Brew a Better Cup of Coffee... Part 1

By: Ken Nye

There's nothing like holding a warm cup of coffee in the morning. The heat against your hands and sweet smell rising from your mug come together like an auspicious sign of good things to come. But once the coffee hits your lips, it's all about the flavor. While some prefer their coffee bold and others might favor something more subtle, everyone wants the most flavor from their bean.

Brewing good coffee is an art. In my ten years as owner and operator of three popular New York City coffee shops, I've learned a good deal about how to consistently brew a great cup of coffee. From the beans you choose to the filters you use, almost everything affects the flavor. Let me share with you some insider advice and helpful tips, and you'll be brewing better coffee in no time.

The fresher the coffee, the better the taste.

It might seem like obvious advice, but so many coffee drinkers are brewing their morning joe from old beans. Coffee is at its best when brewed within two weeks of its roast date, so don't be fooled by rumored preservation methods. Fresh-roasted beans are loaded with oils and moisture that make up their true flavor profile. Your coffee just won't brew to its full potential if they've been stripped away or gone stale. Coffee stored in the fridge, freezer, or for extended periods of time can absorb odors and other unwanted flavors that compromise the taste of your brew. To preserve all the essential flavors in your coffee and keep it tasting fresh, store your beans whole, in an airtight container at room temperature.

Drop the drip.

Having control over the brew process is what will really set your coffee apart from the stuff the novices are making. A coffeemaker that puts you in charge of critical details like water temp and steep time will set you up for success. The simple truth is most standard electric drip brewers just aren't capable of achieving the 200°F necessary to optimally brew coffee.

Consider a couple of alternates: A French Press uses an infusion method to brew, which means you heat the water, then steep the coffee grounds in the press to a darkness point you're happy with. You control the strength of the brew through the steep time, and because there's no filter, none of those essential bean oils get withheld from the brew. French presses come in all manner of size, price, and are easy to clean.

Another good option is a Chemex-brand coffeemaker. It's known as a pour-over method, because you pour heated water over coffee grounds held within the hourglass-shaped glass carafe. The brewed coffee drips through like a standard drip method, but allows control over water temp, much like the French Press. The Chemex is a more expensive option and takes a little practice to perfect, but will leave you with a rich and delicious cup of coffee.

If you're serious about good coffee, get a coffeemaker that puts you in charge.

Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso, is one of New York City’s most prominent coffee people. Since opening his specialty coffee store in 2001, it has expanded to three separate locations and become a mainstay for coffee purists. Ken believes in elevating the standards of coffee, while shedding it’s often snobby reputation.

Coffee and cookies, what could be better? Make sure to check out 12 Days of Cookies.

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