goodcoffeeI realize I’m an anomaly. There aren’t many people in the world who have invested as much time and energy in to a beverage as I have. So it’s not really surprising anymore when people who drink my coffee apologize. The reasons are different; some feel guilty for adding cream and sugar, others for the way the prepare it at home, still others for buying their coffee from the grocery store. Still it makes me feel strangely like a priest in an alternate universe where lay people come and confess their coffee sins to me. Well, stop it.

You don’t have to apologize for putting cream and/or sugar in your coffee, if you like it that way it’s OK. But you can improve the coffee you drink at home starting today (even if you add a little something to it). Here’s how.

Buy better coffee

I’ve long been convinced that 99% of people don’t like coffee because they’ve only experienced a poorly prepared stale incarnation of it. The first step to better coffee is to buy it fresh from a roaster that isn’t afraid to put the roast date on it. Coffee will be noticeably stale after four weeks and is best in the first two.  You wouldn’t buy milk past its expiration date, don’t do the same with your coffee.

Grind it yourself

The further coffee gets down the production line the quicker it goes bad. Roasted coffee has about four weeks. Ground coffee about 40 minutes. Yes, minutes. Even a cheap blade grinder will get you better results than buying pre-ground coffee. But for the best results invest in a high quality grinder. They will grind more evenly and extract more evenly.

Water

Coffee is 98% water. It’s easy to ruin good coffee with bad water and most municipalities don’t bother to make their water all that great. Use a mineral filter or bottled water, but stay away from distilled since there’s nothing for the coffee to cling to. If you’re brewing manually aim for 200-205 F. Too hot burns the coffee and too cold won’t extract enough.

The Golden Ratio

Precision is key to good coffee and gram scales are cheap. Once you start measuring your coffee use this ratio to start: 17.42:1. For the mathematically disinclined, that’s about 13 grams of coffee to 8 ounces (226.79 grams) of water. It’s only a starting point, and you may want your coffee stronger, but it will get you in the ball park.

Brewing

Learn your brew method. Most of them produce good coffee with a little bit of care. Avoid percolators and cheap electric drip pots that are less than 1000 watts and please stop dumping more grounds on top of the old ones. You’re not doing anyone a favor by being thrifty. It will only produce a weak and nasty cup.

Enjoy

Don’t reheat it or keep it on a burner, you’re slowly sucking the life out. Enjoy it exactly the way you like it, but try it black first. You may surprise yourself. Then you can stop apologizing for your coffee.

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