Fundamentally Great Coffee

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We’ve been talking about coffee this week—from budget-saving tips to knowing your organic beans to tasting terminology. Today, we’ll cover how to make a really good cup of coffee.


“The starting point for making great coffee at home is to consider it a form of cooking, with a precise recipe and measurements,” says Nicole Soley, a coffee education specialist for Starbucks. “There are four fundamentals to coffee-brewing that ensure a great cup of coffee every time.”


Use the right proportion of coffee to water. This is the most important step.

For the most flavorful cup of coffee, Soley recommends 2 tablespoons of ground coffee (10 grams) for each 6 fluid ounces (180 milliliters) of water. If this is too strong for you, add a little hot water to your cup of brewed coffee.


Different brewing methods require specific grinds. The shorter the brewing process, the finer the grind.

The time coffee and water spend together affects flavor elements, and your coffeemaker’s design dictates how long they sit in direct contact during the brewing process.

“Coffee ground for an espresso machine should be very fine because the brew cycle is less than 30 seconds,” Soley says. “For a coffee press, the coffee should be coarse-ground because the water and coffee are in direct contact for about 4 minutes.”


A cup of coffee is 98% water, so the water you use should taste clean, fresh and free of impurities.

Water heated to just off the boil (195° F–205° F) is perfect for extracting the coffee’s full range of flavors. Any cooler and the water can’t adequately do the job.

Automatic coffeemakers heat the water for you. Make sure the one you use gets the water hot enough.


Use freshly ground coffee.

“Think of coffee as fresh produce,” Soley says. “Buy only the amount that you can consume in a week so that your coffee is always at its peak of freshness.”

Coffee’s enemies are oxygen, light, heat and moisture. To keep coffee fresh, store it in an opaque, airtight container at room temperature. Storing coffee in the refrigerator or freezer for daily use can damage it, as warm, moist air condenses to the beans whenever the container is opened. For the best results, coffee should be ground just before brewing.

After brewing, coffee should always be stored in a thermal carafe. Coffee that is left on a burner can taste burnt and bitter after only 20 minutes.

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