My Coffee Obsession: Tips for Brewing a Good Cuppa Java

The other day I was watching a show on the Korean channel about a café that produces the perfect cup of coffee—one so perfect that it could only be drunk black. (I only wish I took down the name of the café so I could go visit it when I go to Korea.) It was very hard to imagine, especially for me who tends like her coffee “Boston” (i.e., sweet and creamy).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not like those people who automatically salt their food without tasting. When I go out and order coffee, I take the first sip black, and then decide if I need to doctor it, which is more often than not. The restaurant coffees tend to be too bitter/strong or “industrial tasting” for me, but when the coffee’s just right, I’m in heaven.

Although I have gourmet sensibilities/tend to be a food snob, I do have my moments of weakness. For instance, I like using vanilla-flavored creamer for my coffee instead of regular cream and sugar. Although I enjoy freshly brewed coffee, I can still drink hours old or days-old coffee with ice and my vanilla creamer (my version of ice coffee). I don’t much care for flavored coffee like hazelnut or cinnamon bun, but there’s always room for chocolate. Sometimes I am able to salvage an awful cup of coffee by adding some hot chocolate mix to it. (I come from the school of waste-not-want-not, which I’m trying to get myself out of. I need to keep reminding myself that it is OK to throw something out if I don’t like it.)

Here are somethings I learned while trying to brew the perfect cup (a lot of the tips are common sense, but some are not):

1) After the coffee is finished brewing via automatic drip, remove the filter/grounds immediately to make sure any residual oils/drippings don’t contaminate the pot of coffee. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to “pull out” before the absolutely last drops are forced through. (Be careful not to burn yourself though)

2) Don’t let the coffee sit too long on the burner; you can usually tell if the coffee has been sitting awhile if there aren’t any bubbles on the surface when you’re pouring a cup, or if when adding creamer, the color doesn’t change much.

3) Use only fresh filtered water. You’ll also find that you won’t have to demineralize the coffeemaker with vinegar (or at least not as often) when you use filtered water.

4) Grind the beans just before you make the coffee. Pregrinding even just the night before affects the taste of coffee.

5) You can usually tell if the beans have been overly roasted/scorched by their smell. If the coffee doesn’t smell good before brewing, it won’t taste any better after.

6) Be extremely careful when storing coffee in the freezer. It can still lose flavor or become victim to freezer-burn. When using coffee that has been stored in the freezer, be sure to let it acclimate to room temperature before brewing. (The oils need to redistribute themselves.)

Any more tips? Feel free to share…

I take pride in being able to brew a good cup of coffee for the hard-to-please Korean mamas in my life. It all has to do with figuring out the perfect coffee grounds to water ratio (which depends on the type of roast you’re using and the person you’re serving it to). It’s also important to know her sweet spot (if she’s more about creamy vs. sweet, or if she likes dark vs. delicate). But honestly, it’s not too hard to please a K-mama who’s used to drinking freeze-dried coffee plus powdered cream most of her life. Sometimes just the fact that someone is fussing over her puts her in a good mood.


2 thoughts on “My Coffee Obsession: Tips for Brewing a Good Cuppa Java

  1. Dan puts a hefty teaspoon (or so!) of Ghiradelli’s Sweet Ground Chocolate in the mug before adding his coffee. Thought you might like to try that.

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