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Coffee: what you’re doing wrong

As I prepared my morning brew for tomorrow, it occurred to me that I’ve never written a blog about my coffee habit hobby. Why not tonight?

All of you go places daily where coffee is served, whether you drink it or not. Whether it’s Starbucks, your office, your school or your local coffeehouse, there’s a lot of places that coffee is served. But not all coffee is created equally. Here’s some advice on how to make coffee that tastes as good as it can.

  • Use good equipment. A good coffeepot is a necessity. If the best coffeepot you have is more than five years old, you probably need to upgrade. Coffeepots that old can’t be cleaned as well as newer ones can (and that’s not technology, that’s just coffee staining the pot just like it stains your teeth).

    Another necessity that’s less obvious is a coffee grinder. Buying pre-ground coffee is never a good idea, and I’ll elaborate on it later, but a decent coffee grinder is not expensive and requires little to no maintenance. Basically, if you make one improvement to your coffee after reading this blog, it should be this one. It’s that important.

    Coffee filters are another underrated aspect of creating perfect coffee, and should not be overlooked. It’s the last line of defense between the mixture of coffee grounds, the chemicals in the water and your cup of coffee. Make sure your filters are kept dry and clean (and away from any odorous substances – do you really want the smell of rotten meat to be permeating your coffee?).

  • Buy good coffee. The actual coffee you buy is a matter of personal preference, but here are a couple of red flags: if you’re getting it out of a can, or you’re getting it pre-ground, you’re doing it wrong.

    What are my favorites? I find that Starbucks makes a consistently good bag of coffee and that it tends to be fresher if you buy it from a Starbucks coffee shop itself. Dunkin Donuts also makes a very good consistent blend. I’ve found that the best coffee beans are the ones that are roasted locally, such as Schuil Coffee out of Michigan or Daybreak Coffee right here in northeast Ohio. I’ve had both; they’re both outstanding.

  • Keep the equipment clean. At the very least, the carafe and the reservoir should be rinsed out thoroughly after every brew and washed often. Every month or so, run a brew with just vinegar to keep the insides clear (and run a few water brews after that). It’s plain and simple: the cleaner the equipment is, the fresher the coffee will taste. The grinder should be kept clear of coffee particles as much as possible.
  • Grind coffee beans as late as possible before brewing. Why should you grind your own coffee? The answer is simple: no stray chemicals. Coffee that is ground at a factory is ground using blades treated with chemicals to prevent infection. That’s all well and good, but the coffee’s taste suffers for it.

    As for brewing it as late as possible, it’s important because your coffee is freshest in bean form and remains so until you grind it. Once you grind it, the timer starts ticking faster.

  • Use filtered water, if possible. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but its noticeable.
  • Test your coffee. The easiest test of your coffee is simple: does it taste good? I’m not talking about after you put the sugar and creamer in. Before you do that, take a taste of the coffee and see how it compares to what you were making before.

Give it a shot, and let me know what you think. I think you’ll be pretty surprised. If you’re like me, you’ll stop drinking coffee from the office (which normally suffers from unclean parts and bad pre-ground coffee), and you won’t need to go to Starbucks as often (expensive). Since I started brewing my own coffee, I’ve gained a hobby and a newfound appreciation for the stuff that a lot of us just take for granted.

Originally posted on Cleveland, Curveballs and Common Sense on October 8, 2008 at 12:09 AM. Post text content © 2008 Jimmy Sawczuk. All rights reserved.