How to Brew the Best Coffee Part Two

coffee beans in a cupWhile brewing a great cup of coffee isn’t necessarily hard, you do have to pay attention to some details. Basically, you need good quality ingredients (good coffee and good water) and a way to bring them together to get that delicious drink you’re after. In Part 1 of How to Brew the Best Coffee we talked about the water. Now, let’s carry on from there.

To get good coffee, you need good coffee beans. I think that’s obvious, but just what makes good coffee involves a lot of variables. Details include the variety of the coffee, where it was grown, how it was roasted, the final grind and more.  Other pages on this site go into quite a bit of detail about all of this. This page is a summary of what you need to know and consider.

Variety of Coffee

You want coffee beans from the arabica species. Arabica plants produce premium beans that with great flavors and aroma. However, the plant does best at high altitudes, is somewhat difficult to grow and has relatively low yields.

The other option most commonly available are beans from the robusta plant. Robusta coffee grows at lower altitudes, is disease resistant and has high yields. All of that is great. The only downside is the beans produce poor coffee.

As you might expect, robusta beans are cheaper that arabica. Typically commercial producers mix them with some arabica beans if they want to offer a low priced coffee. I advise you to avoid such blends.

Where the Coffee Is From

In my short summary of the History of Coffee I mentioned that it is likely that all the coffee plants currently growing in Central and South America are the progeny of a single plant brought to Martinque by a Frenchman. Despite that, coffee from different countries vary significantly in flavor and style. Coffees from different parts of the world vary even more.

In short, where coffee grows greatly affects it’s flavor. The fun part of this is you have lots of different choices to explore.

Coffee Roast

Another variable that will affect the coffee that winds up in your cup is the degree of roast. I explain what’s involved in the roasting process and the characteristics of various degrees of roast on Coffee Roasts. Most people start with medium to medium dark roast and explore from there.

Once a coffee is roasted, it starts to lose flavor. Because grinding increases the surface area of the coffee, it loses its flavor even more quickly after grinding. Ideally, to get the best coffee you’d use coffee means that were recently roasted and grind them just before brewing.

While we can’t always reach the idea, we can keep it in mind and come as close as we can.

Most of us can find a local coffee shop that roasts their own coffee where we can get freshly roasted beans. Barring that, we can at least buy whole beans in vacuum sealed containers. We shouldn’t buy more beans then we’ll use in a week or so and grind them just before brewing.

Obviously, this means you’ll need a coffee grinder. You can find out about them at Coffee Grinders.

If you have to buy coffee that is already ground, it's even more important that you store it properly. I report the results of a little test I did on How to Store Coffee Grounds.

Basically, keep them in a tightly sealed plastic bag with on the air squeezed out. If you have more than you're going to use within a few days, keep the bag in the freezer.

That’s the basic overview on what you need to do to get great coffee. Check out our other pages for lots more detail on coffee selection, brewing methods and much more.


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