Drink: The Perfect Cup of Coffee

picture of black coffee in red mug

For coffee lovers, the pursuit of the perfect cup o' joe is never-ending.  Our method may not be perfect, but it's probably as close as you can get without too much effort.  The process after the jump...

The Perfect Cup of Coffee
Prep Time: 6 minutes
Yield: About 20 fluid ounces

18 tbsp fresh coffee beans
36 ounces water
1 conical burr grinder
1 french press
1 candy thermometer
1 spoon
2 coffee cups

(1) Start with freshly roasted beans.  Roasted beans stay fresh for less than 14 days - which means stay away from Starbucks!  Roasting beans yourself is a lot of work, so contact a local roaster and find out when they roast their beans.  We use Zabar's - they roast their beans on Monday, and deliver the beans to the store on Tuesday morning.  On the Upper West Side, it's probably the freshest you'll find.

picture of freshly roasted coffee beans

(2) Grind the beans right before brewing to maximize taste.  We use a ratio of about 2 tbsp per 4oz of water and a medium to coarse grind.  While a blade grinder will do, we found that switching to a conical burr grinder made a significant improvement in taste.  We use a $99 Breville grinder.
picture of coffee beans in grinder

(3) Bring water to a temperature of 195 degrees.  We use a candy thermometer to measure the temp.
picture of measuring the water temperature

(4) Use a french press.  Flavor is extracted from coffee beans at an optimal temperature of 195 degrees.  The best way to ensure that the water reaches this temperature at the time it comes into contact with the beans, is use a french press.  Place coffee grounds into french press; pour water over top.
picture of pouring water into french press

(5) Stir until grounds are evenly distributed.  Using a non-metal stirrer will help guard against cracking the glass.
picture of evenly stirred coffee

(6) Cover and let sit for 3 minutes.
picture of french press covered with paper plate

(7) After 3 minutes, remove the cover and scrape off the coffee that has accumulated on top.
picture of removing coffee from top

(9) Put the top of the press on and slowly push down to separate the remaining grounds from the coffee.
picture of french press with plunger pressed

(10) Pour and enjoy! 
picture of pouring coffee from french press to mug

Notes:  Water quality is very important for coffee quality.  I follow the same rule that holds for wine - if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.  Tap water in NYC is excellent, but if you don't like the taste of your tap water, try using Brita-filtered or bottled water.

Also important is keeping your french press and grinder clean - residual oils from the beans start to break down and change the flavor (follow the instructions for cleaning your items).

Store beans in an airtight container - NOT in the refrigerator or freezer.

Coffee should be enjoyed immediately after brewing.  It really only stays good for about an hour after it's brewed.  Drip coffee makers with a hot plate continue to "bake" the coffee, giving it a burnt taste.  To store for up to an hour, place in an insulated mug or carafe.  Never reheat coffee in the microwave! 

Following our process requires a small initial investment, but it pays off in the long run.  We used to buy coffee from Starbucks every morning, for a total of about $4/day.  We now go through a pound of whole beans each week, for around $7.  Assuming the french press ($40), the burr grinder ($99), and the thermometer ($10) will each last 2 years, our daily cost for exceptionally better coffee is about $1.20.  That's a savings of $1000 per year!


Prospector16 said...

Bunk! Roasting your own beans it easy as pie.

Try it yourself in a skillet


Google "corn popper coffee roast" for another easy method.

MJX said...

Thanks for the tip and link to the video. Luckily, we can get beans from Zabar's down the street that have been roasted less than 7 days before, so we don't need to go through the trouble of roasting beans ourselves for our daily cup o' joe. We will definitely try the frying pan method sometime though, I'm sure the resulting coffee is amazing.

Jessica said...

i would also recommend obtaining civet-dung infused coffee if you can afford it: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/world/asia/18civetcoffee.html

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