Drinks

5 Tips for Brewing Better Coffee

November  6, 2013

Here at Food52, we're serious about our coffee. So we got our friends over at Stumptown Coffee to teach us everything there is to know about it -- and to make our morning (and afternoon) routines a little bit brighter.

Today: Five ways to make your cup of coffee even better, no matter how you brew it.

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Making good coffee at home is a revelation. 

Don't get us wrong, it's certainly a treat to have someone make a coffee for you. But making coffee at home, especially on a chilly morning, when you can make a perfect cup in house slippers, drink it on your couch while reading the paper or checking your Instagram feed before you’ve had to say a word to anyone or even put on a coat, seems like a miracle. 

Brewing great coffee at home is no magic feat. And it certainly doesn't require six month's rent for a home espresso machine, either. It just takes a few key elements to make a game-changing cup of coffee in your very own kitchen.

Here are a few tricks of the trade that will help.

Coffee from Food52

For starters, think fresh.
Coffee usually tastes best within two weeks of its roast date. If you have the option to buy in bulk, you should only buy as much as you and your household can drink within a fortnight. 

A good grind is hard to find.
Freshly ground coffee is unparalleled. Burr grinders are better than blade grinders -- they give you a more even grind which allows, in turn, for a better, more even extraction when it's time to brew. There are a number of less expensive hand grinders on the market that save you money in lieu of a little muscle. (At Stumptown, we love the Porlex and Hario models.) In a pinch, blade grinders work best if you give them a little cocktail shaker shimmy when grinding. But burr is best. 

Think about storage solutions. 
Coffee, like olive oil, can degrade when exposed to sunlight. So to keep it fresh, it's best to keep whole bean coffee in a well-sealed, dark glass or ceramic jar away from heat and moisture and grind it right before you brew. Otherwise, seal it up in its protective bag. Whatever you do, don't grind and freeze it. The fluctuating temperature and added moisture affects the oils and cell structure of the coffee and it ends up tasting like your freezer smells, a.k.a no bueno. 

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Heat things up.
Preheating all of your brewing equipment with hot water helps to keep the brewing temperature stable. The same is true for your mug, with the added hand-warming benefit, which makes the whole experience even better than it already is. If you use a paper filter brew method, you'll want to run hot water over the filter to rinse out the paper taste. Also, you’ll want your water temperature when brewing to be about 30 seconds off the boil or around 200° F. 

Worth its weight. 
And lastly, though tablespoons will certainly do, a scale is integral to making sure you are measuring out the right dose. Different types of coffee have different sizes and densities, so one tablespoon of a French roast, for example, will vary greatly in weight from one tablespoon of an Ethiopian heirloom coffee. But weighing your coffee is a foolproof way of getting your dose right. Any digital kitchen scale is worth its weight. (If you don’t have one, one tablespoon equals roughly 7 grams.) 

What are your tips for the perfect cup of coffee? Let us know in the comments!

19 Comments

Parker October 22, 2015
Try buying coffee from a country that’s closer to home for the U.S., such as Mexico or Central America, which cuts down on emissions and the environmental impacts of transportation. Avoiding big coffee corporations like Nestlé and supporting smaller, organic, fair trade coffee farms helps eliminate deforestation and encourages fair wages for their workers.
 
D.ana August 18, 2015
What about water quality? I once was at a coffee tasting that used tap water, bottled spring water, distilled water. I believe we all liked the spring water best; some places have better tap water than others, I guess.
 
Kelly R. November 24, 2014
Most of this i already knew except rising my coffee utensils/paper filters and weighing the coffee. If only all professional coffee houses followed the rules! lol. Thanks for a wonderful article.
 
Brian May 7, 2014
Only slightly off-topic: Wheredja get that black mug? It's sweet!
 
Michelle S. March 17, 2014
Interesting read, thank you for sharing! I just wrote a blog post on my personal secrets to my perfect cup of coffee!!<br /><br />http://myjourneyrx.com/2014/03/16/my-perfect-cup-of-coffee/<br /><br />Thanks,<br /><br />Michelle
 
Kelley November 17, 2013
Oh MAN - This got me in the mood for some serious COFFEE! Thanks for making such a fantastic post, I'm on my way to my coffee grinder now!
 
Morrissex November 6, 2013
What's my best tip? Use a French Press. You will not "burn" the coffee taste.
 
Suzanne B. November 6, 2013
My nespresso makes a perfect cup of coffee for me
 
AntoniaJames November 6, 2013
Very interesting, and helpful, too. What do you think about gold filters? Okay to use? Not advised? (I've been "pouring over" for decades.) Thanks! ;o)
 
MaryE November 6, 2013
You didn't give us the weights for the different coffees. Can you supply them or a link to where I could find that. I have never heard of this.
 
Author Comment
Katie B. November 7, 2013
The brewing weight between coffees shouldn't fluctuate much (aside from adjusting it based on taste preferences) but the inconsistencies lie in using Tablespoons instead of grams. Stay tuned for upcoming brew guides on Food52 and on our website to help you figure out the proper weight for different brewing methods. Here's a link about why using a scale is so helpful. http://stumptowncoffee.com/a-scale-is-not-just-for-coffee-geeks/
 
Daniel D. November 6, 2013
Rinsing the filter - great idea - don't know why I have never thought of it.
 
Author Comment
Katie B. November 7, 2013
It helps! It's interesting to rinse a paper filter and taste the rinse water. It definitely tastes like paper! Rinsing also helps to seal the filter, especially in a Chemex.
 
Larry November 6, 2013
Good tips. Thanks. What's a rule of thumb for weight of coffee to water ratios?
 
Arizona C. November 6, 2013
Been weighing my coffee for years. My kids make fun of me. Start with 1.5 ounces of coffee to 12 cups water. Adjust subsequent brews based on your experience. I often use 1 3/8 ounces to 12 cups water
 
Zachary C. November 6, 2013
Yeah, use about 7g (~1tbsp) coffee per 113g water (1/2 C) for French press. A little more for pour over.
 
Author Comment
Katie B. November 7, 2013
Weighing coffee is definitely important to keep things consistent. At Stumptown, we generally use a 1:17 coffee to water ratio. But we are big fans of experimenting and adjusting ratios based on taste preferences. Stay tuned for more specific brew guides to come!
 
tstar November 6, 2013
Great tips, thanks Katie for sharing and congrats on the blog post.
 
Author Comment
Katie B. November 7, 2013
Thank you!