Do you dream of a great cup of coffee without going broke? Oh, my darlings, let us show you the way!
Move over Starbucks and Pret A Manger. Trust me when I tell you, my friends, that your kitchen is the absolute best place to get the coffee of your dreams. The best coffee ever.
The next several articles So Frenchly will be publishing are going to show you exactly how to make this dream a reality. And for a lot less money than you pay at your local coffee house.
Let’s start with the basics.
Great coffee starts with only two ingredients: WATER & COFFEE.
Could it get more simple than that?
So this simple key unlocks the first door on the path to a perfect cup of coffee. Two simple things — control the water you use and control the coffee you use.
And if you don’t get both of these things right, no coffee maker, no fancy cup, no add-ons or mix-ins will transform bad coffee to good coffee. Ever.
First, the WATER.
The QUALITY of the Water is critical.
If you are serious about your coffee, and if you want the taste to compete with your cute little coffee house’s cup of Joe, you have to start with really good water.
That doesn’t mean turn on the tap. It means either buy filtered water or filter your own water.
A lot of people we know go to great lengths to filter all of the water they drink today anyway. So if you are already filtering your water, this step is easy. If not, we suggest that before you even think of what brewing method for coffee you might use, pay attention to your water.
Either buy a filtering system for your tap water or purchase filtered water to use in making your coffee.
Filtering your water in small amounts does not have to be expensive. We will be posting a companion article on water filters very soon. For now, we suggest your start with buying a couple of gallons of filtered water to make your coffee. But then look at the cost and the ease of having your own filtration system. We can guide you on that.
But whatever else you do, upgrade the quality of your water if you want really great coffee.
The TEMPERATURE of the Water is also vitally important.
Different coffee making methods require water at different temperatures. But water should be below boiling temperature for extraction of the best taste.
Many coffee making methods make coffee with water that is too hot. You get your cup of Joe quicker that way. But in most instances, you lose the nuance of taste and add a layer of bitters.
We will guide you through what we have determined are the three best coffee making methods in our next articles, but pay close attention to the temperature of the water. Don’t just assume that boiling water is best. Because for most methods, it is not.
For some of our most favorite coffee making methods, the addition of a good electric water kettle really ups the quality of your coffee. We will be looking at those in future posts.
So the first part is easy. Use good QUALITY filtered water and heat it to the right TEMPERATURE.
Then we get to the second part of the equation.
Here, comes the COFFEE.
It may be easier to start with the DON’Ts than with the DOs. But I promise we won’t get stuck past the first DON’T.
Don’t buy ground coffee. Your coffee will never even remotely taste as good as it does in the coffee shop. No water, no machine, nothing is going to reclaim it. And that of course, leads us to the first of our eight rules for great coffee.
#1 Buy whole bean coffee & grind your own beans.
Most coffee experts will tell you that the best single Rule of Thumb is to buy coffee beans in small quantities, grind them fresh each time, and buy coffee more often than you are probably used to.
#2 Find a good local coffee roaster who knows the technique and the art & buy freshly-roasted beans locally.
Coffee is at its taste peak 3 to 10 days after it is roasted. So if you can find a local roaster you trust and you can purchase freshly roasted beans in small quantities, that will be a huge boon to the taste of your coffee.
Plus, you are helping sustain local and almost always small artisan businesses in your community.
Yes, the price may be a bit higher than the beans you purchase at Sam’s Warehouse. But the extra money goes to a person you say hello to, who pays taxes in your community, and who you probably can develop a personal relationship with. And most small businesses offer discounts and other perks to repeat customers, particularly ones they get to know.
You can talk to a local roaster and get to know the different kinds of roasts. And you may find all kinds of taste nuances you would never find out about otherwise.
Roasting is both highly technical and an art. Just because a roaster is local does not make him or her good. But in our personal experience the value of finding a good local coffee roaster is worth the little bit of trial and error it takes to see how you like the taste of the coffee.
And it never hurts to ask how long the roaster has been roasting and selling commercially. That usually tells you quite a lot. Remember everyone has to start sometime. But only someone who is really good stays in business over years.
#3 Invest in a quality burr coffee grinder.
Yes. They are more expensive than the little blade grinder you probably have in your kitchen. Yes. They are. They are more expensive.
But before you shell out a bunch of moolah on a coffee maker, spend some on a burr grinder. Whatever coffee making method you have been using, the coffee will taste better if you do. 100% guaranteed.
But honestly, if you think that fancy coffee house is using a blade grinder for that great coffee they are charging you $7 a cup for, then I know this guy selling these great lots in Arizona with a fabulous view of the Mediterranean Sea.
No. Your coffee house is not using a blade grinder when they grind that coffee. That I can promise you.
This simple change is more enormous than you can possibly imagine in the taste of your coffee. Even if you buy older, lesser quality coffee beans and have whatever contraption you might have to brew coffee in, a good burr grinder is going to vastly up the quality of your cup of coffee.
Vastly. Upgrade your grinder before you upgrade your coffee maker. You might find you don’t even need to upgrade your coffee maker.
One of our next articles is a guide to buying the best burr grinder at the best price. We have done all the heavy lifting in the search for you. Stay tuned.
#4 Grind the beans to the right coarseness for your particular coffee maker.
In future posts we will cover our favorite coffee making techniques. It is important to pay close attention to the grinding notes for each one.
You don’t use the same grind for every coffee maker. Each method requires a specific grind.
The coarseness or fineness of the grind makes a huge difference in the taste.
#5 Brew your coffee for the right length of time according to the method you use.
And that means don’t leave it “warming” on the stove or on the brewing element. Please!
#6 If you drink more than one cup of coffee a day, invest in a good thermal carafe.
Before you start saying, oh my heavens all this money, remember at $7 a cup for a specialty coffee at your coffee house, even if you only buy it three times a week that ends up $1,092 a year.
Then money spent on a good burr grinder, a good thermal carafe, and a good coffee maker are not going to come to anywhere near that unless you just really, really, really want to spend money. So take the long term approach here.
We have researched the best thermal carafes for the best prices and will be sharing that with you, too. And believe me, keeping your coffee hot without degrading the quality of it makes a huge difference in your coffee experience.
We consider a good thermal carafe essential unless you make your coffee one cup at a time and consume it right away — which of course is always a great way to experience optimal coffee flavor.
#7 THEN we look for the best coffee maker.
As my wonderful and wise grand-père used to say, never put the cart before the horse.
Make sure your water and your coffee are up to speed. THEN we find the best race horse.
Each coffee making method is different. What is best for one is not best for another. We will explore each method in depth and give you the pros and cons of each.
#8 And of course, we will share with you some of our favorite at-home “fancy coffee” recipes.
Just start with the water & the coffee. We will help guide you from there.