I (really) love coffee, so I'm always testing new ways to make the best home-brewed cup of coffee.
There are a few techniques that can immediately improve the quality of your coffee, no matter how fancy (or basic) your coffee machine is.
Here are five tips for making your drip coffee taste a whole lot better.
1. Stay away from preground coffee beans
A cup of coffee is only as good as the beans you start with.
If you're buying bags of preground coffee, you're doing it wrong. Instead, start with fresh, whole beans.
There's a reason most coffee companies don't provide the date for when the coffee was roasted; the stuff you find on the shelf in the grocery store has probably been there for months. Coffee reaches its peak flavor just days after it has been roasted and should be consumed within a month of its roast date.
To find fresh coffee, check local coffee shops. Some roast on the spot or source from local roasters who roast in smaller batches, which typically means fresher coffee.
2. How and when you grind matters
Grind your coffee immediately before brewing for maximum flavor.
Experts say coffee begins to lose its flavor within 30 minutes of being ground. This being the case, it's best to grind on the spot, just before brewing a pot.
Grind size and consistency matter quite a bit, as well. Grind too coarse and you will have a weak pot of coffee. Grind too fine and you will overextract the coffee and it will taste bitter. Most drip coffee makers call for a medium to medium-fine grind.
Unless you want to spend upward of $100 on a quality automatic burr grinder, a manual hand mill is the most affordable way to achieve a nice, consistent grind, though they do require a small amount of manual labor.
Blade grinders also work, but will produce inconsistent particle size, which can lead to overextraction.
3. The right way to measure your coffee
Measure coffee by weight instead of volume.
Making better coffee is all about eliminating variables, and one way to do that is to use the same amount of coffee per unit of water each time you brew. Using a digital scale to measure takes just a second and allows you to better compare how much coffee and water is used each time.
Ideally, a ratio of 1:20 (that's one part coffee to 20 parts water, or about 7.5g of coffee to 150mL of water) makes a fairly strong cup of coffee. That said, some people go as high as 1:14 or as low as 1:30. It's up to you to decide what tastes best, which is much easier to do (and replicate) once you remove all the guesswork.
4. Preinfuse your grounds
Chances are, your drip coffee maker skips a crucial step.
Most automatic coffee makers don't properly prepare the coffee grounds for full extraction. Manual pour over cones (which are not unlike automatic drip machines) call for a preinfusion or the so-called "bloom." This preps the coffee by pouring hot water over the grounds to help release any remaining carbon dioxide gas left over from the roasting process. Skipping this step will allow the carbon dioxide to repel water during part of the brewing process, effectively making the brew weaker.
To preinfuse your coffee, insert a filter into the hopper and add your coffee grounds. Then use a kettle to preheat roughly 50mL of water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly pour it over the grounds, making sure to thoroughly wet all the grounds. Let this sit for approximately 45 seconds before starting the coffee maker.
5. Brew at the right temperature
Many automatic drip machines don't reach optimal brewing temperature.
Another step many automatic coffee makers skip is reaching optimal temperature. The desired brew temperature for drip coffee is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Newer,sometimes have a manual temperature adjustment, but older, cheaper makers do not.
To make sure your coffee maker gets hot enough, run it without any coffee in the hopper and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. If you can, try to measure the temperature during the brewing process, as the water temperature will drop as it passes through the hopper and into the carafe beneath. If it never reaches at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit, see if preboiling your water in a kettle helps.
Keep in mind, however, you do not want to exceed 205 degrees, as it will "burn" the coffee. If this doesn't work, you might want to consider upgrading your coffee maker.