6 Tips for Better Coffee
I Hated Coffee
Growing up in Knoxville, TN I never paid much attention to coffee. Coffee was something that I thought smelt amazing, but tasted disgusting. Regularly seeing it being sold at broken down gas stations didn’t create any addition appeal to it either. It wasn’t until I moved Louisville, Kentucky that I fell in love with coffee.
My Journey to Loving Coffee
Even thought most people consider Louisville to be a Southern city, it has a large coffee culture. Quill’s coffee, a coffee shop that I frequented, a couple years ago won #1 coffee shop in America. It was while I was in Louisville that I met true coffee lovers, who introduced me to good coffee. When I first moved to Louisville, if I heard “good coffee” my first thought was Starbucks. If your first thought when you hear "good coffee" is Starbucks you are part of the problem. It was while in Louisville that several friends Brian Moats, Jonathan Anderson, Matt Galyon (Prima Coffee), John Letoto (Blacksmith Coffee), and Matt Argo (owner of Good Folks Coffee) introduced me to great coffee. When you surround yourself with people who are passionate about good coffee it rubs off on you. While I was there I developed a love for good coffee. This then quickly escalated into purchasing a lot of coffee equipment and later into roasting my own coffee.
After 9 years in Louisville I moved back to Knoxville and quickly became dismayed because of the absence of great coffee shops (There are less than a handful in the city). When I moved back most of the people in my workplace did not even know the term “hipster.” Skinny jeans, gauged earrings, and sleeve tattoos were replaced with Wranglers and overalls. I experienced a reverse culture shock. Thankfully because of the Jedi masters that I sat under in Louisville, I am able to still enjoy great coffee in a non-coffee culture. While I do not claim to be an expert in the field of coffee, I have had the joy of learning a great deal about it from several coffee geniuses. So what are some simple things that you can do at home in order increase the quality of your daily cup of joe? Here are 6 tips for improving your brew.
1) Water Matters – The quality of the water heavily influences the taste of your water. Some people prefer one brand or water over another brand because they think that one tastes better. This is true with coffee as well. The quality of your water influences the taste of your coffee. If at all possible try to filter your water or use bottle water when making your coffee. If you want to take this to the next level buy reverse osmosis water from Whole foods or Earth Fare. This is a great first step in improving you cup of joe. You will be shocked as to how much this influences the taste of your coffee.
2) Fresh Roasted Coffee – Depending on what area of the country you live in, this may be a little more difficult to accomplish. Whether you purchase your coffee locally or online, look for a roast date on the coffee bag. Green coffee (coffee before it is roasted) has a long shelf life. Roasted coffee on the other hand does not have a long shelf life. Try to get coffee that has been roasted within a week or two of the date which you are buying it. When you buy a bag of Starbucks coffee there is no telling how long this coffee has been sitting on the shelf, when it was roasted, and etc. It is certain that you will end up with bad coffee. Fresher is always better.
3) Grinder – I still remember having a conversation with my friend Brian Moats, who convinced me to buy a good grinder. I honestly thought he was crazy when he told me that this will improve the taste of my coffee. Once coffee has been ground it starts to lose it flavor. Not all grinders are created equal. Depending on your budget try to get a burr grinder. If you have a lot of money to spend get a Barista Maestro burr grinder. If you are working with a low budget a blade grinder or a manual burr grinder may be a better option. Burr is always preferred over a blade. With a blade grinder it is hard to get an even and/or the sought after grind setting that you are wanting. Even though it may not seem to matter, trust me a good grinder dramatically improves the taste.
4) Brewing Methods – Your daddy’s Mr. Coffee that hasn’t been cleaned in 3 years is one of the reasons you may hate coffee. There are inexpensive coffee brewing devices out there that you can get even at Target. Start off with a French press or an Aeropress. These two devices do not require much knowledge in order to produce a quality cup of joe. Once you have mastered these two, move on to devices like a V60, Chemex, and a coffee siphon.
5) Temperature– Water temperature is something that many people do not consider. Coffee extracts flavor at 205-210 degrees (Depending on who you talk to this number ranges a degree or two). If you get into the 212 temperature range you start to run the risk of burning your coffee. This is when you get the “Starbucks effect” (Burnt chalky tasting coffee). Depending on your budget once again try to get a water kettle that allows you to pick the temperature. If not, boil your water and then transfer the water into something that you plan on pouring with. This generally will knock the temperature down a couple degrees for you. A problem with most household coffee pots and Keurig systems is that they do not heat the water hot enough to extract coffee’s great flavor. This is a reason many coffee drinkers never get that desired coffee shop taste.
6) Ratio – Finally, If you have a scale try to measure the water and coffee ratio. This is generally when your friends start to think that you are crazy. Intelligentsia (A Coffee Roaster) has a really great free app that will guide you on what your water to coffee ratio needs to be. When this ratio is out of wack, your coffee suffers as a result.
I hope this tips are helpful.
Soli Deo Gloria,