t enjoy scraping up coffee grounds from the bottom of their cups.

Standard Drip – The granddaddy of all brewing methods, a standard-drip brew involves pouring water over ground coffee beans in an automatic machine. Many people prefer this method of brewing since it ’s fast, easy, and traditional. It ’s also one of the healthiest: The filter at the top of the machine absorbs most of the beans’ natural oils, which can do a number on your cholesterol over time. Unfortunately, these oils also trap flavonoids, the chemicals that give coffee the bold, earthy flavor we love.

Cold Brew – Cold brewing is similar to the French press technique. Unlike the French press, cold water is used in place of hot, and the grounds are steeped up to 12 hours. The finished product is a crisper, sweeter cup of coffee than the coffee-shop-special dark roast most of us are used to. That’s because cool water brings out the natural flavors in coffee’s oils that hot water chemically alters or takes away. Cold brewing also takes away some of the acid naturally found in coffee beans, which makes this method ideal for those who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux disease. Brew a small amount of strong coffee and add hot water if cold coffee isn’t your thing.

Don’t Forget the Water

Coffee is mainly water, so it’s no surprise that the quality of the water used has a big impact on the finished product. Tap water can add nasty chlorine flavours. Distilled, reverse osmosis or softened water makes horrible coffee because of the lack of minerals.  The best water is filtered water or bottled spring water.

So you’ve chosen your coffee beans, selected your brewing method and filtered your water. It’s now time to brew the perfect cup!

Put it All Together!

1. Grind the Coffee Beans

The grind size does matter and varies depending on your brewing method. Grind too coarse and you will have a weak pot of coffee. Grind too fine and you will overextract the coffee and it will taste bitter. Most drip coffee makers call for a medium to medium-fine grind. A burr grinder will give the most constant particle size but can be very costly. A manual hand mill is the most affordable way to achieve a nice, consistent grind, though they do require a small amount of manual labor. Blade grinders also work, but will produce inconsistent particle size, which can lead to overextraction.

2. Measure the Coffee

For a consistent cup of coffee every time your should measure your coffee by weight instead of volume. Obviously personal choice plays a part here – but a good strong cup of coffee can be produced with a ratio of 1:20. 1 part ground coffee for 20 parts water.  That works out to 12.5 g of coffee for every cup (250ml) of water. For those that don’t want to weigh that is approximately 1-1.5 tablespoons of coffee per cup.

3.  Preinfuse the Grinds

Perfusing your grinds, otherwise known as letting them “bloom” helps make a slightly better and stronger brew. This preps the coffee by pouring hot water over the grounds to help release any remaining carbon dioxide gas left over from the roasting process. Skipping this step will allow the carbon dioxide to repel water during part of the brewing process, effectively making the brew weaker. To preinfuse your coffee, insert a filter into the hopper and add your coffee grounds. Then use a kettle to preheat roughly 50mL of water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly pour it over the grounds, making sure to thoroughly wet all the grounds. Let this sit for approximately 45 seconds before starting the coffee maker.

4. Brew at The Right Temperature

The desired brew temperature for coffee is between 90-96 degrees celsius, slightly below the boiling point. Below or above this range will result in either weak or burnt coffee. Many drip machine, especially cheaper ones do not properly heat the water. To make sure your coffee maker gets hot enough, run it without any coffee in the hopper and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. If you can, try to measure the temperature during the brewing process, as the water temperature will drop as it passes through the hopper and into the carafe beneath. If it never reaches at least 90 degrees Celsius, see if preboiling your water in a kettle helps.

5. Enjoy Immediately

Personally, I like my coffee hot so I drink it immediately after brewing. If you need to keep your brew hot for a period of time use an insulated carafe. Keeping coffee on a warming place cooks the coffee and creates a bitter taste.