How do you brew that perfect cup of coffee? you ask, after taking your first sip. And I try to act flattered, like no one’s ever asked me that. Like I haven’t researched it for hours. And I begin to tell you about MIT chemistry professor E. E. Lockhart and his Coffee Brewing Control Chart, and soon I am full into my dissertation on How To Brew The Perfect Cup.
There are three factors: the freshness of the beans, the purity of the water, and the ratio of the two.
First, there are the beans. Make sure those beauties are fresh, whole, and of top quality. Fair Trade Organic is a fine. But where the roaster knows the farmer, even better. Check the ‘roasted on’ date, and make sure you aren’t more than two weeks out.
Next, the purity of the water. Don’t use tap, especially Jersey tap, unless you like the taste of metal in your mouth. You’ve got to purify it. The purer it is, the better your coffee will taste. Fill up your stainless steel kettle and set that water to boil.
Next, the ratios. They say the Golden Ratio is 17.42 units of water to 1 unit of coffee. And here your face glosses over for a minute, and I almost lose you. But then I say, Don’t worry, I’ve simplified it. Use two grams of coffee for every finished ounce of water you’re looking to have drip into that cup. I prefer to use a kitchen scale for accuracy and consistency. But, if you don’t have one, it’s safe to assume a tablespoon of beans is about 6 grams. So, for an 8 oz cup, use 16 grams of beans. And you nod your head in understanding.
But then you ask, Is this before or after you grind those beans? And I say, It doesn’t matter. We’re measuring by weight, not volume. Then you pause for a moment, letting the mathematical weight of it sink in. Then I say, Besides, you don’t want those beans pre-ground. As soon as you grind them, they starts to lose freshness.
But can’t I freeze my grounds to keep them fresh? you ask. And I shudder at the thought of it, then regain control. There’s no need, I say, if you use them up within a week. Then we continue.
Measure those beans on the kitchen scale, then pour them into the hand-grinder. That’s right, I said a hand-grinder. You can use one of those electric grinders with the airplane engine for a motor, but you’ll obliterate most of them into a fine espresso dust. Inconsistently ground beans make for inconsistent flavor. Remember that.
Now turn the handle round and round. Stay here for a moment. Get into the rhythm of it. Be present.
At around the 150th turn, the water will be on the verge of boiling. Take the kettle off the burner. The ideal temperature is 200 degrees. Anything more will over-extract the flavor. We don’t want to burn those beauties.
Next, preheat your mug. Then, place your paper filter (unbleached) into your ceramic cone. I have a plastic one, you say. Is that okay? And I say, If you like the taste of plastic, go ahead. And you scrunch your lips in distaste. Now, pour those grounds into the paper filter and dump the hot water out of your mug. Place the cone on the mug and the mug on scale, and tare the weight to bring it to zero.
Pour about one ounce of water over those grounds. You want to soak them through. Now be patient. Watch the steam rise, and the oils mix and swirl, changing color into a milky-gold. The grounds will bubble up, then deflate. Don’t miss this moment. This is where you continue your pour. Pour slowly. Two, three, four ounces. As much as can fit into that cone, and as space allows, pour the rest.
Once all is through, remove the cone, compost the grounds and filter, and pick up that mug. You can use cream but you don’t need it. And for the love of your taste buds don’t use sugar. Sit down in your favorite chair with a book, or with your spouse by the window, taking in the morning sun. The perfect cup. The perfect way to start your day.