Nothing gets the day started like a good cup of coffee. Sadly, most people feel that there isn't time to make a real cup of coffee in the morning and end up with a cup of watery, boring brew from a drive through. A great cup of coffee involves just a few simple steps and it can make all the difference when you face the morning grind.
Get The Right Tools
Great coffee starts with the right equipment. If you don't have one already, your first purchase should be a coffee grinder. A decent grinder can be found in most grocery and big box stores for around twenty dollars.
Your next step is deciding on a coffee machine. If you have a machine already make sure its clean. You should run a coffee machine cleaner through your machine about once a month. These cleaners remove deposits which can affect the taste of the coffee.
If you don't have a machine, consider what type best suits your needs. Most home machines are drip style, meaning that the grounds are placed in the machine and water is dripped through them. This method is efficient and simple, but because the water and grounds are only in contact for a short time it may not capture the more subtle flavors of some coffees. If you want to make a quick pot of coffee in the morning this is the machine for you.
There is a wide variety of drip machines on the market, but stick to the basic models. Fancy displays and controls may look cool, but they wont help your coffee taste any better. Look for a machine where the coffee is dispensed into a thermal dispenser, not placed on a heating element. Heating a pot of coffee constantly leads to thick, bitter coffee.
The other brewing alternative is the french press. In this method the water and grounds are steeped together before being poured. While more involved, this process is excellent at bringing out the nuanced flavors in more exotic coffees. A french press can be found for about ten to twenty dollars.
Choose Fresh Ingredients
Most of us don't think too much about the freshness of our coffee beans. While coffee beans do have a fairly long shelf life, how they are stored and ground have a huge impact on their flavor. Beans should be bought whole. Its best to buy your beans in sealed bags at the store. Avoid coffee from bins, not only is it exposed to the air, but the bins can be dirty and old beans can be mixed with the new.
When you get the beans home leave them in a cool dry place until you're ready to use them. The best place to store the beans one they are open is in an airtight container. Beans are at their best for about a week after being taken out of the bag.
Time To Brew
When its time to make your coffee always start with filtered water. Regular tap water can add unwanted flavors to coffee as well as leave mineral deposits inside your machine. Run your water through a Brita or similar water filter prior to brewing.
Next grind your beans. Make sure your grinder is free from any beans from your last batch. Grind your beans anywhere from ten to twenty seconds. If you are using a french press go with a coarser grind, about half the time of your usual grind. Grind your beans as close as possible to brewing. Coffee beans contain essentials oils which are released by the grinding process. The longer they sit, the more of the flavors from these oils are lost.
Add 2 Tablespoons of grounds for every 6 ounces of water. If you find your coffee to be to strong adjust it with water after brewing, don't skimp on the beans.
It's All In The Details
Before you sit down to your first cup think about what you add to your coffee after brewing. If you are used to bad coffee you may be used to putting a lot of cream and sugar in to make it drinkable.
Try your first cup black and you may be surprised how good coffee can taste. If you still prefer cream and sugar avoid flavored creamers as they cover up the natural flavors of the coffee.
It may seem like a bit of work making a good cup of coffee, but once you taste the results you will never want to settle for another mediocre cup again.