The perfect cup of coffee is such a personal thing. Some like it black, others with a hefty dose of cream, others with their sweetener of choice. But, no matter how you take your coffee, there are simple ways to improve the quality of what you pour in your coffee mug. We spoke to a few coffee roasters and baristas on how to make an excellent cup of coffee no matter how you drink it.
If you want a fresh cup of coffee, you’ll need to make sure you are working with freshly roasted beans. With so many local roasters, it’s easy to find out roast dates, and most coffee will stay at peak freshness about a month past roast date if stored properly.
Speaking of storing beans properly, most coffee roasters will put their beans in a bag that will let little light in, but the darker the place you keep them, the better.
The most significant difference to the taste of your coffee will be grinding your beans at home.
“It’s easy to buy pre-ground beans but grinding coffee beans just before you use them is the easiest way to ensure that your coffee comes out tasting fresh,” says Q grader Jiyoon Han, one of the owners of Bean & Bean coffee roasters.
“More often than not, pre-ground beans are stale and have been sitting on the shelf for a while.”
Grinding your beans fresh will really help to release the flavors.
Grinders don’t have to be expensive; you can buy a simple one for around $30 and go up from there depending on how specific you want to be with your grind.
The particle size you grind will depend on how you make your coffee in the morning.
Han explains, “For example, French press brewing will use a coarser grind and can use a coffee to water ratio of 1:12. A pour-over brew will use a fine to medium size grind and can use a coffee to water ratio of 1:15.”
Are you looking for coffee grinds to water ratios? You can easily get them by weighing your coffee after you grind it, followed by your water.
“Most nice coffee shops are going to weigh coffee by scale,” says Quincy Randolph, culinary director and partner at Roasters Next Door in Roanoke, Va. “But you don’t need to go crazy with high-end scales.”
Weighing your coffee and water will help you have a consistent cup. Want it more robust or not quite as strong? It’s easier to adjust once you have that baseline.
We know you crave a hot cup of coffee but make sure that the water doesn’t get too hot (if you can control it in something like a pour-over or French Press), or it can result in a burnt taste. Hazel de los Reyes, Co-Owner of Gumption Coffee and World Barista Championship competitor, suggests keeping it around 194-203 degrees Fahrenheit depending on what coffee you are making.
Drinking coffee is such a personal thing. Some people need it as quick as possible when they wake up; others make it a meditative part of their morning routine with the perfect mug breathing in the aroma. After experimenting with different beans, you may find that a lighter roast is more your speed or perhaps a darker roast to hold up to a splash of cream.
Don’t overthink it…especially before you’ve had your coffee!