Brewing Tips

Coffee quality depends on a number of different factors. Simply buying high quality coffee is no assurance that the flavor in the cup will be good. In addition to using high quality coffee beans, the following factors are just as important to ensure that the coffee you are brewing is as flavorful as possible.

Freshness

How fresh the coffee you are using is just as important as the overall quality of the coffee. Lower quality coffee that is freshly roasted can actually be superior to a higher quality coffee that is stale.

Ideally you should start with a 100% high grown Arabica coffee that is as fresh as possible. It should be noted that freshness doesn't necessarily correlate with when the coffee was actually roasted. For instance, a coffee that was roasted six months ago but was vacuum-packed in a can with minimal residual oxygen would be fresher than a coffee roasted a month ago but left open to the elements. Think of coffee as fresh produce. The factors that will reduce its freshness are oxygen, light, heat, and moisture.

Whole Bean versus Ground

In general, whole bean coffee stays fresh longer than ground coffee because there is less surface area exposed to oxygen. By grinding the beans each time you brew, the freshness is preserved. This is only true, however, if the package form which contains the whole bean and ground coffee is the same. Bulk whole bean, if left in an open bin, begins the staling process immediately as it is in open contact with oxygen. If left in the open for a prolonged period of time, the whole bean coffee will be stale before you ever grind it.

Package Type

The type of package that contains the coffee and how it was initially packed is critical to the freshness of the coffee inside. In general, the more oxygen left in the package when the coffee was first packed the quicker it will stale. Coffee that is packed (vacuum packed or nitrogen flushed) in a can with minimal residual oxygen tends to keep coffee fresher longer than that which is packed in soft bags.

Storage

Regardless of how fresh the coffee is when you purchase it, once the package is opened, the staling process begins. To slow this process, store your coffee in an airtight container. Then place it in a cool, dry, dark place to protect it against the staling effects of heat, light, and moisture. Refrigerating or freezing will further slow this process, but won't stop it. As a rule, to avoid stale coffee try to purchase smaller quantities so that when you open the package it won't take you long to use the amount which is open.

Grind

In general, the finer the grind, the higher the coffee extraction will be.  When using finer grinds of coffee, it is possible to actually use less coffee due to the higher extraction levels.

Different brewing methods also have different grind requirements, as the amount of time the coffee and water spend together affects the flavor elements that end up in your cup of coffee.

The design of your coffeemaker dictates how long the coffee and water sit in direct contact during the brewing process. For instance, coffee ground for drip coffeemakers should be much finer than that which is used for percolators since the water in the percolator is in direct contact with the coffee for a much longer period of time.

Care must be given not to over-extract or under extract coffee. If too little is extracted from the ground coffee (because the grounds are too coarse or the water contact time is too short), then you will not get all the essential flavors from your coffee. If too much is extracted (the coffee was ground too finely or the contact time is too long), then the coffee will be bitter.

Amount of Coffee to Use

A standard cup of coffee is based on six ounces of water. For medium grind coffees, it is traditionally recommended that two tablespoons (roughly 10 grams) be used per standard six ounce cup. For finer grind coffees, it is recommended that only two teaspoons be used per six ounce cup. As coffee taste is a very personal matter, it is recommended that you adjust upward or downward the amount of coffee you use until you find the right portion for your own tastes.

Coffeemakers

The type of coffeemaker that you use has a direct correlation to the end flavor in your cup.  The two key variables that matter most in a coffeemaker's performance is the water temperature and the brew process time as both directly impact the extraction level of the coffee.

The optimal temperature for coffee brewing is 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is too cool, the brew will be under-extracted. The temperature range during brewing should also not vary by more then a few degrees, or extraction will not be optimal. Many drip coffeemakers do not heat the water to this level so attention should be given to this attribute when purchasing an electric coffeemaker.

The coffeemaker's brew cycle is also important as the longer the brew cycle, the higher the extraction.  At the extreme, press pots and percolators have the longest brew time and thus the highest extraction levels.

Because of the amount of control it allows you to have for both the water temperature and the brew process time, many coffee aficionados will profess that manual drip coffeemakers provide the ultimate brewing process.  If using an electric coffeemaker, we recommend using one with a "cone shaped" filter holder versus a "basket shaped" filter holder as the former allows for better coffee extraction.

Coffee Filters

The type of coffee filter that you use can easily be as important to the end taste of your coffee as the coffeemaker or water that is used.  There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing a coffee filter.

Cone Versus Basket

The shape of the filter is dictated by the shape of the filter holder within your coffeemaker.  In general cone shaped holders with cone shaped filters are preferred as the design ensures optimal coffee saturation and extraction versus basket shaped holders/filters.

Paper Versus Permanent

To brew the most flavorful cup of coffee, it is recommended that paper filters be used.  Paper filters effectively trap bitter sediments for a smoother less bitter cup of coffee. Paper filters also allow you to use any type of grind while permanent filters require courser grinds.  Other benefits of paper filters versus permanent filters include easier clean-up, more sanitary, and more environmentally friendly. In addition, studies have indicated that paper filters play a crucial role in eliminating cholesterol raising factors from coffee.  If using a paper filter, we recommend Melitta Cone Filters which are the only filters that have patented flavor enhancing micro-perforations that provide a richer more flavorful coffee and are double crimped so they never burst.

Water

Coffee is roughly 98 percent water, so water quality plays a critical role in the end taste of your coffee. When making coffee, you should use only filtered tap water or bottled water. We do not recommend using distilled water which is missing minerals that contribute to the water's taste and aid in extraction. Water should be fresh as if it has been sitting too long or has been heated then cooled it will be missing the dissolved air that is an important component of the water's taste.The water should also be cold as hot water has lost some of its dissolved air, and may have picked up minerals or solubles from your pipes.
 
The best temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 F and 205 F. If using a manual drip coffee maker, this can be achieved by letting your kettle rest 30 seconds after coming to a boil and then pouring the water over the coffee grounds.

Other Helpful Hints

Brew Only What You Plan to Drink

Freshly-roasted, freshly-brewed coffee should never sit around, but should be enjoyed as soon as possible. If coffee sits on a burner or is reheated, it will have a scorched taste and will lack the aromatic complexity of freshly-brewed coffee.

Flavoring

There are several ways to enjoy flavored coffee to provide a unique coffee experience.

Natural Flavors

Adding natural ingredients such as ground cinnamon, cocoa powder, bits of vanilla bean, ground roasted nuts, citrus peel, figs, etc. provide a very unique coffee experience. Natural ingredients  should be added to the ground coffee just before brewing. Chocolate syrup or hot chocolate mix can also be added to brewed coffee.

Flavored Syrups and Creamers

These are added to the coffee after it is brewed. In general, this type of flavoring tends to overwhelm the actual flavor of the coffee. The sweetness of these products varies by brand, but they can be sweet enough to mimic the addition of a packet or two of sugar.

Pre-Flavored Coffees

With flavored coffees, flavoring is evenly sprayed on to the roasted coffee prior to packaging. This type of flavoring typically does not add any calories to the coffee and depending on the brand offer a consistent taste.