Ten Steps to Brewing Better Coffee at Home
Ceremony Coffee sat down with Annapolis Patch to share a few tips and tricks while head roaster Andy Sprenger competes in the World Brewer's Cup in Vienna.
The competition pits some of the world's best roasters and brewers of craft coffee against each other to see who can brew the best cup. Sprenger will be judged on aroma, aftertaste, flavor and acidity, according to the competition's website.
In April, he won the 2012 Brewers Cup in Portland.
The finals round takes place from noon to 2 p.m. in Vienna, and will be livestreamed to the United States beginning at 6:45 a.m.
The amount of time and effort that goes into creating a world class cup of coffee is probably more than most people have each morning.
So, Ceremony Coffee's Ronnie Haas took a few moments to share some tips on how Annapolis Patch readers can improve their own morning cup.
1. Purify, don't distill your water
Haas said people forget that approximately 98-percent of what you drink in a cup of coffee is water. So, it's important to start off with the right kind.
Tap water is too hard, but Haas said, "you don't want distilled water because it has no hardness, and it won't distill the solids off your coffee."
He recommends using purified water to get your best cup.
2. Heat your water to the right temperature
Much like in baking, the right temperature is a key component of good coffee. The water should be between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
Haas said if it's lower, the coffee won't steep as much as you would like. If the water is too hot, you're going to scorch it.
He said if you're using a French press to make your coffee, you need to preheat the press. A room temperature press will act as a heat sink, and bring the temperature down to the mid-150s.
3. The right ratio of water to coffee
Ideally, there should be one gram of coffee grounds for every 17 grams of water, Haas said.
Before you go breaking out your baking scales every morning, I have a quick conversion that should help you out.
There are about 228 grams in one cup, which means there should be about 13.4 grams of coffee for each cup you brew. That translates into approximately 1.75 tablespoons of coffee.
I will mention that Haas said the more precise your measurements, the better your results will be.
4. Look for a born on (roasted on) date
The sell by date on coffee won't tell you when it was made, and Haas says that's a problem.
Coffee beans are the dried, roasted seeds of a fruit. Haas said that's important to think about because like any other fruit, coffee beans go bad. He said once they are roasted, the beans go bad in about four weeks.
5. Don't buy the beans from the bins
Haas said that while they look pretty, those beans are giving off all their best flavors in the bin rather than in your cup. Beans should be stored in air tight containers or bags once roasted to maximize their freshness.
6. Buy less more often
Like a box of crackers, coffee goes stale once it's opened. Haas said that once a bag or container of beans is open, it goes stale in about a week. He recommends buying small quantities on a regular basis.
6. Let go of the dark roast
Dark roasted coffee is essentially burnt beans. Haas said large scale roasters do this "to add roasty and smoke flavors to defective or stale green coffees, which wouldn't have had any desirable flavors were the coffees roasted lighter."
Haas said dark roasting good coffee will cost you all the nutty, fruity and distinctive notes that make each bean special.
7. Stay away from the refrigerator
Storing coffee in the refrigerator won't extend its shelf live, but it will allow the coffee to absorb flavors from other items in your fridge.
Haas said, "You could also develop a moisture problem when you're taking the coffee in and out of the fridge."
Store your beans in a cool, dry air-tight container.
8. Grind your own
"Ground coffee is essentially stale coffee," Haas said. "You want to grind right before you brew."
And the kind of grinder you buy matters.
Inexpensive blade-grinders chop your grounds into pieces of varying sizes and shapes, which means they will steep at different rates. Haas recommends a burr grinder.
9. Don't oversteep (if you own a french press)
I own a French press, and this is certainly my biggest sin. I forget about the steeping coffee and rarely have a consistent time.
The grounds should steep for four minutes.
"Beyond that you're starting to extract more bitterness, more caffeine and more acids that you don't want," Haas said.
10. Summer Tip: Cold press ice coffee overnight
If you want to wake up to great tasting ice coffee, fill your French press with grounds and room temperature water. Haas said, you can put it in the refrigerator for about eight hours and wake up to a cold summer cup.
I'm sure the question you're asking yourself at this point is: Is it really worth all the extra effort?
Haas made me a cup of coffee using these steps, and I have to admit that it was pretty awesome. The coffee was slightly sweet with an almost herbal tea taste to it. The drink had body and a creaminess to it that I thought you would need milk to accomplish.
Haas didn't have any tips about milk and sugar except to say that he thinks really good coffee doesn't need sugar to be sweet or milk to taste creamy.
Long story short: I went and bought some filtered water, but it may be a while before I fork over the money to replace my blade grinder.