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The perfect cup of coffee, it’s a little different for everyone, but somethings will always hold true: Water quality, weight, grind, and water temperature. After those factors have been dealt with then comes how to prepare the coffee, you might prefer manual pour-over (like I do), French press, espresso, machine drip, or some other unique method. So lets cover each of these items in stages, I will also provide links to these items through Amazon.com in case you want an easy way to purchase. Let’s get started.
It seems obvious, but the best quality water makes the best quality coffee. As a general rule if the water tastes good it will make a good cup of coffee too. Does your tap water taste good from your well or municipality? That’s a great place to start. If however it’s chlorinated you will at least want a simple filter reduce or eliminate chlorine taste and smell. You could use a tap filter like the Culligan FM-15A, my personal favorite, which removes a number of contaminants as well as chlorine for a simple solution. If you want to go all out you could get an RO system installed in your home, there are so many of them out there and they are a high cost/high maintenance item however they produce great, clean water. You could also opt for bottled water, using a self service water filling station, or a water delivery service.
The best way to ensure a great cup of coffee time after time is to weight your coffee beans or grounds for every cup you make. A simple, accurate affordable digital scale will be your best friend in tuning in your coffee routine. For example when I make a 12 oz cup of pour over coffee I use between 18 and 21 grams of coffee and 12 fluid ounces of water. The actual amount I use depends on the varietal, roasting style, and my mood. I recommend starting with a 18 grams and adjusting to your taste on future brews until you find the right amount for you. With a French press you will probably want to start with more weight so start with 20 grams of coffee per 12 fluid oz of water. For espresso machines follow your manufacturer’s suggestions and same for drip machines, adjusting as needed.
I always recommend a burr grinder for a consistent, even grind. They can be a bit expensive, but even an affordable unit like the Mr. Coffee Automatic Burr Grinder will work in a pinch, though I don’t recommend it for courser grinds as it is not super consistent. For a cheap option you could go with a manual burr grinder like this one from Modern Innovations, I have been using it for years with no issue. My dad, a home roaster, has been very happy with his Capresso 565.05 Infinity Conical Burr Grinder which is a well rated mid-level grinder. If you want to go all out I recommend a flat burr grinder like the Baratza Vario-W 986, but it probably more than and home really needs.
Ideally your water temperature making contact with the grounds should be between 195 F and 205 F with the higher temperature range generating slightly more bitterness than the lower. A good rule of thumb is to let the kettle rest off the heat for 30 seconds or so after it comes to boil before starting to make your coffee. I recommend a gooseneck kettle, this stove top kettle from Coffee Gator even has a built in thermometer. There is also this electric kettle from Coznya for an even easier experience. If you are using a drip machine it is very hard to know if your water if the right temperature, there are some machines that are more accurate than others, but since I don’t personally recommend drip machines the best piece of advice I can give if to temp the water coming out of your machine to approximate it’s effectiveness. With espresso machines temperature is not a concern.