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Grinding the Beans
* Blade Grinders: A blade grinder doesn’t actually grind coffee beans. It chops them! It has metal blades that rotate quickly, similar to a food processor. Blade grinders are the most common type of grinder and are usually inexpensive. Common problems with a blade grinder are an uneven grind and exposing the beans to excessive heat. Both problems can affect the taste of the coffee. You can control both the grind size and the length of time needed to grind the beans, which are what cause the heat to build up, by grinding smaller quantities at a time.
* Burr Grinders: These use a grinding wheel to crush the beans. The positioning on the burr regulates the ground size, allowing for a more consistent grind. Beans only pass through the grinder once, minimizing heat.
Selecting a Coffee Maker
You may already own a coffee maker that you’re happy with, in which case you can skip this section. In your quest for the perfect cup, however, you may be wondering about the things you should look for in coffee makers. Some of the features that are heavily advertised by manufacturers—modern styling, contemporary colors, programmable timers, the ability to pause brewing and digital controls—have little to do with the quality of the coffee that’s produced.
Here are a few things that are important when selecting a coffee maker:
* Brew Temperature: Coffee is most successfully extracted from the beans with water slightly under boiling.
* Water Filter: The quality of the water is important to the coffee’s taste. If your water doesn’t taste good on its own, it won’t make good coffee. City water with a chlorine aftertaste won’t give you the same results as fresh spring water. A coffee maker with a built in charcoal filter will avoid the need to before adding it to the pot.
* Thermal Carafe: As with brewing temperature, the temperature at which coffee is served will affect the taste of it as well. Many coffee pots use a hot plate to help the coffee warm in the pot its brewed in. These pots generally aren’t airtight, exposing the coffee to oxygen, which degrades the taste, and extended heating on the hot plate can contribute to a burned or bitter taste. A coffee maker that brews directly into a thermal carafe avoids both of these problems.
* Filters: Most drip coffee makers can use either paper or gold mesh filters. Some maintain that the paper can impart an off taste to coffee, and if you really want to taste the subtle nuances of the beans, you should make sure to use a gold filter.
Step 1: The Raw Materials for Good Coffee
The most important part of coffee is the coffee itself.
* Whole Beans: The Best Coffee starts with fresh beans. Exposure to light and oxygen accelerates the time it takes for coffee to go stale, so be careful when purchasing beans from bulk bins. For the freshest coffee, buy green beans and roast them yourself. If this isn’t an option for you, the next best thing is to purchase your coffee from a local roaster. If you don’t have access to a local roaster, look for beans that have been packed in bags with a one-way valve.
* Ground Coffee: If you don’t have a grinder, the roaster should be able to grind the beans for you. If you’re purchasing pre-packed ground coffee, experiment with brands to find one you like. Check the sell by date to make sure its still fresh.
* Water: Use fresh, clean, cold water. Filtered or bottled water works well, but avoid distilled or softened water as mineral content affects taste.
Note on Storing Coffee: Only buy what you’re able to consume in a week. Store opened or bulk coffee in an airtight, opaque container at room temperature. If you have to buy in larger quantities, repackage the coffee when you get home in one week supplies and freeze.
Step 2: Brew Good Coffee
If you’ve followed the tips above, you have a great machine, and it’s descaled and ready to go.
1. Set up your machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Insert the filter.
3. Add water.
4. Add one to two tablespoons of coffee for each six to seven ounces of water. If you like your drink stronger, increase the amount of coffee you’re using. Don’t use less than this, however, as using too little coffee will result in over-extraction, which produces bitter tasting coffee. If you prefer a milder cup, dilute with hot water after brewing.
5. Start the machine.
Do not interrupt the brew cycle, even if the machine has a pause and brew feature. The strength of the coffee varies during the
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