How to make the perfect cup of coffee

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Learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee at home with the proper coffee beans, equipment, water, temperature, and even the best mug!

Are you tired of tasting burnt, bitter coffee? This, unfortunately, plagues a lot of coffee drinkers who brew their own and even those who seek out a local coffee house.

It is time to put an end to unsatisfactory (or just plain gross) mugs of joe. We’ve done the hard work to test exactly what goes into making the perfect cup of coffee, and compiled it all here for you. This is your one-stop guide to brewing delicious, aromatic, and flavorful caffeinated drinks to fill your mug with cheer every morning.

From the best beans to the proper grinding and brewing equipment, everything you need to know is right here.

Let’s dive into our guide on perfect coffee brewing.

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Let’s Start with The Beans

First things first, there’s no way around this one: you have to start with great beans to have a shot at a great finished product.

We scoured the Internet to find the best coffee beans for home-brewers. First, we had to consider what is it is that makes some beans better than others.  Some say it’s the location of the tree. Others say it’s the fertilizers. Yet others say it’s all in the roasting process!

Ultimately, the exact answer to the question of the best coffee beans to buy for home comes down to preference. If you like strong, bold acidic flavors, you may like a dark roast. On the other hand, lightly roasted beans offer a lighter and more delicate drink.

Whichever route strikes your fancy, it’s always important to choose organic coffee beans. Coffee is the third most-sprayed crop after tobacco and cotton, so if you want to avoid exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and synthetic chemicals, it’s best to choose organic.

In addition, look for the term “shade-grown” on your bag of beans. Mass-produced coffee beans are grown in the direct sun, in less-desirable (read: cheaper) land. These beans have a harsher flavor and higher acidity. On the other hand, coffee beans grown in the shade have a more well-rounded, robust, and distinct flavor. Once you try shade-grown coffee, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about.

Finally, it’s best to buy whole beans, instead of ground. Coffee has a fairly short shelf life after it’s roasted, and an even shorter shelf life after grinding. So to get the most flavor in your cup, buy whole beans and grind them immediately before brewing your perfect cup of coffee.

The Equipment for Perfect Coffee Brewing at Home

There are a few essential pieces of equipment to brew coffee at home. Primarily, you’ll need a coffee maker. While some aficionados may disagree, you can make reasonably tasty coffee with pretty much any coffee maker.

The most popular methods to highlight the taste of the beans are:

  • A French press
  • Pour-over coffee
  • Drip coffee
  • Aeropress

Does Your Water Matter for Brewing Coffee?

They say New York-style pizza tastes better in New York because of the water, and we think they may be on to something. We tested brewing the same beans using identical methods and equipment with different sources of water (tap, alkaline, regular bottled, and spring).

Filtered tap water is the preferred liquid for brewing coffee at home. It’s free of chemicals and heavy metals, so it doesn’t have a strong flavor on its own to compete with your beans.

The Temperature

There are several factors that go into creating the perfect cup and getting the temperature right is key. Most coffee makers brew beans between 195 and 200°F. This is the range in which coffee has the best extraction of flavor. This is also the temperature that most coffee shops will maintain.

In newer and fancier coffee makers, you may be able to see the temperature of the brew while it happens to maintain a consistent temperature the entire time.

Cold Brew or no?

If you are making your own cold brew coffee, does the temperature of your fridge affect the outcome of the coffee? The temperature of most refrigerators is within a range that does not affect the final flavor of your cold brew. As long as the coffee stays chilled throughout the brewing period, you can expect consistent results.

What is the best brewing temperature for hot coffee?

If you are brewing a cup of coffee, or even tea for that matter, there is an optimal temperature to do so and that is within the range of 195 to 200°F.

What is the best temperature to consume coffee?

Have you ever left a drive-thru and you are so anxious to get that caffeine drip started that you take a sip while driving out of the parking lot? Instead of getting a great sip of coffee, your taste buds are melted off and you have that weird numb tongue feeling for the rest of the day. So much for enjoying the flavor of your coffee, or your lunch.

Coffee is meant to be enjoyed between 160 and 185°F. Because coffee is brewed between 195 and 200°F, your first sip straight out of the machine will be a bit above the higher end of this threshold. Unless you love piping-hot drinks, it’s best to let the coffee cool for a minute or so before sipping.

If you like your coffee extra-hot, you can always preheat your mug. Simply boil water and fill the mug with hot water while the coffee brews. Then dump the hot water and fill your perfectly warmed mug with freshly brewed coffee. The hot ceramic should maintain heat for a longer period of time than a cold cup.

The Grind

Some people brew with a course grind, others with a medium grind, but does it really make that big of a difference?

If you prefer a less acidic, less strong flavor in your cup, grind your beans less. Very finely-ground beans will give you a stronger, bolder flavor. You can experiment with different grinding sizes to find your ideal flavor. When you buy whole beans and have a coffee bean grinder at home, it’s easy (and fun) to try different methods.

Whatever you do, however, don’t skip grinding the beans at home. They will have a much bolder and more flavorful finish when they’ve been freshly ground just before brewing.

How to Store Coffee Beans The Right Way

Store your coffee beans in an airtight container or bag in the fridge for maximum freshness. Roasted beans should be used within a week of opening the bag. You can store your beans in the freezer for longer storage, but note that you may lose some flavor and quality over time.

The Cup

Could the cup the coffee is served in really make that big of a difference? It turns out that for some people, it does.

If you are on the go and get the coffee in a disposable paper cup with a plastic lid, the flavor profile can be different to the discerning taster. Of course, if you don’t notice a difference between a mug and a paper cup, then lucky for you it’s one less thing to worry about.

However, if you detect a note of napkin or a waft of a wax-lined cup, it might be a good idea for you to find a convenient porcelain or stainless steel travel mug and keep it close. When you’re drinking at home, a solid and sturdy porcelain cup is recommended. Porcelain that is properly cleaned renders no additional flavors or noticeable odors, which puts nothing between you and your perfect pour.

For on-the-go coffee enjoyment, you can also find a travel-safe porcelain mug with a rubber coating for grip and to protect your hand from the heat. And if you’re someone who dreads the falling temperature of your morning joe, you can even find an electric porcelain mug that maintains a constant temperature of your choosing.

The Decor

Sometimes your surroundings really do make a difference. If you are in a coffee shop and chilling on a couch listening to your favorite tunes, it can significantly improve your enjoyment a cup of coffee. Especially if you compare that idyllic scenario to sitting in traffic breathing in the exhaust, a time when nothing can be as pleasant. So if you can, give yourself the time to enjoy your coffee. It will always taste better.

Serving Coffee with Food

Sure, when you think about serving coffee, it’s most often with breakfast foods. But the perfect cup of coffee is just as welcome at the end of the day  as it is at the beginning. Put your coffee-brewing skills on display and serve guests delicious and well-balanced cups of joe after a holiday meal of roast pork, or a simple weeknight dinner of spaghetti, and your house will always be the go-to for gatherings.

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