I am no expert on coffee. I can’t tell you all the differences between varieties and the countries of origin. No one would call me a connoisseur. So why am I writing this article?
My friends come to my house, drink my coffee and tell me that it is the best they have ever had. So, I decided to put down what I know about coffee and how I make it. I hope you find it useful.
A good cup of coffee must have three things: a quality coffee bean, good water, and a good brewing process. Mess with any of these three factors, and you’ve got a cup of hot, vile, bitter brew. No wonder so many people tell me they don’t like coffee.
Most of the coffee that I drink in the USA (I live in Colombia most of the year) is weak and bitter. This is a direct consequence of letting accountants rule our lives.
Remember a few years ago when you stayed in a hotel and made coffee in your room? They had a little filter packet that you opened and put into the coffee maker. Some accountant figured if manufacturing could just take out a teaspoon of coffee, no one would know the difference, thereby saving his company thousands over the course of the year. Another accountant did the same thing two years later. Then it happened again. Now, I have to put two packets into the coffee maker to get a good brew.
This same process has happened in restaurants, airlines, and offices. Lots of companies use these same type of packets for their industrial drip coffee makers. Most of the cups of coffee I get in the US are so thin that I can see almost to the bottom of the cup.
Now, this leads to a vicious cycle. This hot, bitter water that most establishments sell as coffee causes many to proclaim, “I don’t like strong coffee. It’s too bitter.” So they cut down the amount of coffee grounds they put in their coffee makers. And the result is even worse.
So, the first rule of getting a good cup of coffee is to use enough coffee. This takes some experimentation. Put in enough coffee to get a rich dark brew.
That brings me to the second point about coffee. Brands are different. Some are bitter, some are smooth. My favorite is Colombian coffee. The domestic Colombian brands are the best. They are not as bitter and they seem to have less caffeine than the American brands, even when they say 100% Colombian. There is one exception, Community Coffee. They don’t have a nationwide distribution, but if you live within a thousand miles of New Orleans, you should be able to find it.
These domestic Colombian coffees, namely “Oma” and “Sello Rojo”, can be brewed dark and rich without becoming bitter.
I am amazed that people will spend fourteen dollars for a small package of ground coffee from some exotic location, and then fill their coffee maker with tap water. What are they thinking?
Spring water or reverse osmosis water is best. But tap water that is filtered through a GOOD filter is OK. Be sure to check your filter to see that it removes chlorine as well as the solid and bacterial nasties. A Berkey filter that removes all of the above plus fluoride is the best.
Some of you in the north might have good tap water, but here in Texas, a filter system is mandatory to get a good cup of coffee. I have a water softener and a filter here North of Austin.
A drip type coffee maker can make a drinkable cup of coffee, but the percolator, French press, and espresso machine are so much superior. The acquisition cost and per cup cost of the individual cup coffee makers takes them out of the running.
For me, a percolator is too slow and has too little quantity. You wait several minutes to get two cups of coffee. The espresso machine would take up all the space on my counter, plus cost too much. And again, like the percolator, there is not enough quantity.
The French press gives me a liter of great coffee in a third of the time of the percolator, and it is cheap to buy. Most places charge around $40 for a French press, but IKEA has them for $16. One coffee company gives them out free for signing on to their coffee subscription service.
For those of you unfamiliar with a French press, it works like this. You put coffee in a glass beaker. Add hot water. After you stir the grounds to get a good brewing action, you insert a plunger into the top of the beaker and press it down slowly.
The screen on the bottom of the plunger lets the brew pass through and presses the grounds to the bottom of the beaker. Now your coffee is ready to drink.
I like to add a small amount of natural sugar. This little bit of sweetness is like an activator of the intense coffee flavor.
If you must use a drip coffee maker, replace the paper filter with a fine screen. You can find them in several places, but Target seems to have the best for the cheapest price. And remember. Use enough coffee.
I would love to hear how your experiments go.