Ruling the Roast
It all starts with the freshest coffee you can find — and by that, we mean freshly roasted beans. Coffee begins to lose flavor soon after it leaves the roaster, so that sack or can of pre-packaged supermarket grind stuffed in your cupboard is operating at minimum taste wattage. Find the nearest local coffee roaster, or an online source, and buy just what you need for the week.
The Daily Grind
Now that you’ve got the beans, it’s time to get grinding. You can either ask the nice folks at the store to grind them to your maker’s specifications (automatic drip, paper cone, French press, etc.), or invest in a grinder ($18 – $75). Blade grinders tend to be less expensive, but don’t offer the consistent chopping of burr grinders. Once you’ve made your selection, read the manual to determine how long to grind.
If you don’t have time to do this every day, figure out how much coffee you’ll need for the week, and grind it all at once.
Airtight & Outta Sight
Whether you’re grinding ahead of time or fresh every day, it’s key to keep that flavor safe. Air and light are the enemy of coffee freshness. Store it in a dry, dark, cool (but not cold – the fridge and freezer are BIG no-nos) place, either in a cupboard or an opaque container. If you’re storing it in a bag, make sure to force the air out before sealing it. Coffee, once ground, loses its maximum flavor after about a week, even under ideal conditions.
The ideal coffee-to-water ratio for the perfect cup is?
Well, that’s up to your personal taste. A good starting point is 1 heaping tablespoon per 8 oz of coffee you want to end up with. Note – that’s coffee coming out, not water going in. Experiment with your coffee maker to determine how much liquid gets lost in the brewing process, and add more or less coffee to suit your palate. This will also vary depending on the roast and grind, so have fun experimenting!
The French Connnection
Your best bet for major flavor is an inexpensive French press (a.k.a. press pot). Just measure your ground coffee into the carafe, bring water to a boil on the stove, remove it from the heat, and let it sit for a few seconds to bring it down a few degrees. Pour it over the coffee, not letting the water level rise above the press’s metal band. Place the plunger top on the top, but don’t press it down. Wait five minutes, stir with a plastic or wooden spoon, and then press all the way down. Presto! You’ve got a great pot of coffee. If your household has varied wake-up times, keep it hot in a thermos or air pot.