As one of the most loved drinks around the world, it’s no wonder that there are so many different ways to brew it. Coffee lovers each have their preferred method for making their favorite drink and perfecting these methods can be a skill learned over time.
There are many things factoring into why people prefer a certain method over another, and everything from your budget to your taste will determine exactly what brewing method is right for you. The end result is always a cup of coffee, so as long as it tastes good to you the opportunities are endless.
With this brewing guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to brew the perfect cup of coffee, from the ideal water temperature to how to select and grind your beans. With a working knowledge of why each of these factors are important, you’re guaranteed to make a great cup of Joe every time, no matter how you do it.
Since most of us enjoy a morning coffee to kick start our day, it makes sense that Americans spend an average of $4billion per year on coffee and related products. Being able to brew your own coffee exactly to your liking is the best way to ensure you get a great tasting drink, and save yourself money on coffee house drinks as you do it.
Popular Ways to Brew Coffee
There are likely hundreds of ways to brew coffee over the world and many methods that are still probably unknown to Western civilization. However, a few popular choices seem to stick around no matter the current trends with café drinks. Here are just a few popular ways to brew your morning coffee from home.
- Instant coffee – The easiest method by far, but perhaps not the most popular for serious coffee lovers. Instant coffee is a freeze dried or spray dried substance which is brewed by adding a teaspoon or so to your cup and mixing with boiling water.
- Pour over drip method – Drip brewing can be done manually or with a machine, and it involves pouring water over ground coffee beans in a filter which then drips down into a carafe or cup to enjoy. This takes with it all of the oils and essences and makes for a stronger coffee.
- French Press – The simple design of the French Press is favored by many for its ability to capture the very best flavors of the coffee. This involves placing ground coffee beans in a jug or carafe, pouring hot water in, and then allowing it to steep before pushing a plunger down to remove traces of beans.
- Espresso machine – An espresso machine brews coffee using pressurized water which passes through tightly packed coffee grounds, the dripping liquid which results is a strong and rich espresso.
- Pod or capsule coffee maker – Similar to an espresso machine, the pod coffee makers force hot pressurized water through pre-packaged portions of coffee beans to create single serving drinks.
The Benefits of a Perfect Cup of Coffee
No matter how you brew it, there’s no denying the benefits of a cup of coffee. Provided you don’t overindulge, one or two a day brewed using your favorite method can have many advantages.
- Save money – If you’re a fan of coffee houses and expensive barista-made drinks, you’ll realize just how much money you go through buying one of these each morning. When added up over the weeks, months, and years, the savings possible from brewing your own perfect cup of coffee every day can be in the thousands.
- Health benefits – Studies published by Harvard show that drinking four cups of coffee a day reduces your risk of Parkinson’s disease by half, compared to those who had little or no coffee. If four cups seem too much, there are still plenty of benefits to be had from just enjoying one or two.
- Created how you like it – Once you find the perfect brewing method and master the art of making coffee, you have complete freedom over how to enjoy your favorite drink of the day. Whether you want to add milk, sugar, create a cappuccino or iced coffee drink, you have far more possibilities available to you with your own coffee maker.
- Gives boost of energy – Probably the number one reason why people drink coffee, and a good one at that, is the amazing energy giving powers of caffeine. Many find that they simply can’t start their day without a hot, fresh cup of coffee, known for its abilities to wake you up and get you going.
- Antioxidants – Studies have shown that although coffee may not contain as many antioxidants as fruit and vegetables, our bodies are able to absorb more from this drink than any other source.
Finding the Ideal Equipment
Before even attempting to make a coffee, you’ll need to settle on a brewing method. Thankfully, most coffee makers are relatively affordable so many even have a few options in their home. You’ll need to consider a few factors before deciding which method is right for you.
- How much time do I have?
- How much money do I want to spend?
- Am I happy to learn extra skills to operate it?
- How important is the taste of my coffee?
- How many people does this machine need to serve?
If you find you’re short on time, something automatic such as a drip method coffee maker or pod espresso machine would be great. For those happy to spend a few extra minutes perfecting the taste, French Press or espresso maker is the right choice. If you’re hoping to cater to a large group, anything with a bigger carafe or ability to quickly make coffees would be best.
