There is nothing worse than a bad cup of coffee.
If you’ve ever tried those capsules full of sawdust they brew in office buildings and gas stations, then you know what I am talking bout.
Bad coffee, brewed improperly, leaves a burnt taste of dirt in your mouth that only a full brushing can fix.
We go to places like Starbucks and hipster cafes where they roast, grind, weigh, heat, press and pour with a precise methodology. It makes a difference. A barista can be a mastered skill.
Going to a café to meet a friend or colleague for social or business networking is a pleasure. Camping out there to get some light work done when you need a break from your home is OK.
You are paying a premium for the environment and for a skilled barista to make you a cappuccino, espresso or a latte, which usually requires an expensive piece of equipment with temperature and pressure regulators.
But if you are a daily consumer of coffee, buying it from a café is a gigantic rip-off.
It is a laughable meme on the lamer of personal finance blogs that if only you skipped that daily latte, you’d be a millionaire in a thousand years!
That’s not really the point though.
The mark-up for a so-called gourmet cup of coffee is ridiculous and you can do just as good a job at home with a bit of simple prep.
And if you do a cold brew, you can make one batch last two weeks.
The specialty drinks are a nice treat… but you can make a standard brew quite delicious too if you do it right.
I don’t mean loading it with sugar and cream either. If you are putting whip cream, mounds of sugar or caramel syrup in your coffee beverage, then it isn’t a coffee… it’s a milkshake.
Brewing with a standard drip filter at home does not make a great cup, in my experience, and if you are used to drinking lattes and cappuccinos every day, then it will probably taste something like dishwater.
You can do better if you understand how coffee works.
- You start with the beans. If you buy in bulk like I do, it is important to grind them as you go and not all at once as whole beans will keep fresh to a greater extent than busted grounds.
Costco sells some descent beans for cheap, but if you want to get the scoop on the specialty stuff, check out your local hipster coffee-spot and ask the barista with the biggest beard and/or most piercings.
Obviously, the most critical part of the whole process is sourcing good beans that have been properly transported and stored at a cool temperature.
- Store the beans in opaque jarsin a dark, cool place… like a cabinet. Don’t put them in the fridge because there is too much moisture in there. If you remember nothing else: moisture is the enemy of freshness. Excess moisture will ruin your beans… so keep them dry as possible.
- Use cold, filtered water to brew. Filtered because contaminants and metals in your tap water will sour the taste. Cold because cold water has more oxygen than room-temperature water, and that opens up the flavor.
- I prefer using a burr grinder instead of the commercial electric grinder that you are probably used to. I know… you are going to say I am one of those hipsters now who thinks putting cream in a coffee is like ketchup on a steak.
The commercial grinder cuts into the bean with a blade. This is great if you just want to get the job done because it is super fast. But that isn’t really ‘grinding’… it is essentially putting your beans into a tiny blender.
The problem with this is that there ends up being little consistency in the grounds you produce. You have fine powder mixed in with chunks. This effects the taste and palate-feel of the coffee. Also, post brew, it becomes a sludge that can be a pain to deal with.
On the other hand, slowly crushing your beans with a burr grinder will produces consistent grounds for you. This is especially useful when using non-drip techniques, where coarser grounds make a better coffee.
Cold Brew Is The Best Brew
There are a hundred ways to brew coffee.
Each way produces a different taste, feel and caffeine content.
I love a French press or cappuccino… if someone else is making it. But for your day-to-day work horse beverage, cold brew is the way to go for several reasons:
- You can make a big batch of it in 10 minutes that will last and stay fresh for two weeks.
- Because the grounded beans aren’t expose to heat, you experience the full flavor of the bean without the acidity or bitterness. The cold brew method brings out a mysterious natural sweetener from the bean, which makes it a bit like drinking iced-tea.
- Because the grounds are exposed to the water for a very long time, the caffeine content is much higher in cold brew than it is in hot coffee… or espresso for that matter.
- It is easily transportable and still tastes OK if it has fallen a bit below the ideal ice-cold temp.
Easy Home Cold-Brew Method
- Hario Skerton, hand-crank burr grinder ($26) OR Electric Burr Grinder ($49)
- Large Mason Jar (72 oz)
- Small Screen Sieve
- Additional large mason jar or steel bowl (for filtering)
- Coffee Filters (optional)
- Zojirishu Steel Mug (optional)
- Set your grinder to COARSE. If you are using the Skerton, you will have to do this manually by removing the bolt and winding it down.
- Grind a CUP of beans. You may choose to do more, but for the sake of keeping things simple…
- Toss the grounds in the bottom of the mason jar, noting the quantity.
- Add approx. 8 parts cold, filtered water for every 1 part grounds.
- Put it in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Pour the liquid through the sieve and into the bowl or jar. Coarse grounds should stick to the bottom of your first jar pretty well, but if you want to remove any fine particles then do a second screening with the coffee filter placed inside the basket of the sieve.
- What you have now is pretty concentrated and might give you the jitters if you drink it straight. When you serve it, I recommend going approx. ½ concentrate and ½ cold, filtered water. Make sure you measure this before you add the ice.
Hot Single-Cup Coffee
If you don’t care for cold coffee, or if you like to mix it up a bit, this device is amazing. I can’t write a better description than is on the Amazon page, but it was designed by an engineer with the utmost scientific scrutiny. The coffee this thing makes is probably the best I’ve had… in the states anyway.
Disclaimer: There are various tools and products that I use regularly and enjoy sharing with you, a grand and noble audience. I only recommend products that have made my life better. By clicking links outbound to Amazon and other vendors, I may or may not receive a small commission through an affiliate program… at NO additional cost to you. This money primarily pays for site operation, promotion and upgrade expenses. I sincerely appreciate your readership.