To some, coffee is a lifeblood. You roll out of bed in the morning and just need it. And until you get it, you’re just not the same person. It is an energy booster and even a mood enhancer, so it’s no wonder many of us can’t go a day without our regular fix.
But to a true fanatic, the only thing worse than not getting your morning brew at all is getting one that just doesn’t hit the spot. Too dull, too bitter, not strong enough — whatever the problem is, a dud cup of coffee is a real thing and a real downer some days. So how does one make their best cup of coffee every time? Is it the right beans, the right tools, or just the right amount of dumb luck?
First off, storage is always key when it comes to coffee. Bad storage for your beans (or grinds) can make the coffee stale or even allow for mold. A cool, dry, and vacuum-sealed place is always ideal, as moisture and heat can both ruin your beans before they’re even brewed.
If you grind whole beans just before brewing, it’s important to make sure you’ve ground the coffee into even-sized particles. A poor grinder will create the uneven “dust and boulders” consistency to your grinds, creating an inconsistent flavor of your batch. When using a French press, you’ll typically go for a medium to coarse grind, meaning your grounds should resemble something between a pile of sand (medium grind) to table salt (a coarse grind).
Next, before you actually get to brewing, you’ll determine the strength of your cup. In a French press, you’ll use about 1/2 cup of grounds to three cups of water. For a lighter brew, try two and a half tablespoons of ground beans with eight ounces of water, or four to six tablespoons for three cups of water. When you get serious about your cup’s strength, increase the heat of the water to increase caffeine extraction. This means bringing water to a boil then let it sit for about 30 seconds before pouring into the French press, which should bring it all to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once poured in your French press, around four minutes is considered the ideal time to let that coffee sit before being pressed.
And finally, for the true coffee fanatics, there is a debate about whether or not to break the “crust” before pressing. The crust is formed when the grounds of coffee rise to the top of the water. It’s believed that breaking this crust by stirring it gently will let the grounds settle to the bottom and allow for a deeper extraction of caffeine. However, stirring too vigorously can force too much extraction, which is what creates that dreaded bitter taste.
All this, of course, before you consider adding anything other than water to your coffee. But nonetheless, few things are going to help you start your day right as well as a good cup of coffee.