Keeping your machine clean is just as important as selecting beans or perfecting the brewing process, so at the very least these devices should be rinsed with water after use. As build-up can occur quite quickly with coffee makers and affect their quality, it’s essential to perform regular care and maintenance.
Selecting the Right Beans
Picking a coffee bean can be a daunting process, with so many blends and countries available it can quickly become complicated. Finding the perfect coffee bean for your taste will be a bit of trial and error, so don’t expect to hit the jackpot right away. Here are just a few options you might find with beans:
- Different regions or countries of origin
- A single bean or a blend of a few different flavors
- Decaf or regular coffee
- A light taste, something fruity, or dark roasted
Always select beans that have been roasted for your brewing method. There are often different kinds such as espresso beans, and these may be too small or large for other machines. Whether you prefer something dark, light, or fruity, everyone’s tastes are extremely personal so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Using Your Beans Fresh
The freshness of your coffee beans is crucial, as anything outdated will have lost its flavor. Most coffee stores will be able to show you when the beans were roasted, aiming for around 2 weeks after the roast date for their optimal taste.
Rather than purchase lots of beans in one go, you should be buying new ones every few weeks to ensure their freshness. Sometimes these beans have been ground for you, or you may prefer to grind at home using a burr grinder or other device. No matter the consistency, keep them stored in a dry and airtight container until they’re ready for use.
Grinding the Coffee Beans
Perfecting the grind consistency of your beans is probably the most important step to brewing the perfect coffee. When grinding the beans yourself, you only ever want to do this process just before making your coffee otherwise, they will lose their freshness.
Grind the desired amount of coffee in your burr grinder, and depending on your brewing method there will be different coarseness required. A general rule for all methods, though, is that if your coffee is too bitter the beans have been ground too fine. Likewise, if it tastes weak the grind setting is likely too fine.
Perfecting the Water
Most of the time, tap water is fine to use with coffee makers provided it is good quality. Allow the water to run for a few seconds before filling your coffee machine to ensure it’s as pure as possible. If you wish, you can use filtered or bottled water, especially if there’s a taste or odor in your water supply.
The ratio of water to coffee is important to how strong your brew will be, so while there is a standard amount to generally go by this can be altered to meet your personal taste. According to the National Coffee Association of the USA, one to two level tablespoons of coffee to six ounces of water suits most, with the ability to adjust when required. Using an espresso or pod machine will generally do this step for you depending on the shot size.
The temperature of your water is crucial, and this is a fairly standard level for all types of brewing. You want it to be close to boiling, but not as hot, otherwise, this will burn the beans. If the water is too cool, though, it won’t be able to extract the flavors. Aim for around 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for the ideal temperature, adjusting as needed.
Automatic machines will find this ideal temperature for you, but if you’re working with a manual process you can use a thermometer to be exact. Otherwise, boiling the water and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds to a minute should bring it to the required level.
The brewing time relates to how long the water and the coffee grounds are in contact with each other, making this a very important part of the brewing process. To get the perfect cup of coffee, you need to hit the sweet spot in between ensuring you don’t over or under extract.
If you’re making drip coffee, aim for around five minutes or brewing time. For a French Press, two to four minutes is ideal. Your espresso machine will only make contact for 30 seconds or so, and this is all that’s needed to extract the best of the flavors.
Once brewed, try to enjoy your coffee as soon as possible. If you plan on drinking some later, ensure it’s been poured into a separate carafe or thermos so that the extraction process isn’t still occurring. Otherwise, you will end up with a very bitter and unenjoyable drink.
One of the great things about making your own coffee is having the choice to enjoy it exactly as you wish. While many are happy to drink it black and strong, straight from the brewing process, there are a few other finishing touches you can do.
To sweeten up your coffee, add some sugar or artificial sweetener which will remove some of the bitterness without losing the powers of caffeine. For something creamier, you can add milk or coffee creamer. For those with espresso machines, the options are more extensive as you can create lattes, cappuccinos, and iced cold drinks with yours.
How we drink our coffee can also affect the final taste, so depending on where you have your morning caffeine this will differ. A stainless steel thermos or travel mug is great for people on the move, otherwise, it’s ideal to invest in quality ceramic coffee mugs to keep the heat and flavor as strong as possible.
Brewing the perfect cup of coffee will require some experimentation as you figure out which method, beans, and grind level you like best. Once you’ve achieved the ideal brew, though, you’ll never need to pay for your favorite drink again.