The first step on the path to your perfect cup of coffee
The first step on the path to your perfect cup of coffee may be the easiest of all: start using
freshly-roasted, whole coffee beans. Take note of my qualifier freshly-roasted. This is just as important as your move from pre-ground coffee to whole bean coffee.
Sure, you can find whole-bean coffee at the supermarket in those sealed packages that were assembled weeks before. And yes, using those beans would still be better than continuing to steep pre-gound coffee, but for a true leap forward, it’s all about freshness.
The fresher the coffee, the better it tastes.
Air, light, moisture, and heat all compromise the flavor of coffee, whether or not it has been sealed in a package. For the best flavor, you’ll want coffee that has been roasted that week (preferably that day), and you’ll want to purchase small amounts at a time, enough to consume within one to two weeks of purchase. Some ways you can ensure you have truly fresh coffee are the aroma, the flavor, and the bloom. We’ll discuss these factors in our next article, “Purchasing and Storing Fresh-Roasted Coffee.”
Whole coffee beans retain freshness longer than pre-ground coffee.
Once you purchase your whole beans, you’ll want to grind only enough for each brew, and only when you are ready to brew. Grinding your entire stash upon receipt negates many benefits of purchasing whole beans in the first place. Those grounds will give up their flavor and aroma much faster than if you leave the whole beans intact until such time that you are ready to brew a pot of coffee.
Similarly, brewed coffee will begin to lose flavor and complexity over time, so it’s best to brew only as much as you plan to drink in a 30 minute time span. Letting coffee sit, leaving it on a heater plate (such as you’ll find on most auto-drip machines), and reheating it on the stove or in the microwave will result in–at best–loss of flavor, and–at worst–a bitter, scorched flavor.
I know what you’re thinking. This is getting to be too much! How can I be expected to brew fresh coffee every time I want a cup? I mean, buying coffee beans is one thing, but now I can’t reheat it? I can’t even use my microwave?
Although we walk the path to a perfect cup, sometimes near-perfect will have to do.
Confession time: Sometimes I still reheat coffee in the microwave. Let’s remember why we’re here. We want better coffee. And though we are trying to walk the path to a perfect cup, sometimes a near-perfect cup will have to do. And that’s okay. That’s just fine and dandy. But there are ways to get around this predicament.
Purchase a thermos. After my initial coffee equipment purchases, I realized that coffee brewed in a Chemex or French Press doesn’t stay hot very long. So I bought a thermos. Problem solved. After brewing a pot, I pour off a mug then pour the rest into my thermos, which keeps the coffee hot for hours.
Now that we know a little more about whole coffee beans and freshness, the next step is learning more about where you can buy fresh-roasted coffee and how to store it so it retains optimal freshness. As you continue on your path, we’ll also cover coffee grinding basics, the different types of grinders, and the brewing method basics.