1. Buy freshly roasted coffee beans.
Inferior beans will lead to inferior coffee. So, how do you define inferior beans? One way is to look at their roast date. Buy only freshly roasted beans and use them, ideally, within two weeks of the roast date, three weeks at the latest. Otherwise, oxygen will degrade the beans, affecting their flavours.
Be suspicious of packaging with "use by" dates that promise fresh beans six months down the road. These bags and canisters are probably nitrogen-flushed, which will indeed extend the shelf life of beans.
But once you open the package, you will probably have to brew those beans fast. Really fast. Once open, the beans are thought to degrade quickly. Another thing: Never buy pre-ground beans. Ever.
2. Use filtered water.
Water quality is paramount to a good cup. You could use tap water. Then again, you could use tomato sauce as a pizza sauce.
But in both cases, the tap water and the tomato sauce will contain elements/ingredients that you don't want in the final product. With tap water, it can include chlorine and minerals that will affect the taste of your coffee. You could use bottled water instead of tap, but that would be expensive, not to mention ecologically irresponsible.
I recommend buying a water filtration pitcher, which filters out many of the chemicals that degrade municipal tap water without removing the magnesium that helps with coffee extraction - as well as some replacement filters. A filtration pitcher is the most cost-effective method to ensure you have the water quality necessary to produce a great cup of coffee.
3. Measure to get the ratio close.
A scale basically does one thing: It helps a barista dial in the proper ratio of beans to water, which can vary from coffee to coffee. But generally speaking, the ratio is 16:1 when brewing coffee. That is,16 parts water to one part ground coffee beans.
Basically you will need 4 tablespoons of beans to produce one well-extracted cup of coffee. This shortcut is terribly imperfect, but for those who don't want to weigh their beans, it'll suffice. In some cases, you'll probably have more beans than necessary and, in other cases, less. But you'll be in the ballpark.
As for water, you'll need 1 1/2 cups - plus a little more to compensate for the loss in liquid while heating.
4. Use the right kind of grinder.
You do need something better than a cheap blade grinder, which butchers your beans and leaves you with grounds of varying sizes. That, in turn, leaves you with poorly extracted coffee.
A hand grinder does a terrific job with a minimal amount of work. Make sure to adjust the grinder to a coarse setting before you crank out the grounds.
5. Try this foolproof brewing device.
There must be 101 methods for brewing coffee. Some require more practice and patience than others.
Then there's the Clever dripper, which is a cross between a French press and a pour-over dripper. It takes no skill to prepare coffee on this device. The process is ridiculously easy:
- Bring your kettle, filled with the pre-measured amount of water, to a boil. Pull it off the heat and let it sit about 30 to 45 seconds; the temperature should be in the ideal range, between 90 to 96 degrees, depending on your kettle and how well it retains heats.
- Place a No. 4 size paper filter in the dripper. Add your 4 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee into the filter.
- Pour your 1 1/2 cups of hot water over the grounds and lightly stir the mixture.
- Cover the dripper with the plastic lid and let it sit for 4 minutes. Place the dripper atop your favourite coffee cup and the Clever will automatically release the liquid into your cup.
You can have a good coffee in your hands in about 15 minutes, depending on how fast your water boils.