Americans love coffee. We love black coffee, coffee with cream, coffee with cream and sugar, cappuccino, espresso, café latte, café mocha, and just about any of the café frappa-whatsits we can imagine. We love drinking it first thing in the morning, on our aptly named “coffee breaks,” and after a great meal. The coffee shops that line the main road of any well-enough populated town are a testament to this love affair with the enticing beverage. But for as much as we love our potent little “pick-me-ups,” all too many of us are terrible at making it. We expect that we can buy expensive pre-ground blends from the supermarket, dump them in an automatic drip coffee maker, and yield a cup of coffee as good or better than we’ve tasted at any of the trendy coffee chains. The truth is, brewing a delicious cup of coffee is a lot more involved than you may have thought (or hoped). There are a few key factors that lend themselves to rules that ought to be followed if good coffee is ever to be made. Here they are, in order of importance:
- Clean Your Machine: Coffee Machines heat water in something called a “boiler.” When water heats, particulates, including those you can’t see such as calcium and iron, can adhere to the interior of the boiler and in other parts of the machine. As more “scale” as it is more generally called builds inside your coffee maker, the machine becomes less efficient, and ultimately loses its ability to properly extract coffee aroma from your beans. The result? HORRIBLE coffee. The solution? Regularly de-scale your machine with a decalcification granule packet or a liquid scale remover. The difference is amazing.
- Use Filtered Water: Of course, descaling your coffee maker becomes necessary less often if you use a water source void of such minerals. This is where filtered water comes in. Not only will using filtered water (or better still, bottled water) provide a better platform from which to build your perfect cup of coffee, but it will taste better too. Many municipal water authorities use chlorine, chloramine, and other chemicals to treat their water supplies. These chemicals, while harmless to human health, make for really bad tasting water. Bad water = bad coffee.
- Heat the Water: This suggestion may come as a surprise. Many automatic drip coffee makers – you know, the machine that’s designed to do one thing and one thing only – do not heat the water to a temperature adequate for coffee flavor extraction. In fact, in order for the coffee beans to release all those wonderful oils responsible for your beverage’s flavor, the water being used must be at least 195°F (200°F is optimal). If you do use an automatic drip machine, consider running the water you intend to use through the machine once without coffee, then again with coffee. Alternatively you could simply heat the water in a kettle before use.
These are just a few suggestions on how to yield a better cup of coffee at home. There are a myriad of others, not pertaining specifically to water, such as buying locally roasted “small batch” beans, and grinding them yourself. It is our hope that these three steps can help you and your family to start enjoying better tasting coffee today.