Brewing an excellent cup is simple as long as the following details are consistently observed:
Water: Use good, clear, cold water - it makes up 98% of your cup. Bottled, filtered or clean well water is best. Avoid any "off" flavors in the water. Chlorine will come through in the brew. Water temperature for brewing must be 196 - 202 F for the best flavor extraction.
Fresh Ground Coffee: Make sure that your coffee is freshly - just prior to brewing - and properly ground for the brewing method you are utilizing. Use a quality grinder - avoid the mill blade grinders and get yourself a burr grinder! Rule of thumb: The longer the contact time of hot water to ground coffee, the coarser the grind should be. Overextraction is the culprit of bitter coffee. Ask your roaster to provide a sample of the degree of grind appropriate to your brewing method and duplicate that at home. OR, buy your coffee pre-ground weekly in small, fresh amounts.
Amount of Coffee: Use enough coffee! Most people use too little coffee in the filter and then wonder why their coffee tastes so mediocre at home. The Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends 1 Standard Coffee Measure ( = 2 tablespoons) per six ounces of water. (Most drip brewers are gauged at 6 ounce cups.) The other challenge with 10 cup home brewers is the size of the brew basket, which holds the filter. The maximum number of scoops a brewer can handle is eight without overflowing during brewing. Try this in a 10 cup brewer: Water to the 10 cup line with 8 scoops in the brewer.
Other tips: Use a quality brewing device.
Drip brewers are convenient. "V" or flat bottom filters work well. Technivorm make the very best drip brewers, which produce coffeehouse quality brew. Use a semi-permanent "SwissGold" filter for best flavor extraction.
Watch the water temperature on older and cheaper brewers. The thermostats tend to burn out.
Always rinse brown paper filters in water before use for better extraction results.
(French) Press Pot Preparation: Portion coffee into beaker - 5 scoops for a standard "8 cup" press pot. > Fill with hot water to upper chrome metal band on press pot > Stir with a non-heat absorbing spoon (plastic) for 30 seconds > Carefully insert plunger filter disc onto top of water/coffee > Allow three minutes steeping / extraction time at table > Plunge disc slowly and serve into cups immediately.
Toddy Chilled Coffee Concentrate Preparation:
One pound of coarse drip ground coffee. Grind coffee into Toddy filter, insuring that cloth filter and rubber plug are in place in bottom. Add nine - 8 oz cups of freshly drawn cold water to coffee. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow to infuse 12 hours (overnight is best). Pull plug from bottom and allow concentrate to drain into container.
To prepare chilled coffee: One part Toddy coffee concentrate : Three parts cold water.
Espresso brewers require more attention to portioning and degree of grind to obtain a balanced flavor with good crema. Pump driven machines are best.
AVOID percolating. Boiling coffee results in extreme volatile chemical conversions and results in a dreadfully bitter cup.
Whenever possible keep brew in an airtight, insulated dispenser when extraction is complete. External heat and oxygen work rapidly to affect volatile chemical changes in the brew, destroying balance and flavor.
Selecting Coffee - Here's what to look, smell and taste for:
Fragrance. The smell of fresh ground coffee. No "off" elements.
Aroma. The smell of fresh brewed coffee. Sweet and lively or burnt and weak?
Flavor. The predominant taste in the cup. Dimensional or flat?
Acidity. The "brightness" of the cup on the palate.
Body. The "heaviness" of the brew in your mouth.
Aftertaste. Is it clean and lingering or muddy and fast fading?
NOTE: Let the cup cool a bit. Heat masks both quality nuances and defects alike.
Whole beans are best stored in small quantities in an airtight container, such as a mason jar or tupperware container, in the refrigerator. Freezing beans increases the staling factor and should be avoided. Ground coffee can be frozen since the coffee's cellular structure has already been ruptured and will not incur any further damage from the crystallization of water molecules within the bean during freezing.