OK, so you’ve got your bag of civet-shit coffee, you went and bought a $400 conical burr grinder imported from Italy, and you are storing your beans in vacuum-sealed containers in a subterranean chamber.
But your coffee still tastes awful.
Where did you go wrong? Let’s take a look at the rest of your gear, shall we?
After coffee, the only other part of the recipe that you provide is the water. Don’t take this part for granted. Would you drink the water that comes out of your kitchen tap? What about your fridge? If you filter your water before you drink it, that’s the water that you’re going to want to use for your coffee. Doesn’t matter if it’s a chilled jug in your fridge, you’re going to to be heating it up anyway. Keep in mind that coffee is essentially a distillation. Whatever your put in, you’re going to get back in a concentrated form, this includes the metals and chemicals in county water.
Next, lets talk about ratios. You’re going to want to use about five tablespoons of coffee for every 16 oz. of water you put in. That sounds like a lot but the truth is, coffee-making is a timed process. If you don’t put enough grounds in, then once that water pulls out the tasty compounds out of the available grounds, it’s going to keep pulling until it hits those bitter tasting chemicals that you don’t want. If you add more coffee, then the water has more to work with and will extract less of the bitterness.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. The coffee maker.
Now your Mr. Coffee is quick, easy, and can produce a serviceable cup if you have good coffee and good water; but you’re still not going to get that cup of coffee that makes the heavens open and the hep cats snap their fingers. To really get a Better Cuppa, you’ve got to control the process.
Start with an Electric Kettle. Some people swear by glass (and rightfully so, since glass is chemically inert and will not impart any unwanted flavors to your brew); but glass is a poor heat insulator. And, with electric kettles, most shut off automatically when they get the water to a boil. If you aren’t fast, you’ll end up with a tepid pot of water unfit to make instant from. So get something insulated with a hidden heating element. Filters are nice too, but not entirely necessary (since you’re already filtering your water, right?). Get that water up to a boil and let it coast for a sec so that it’s juuuuust under boiling.
Now, lets take a look at the final bit of gear. There are two ways you can go here: a french press (maybe a nice non-glass, insulated model so that your coffee stays warm) or a Chemex. I personally like the alchemy invoked by the Chemex; but it comes down to taste. The french press gives you the most control; you determine how long your grounds are going to stew. The Chemex, on the other hand, uses the same brewing principle as your standard drip coffee maker, only with better filters, and more control over how the water and grounds are introduced. Either way, the principal is the same. Measure out your grounds (remember your ratios), introduce the water and then wait (about 4 minutes if you use a french press). By eliminating the heating element from under the carafe, you’re already improving the flavor of your coffee (most just cook the coffee more, extracting those bitter elements you’ve tried so hard to avoid).
So is it more work to make a truly excellent cup of coffee? Yeah, it is. Is it worth it? Yeah. It is. Coffee doesn’t have to be something you endure to get a morning (afternoon, midnight) jolt; it can be something to look forward to and savor. You’ve just got to invest a little bit of time.