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Please help me make good coffee at home

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#31 Margaret Pilgrim

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 11:45 AM

All excellent advice above. And do do it! I am constantly boggled at the parade of half awake bobos I see each morning heading for either Starbucks or Peet's. Where do all these rich people come from? In a year, the dollars any one of them spent would buy me a ticket to Paris!
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#32 GlowingGhoul

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 12:08 PM

Grinding immediatly prior to brewing as suggested above results in a much higher quality of the finished brew than can be achieved with even high quality preground coffee. Get a grinder that allows you to set a fixed coarseness level, and use a kitchen scale so you use the same amount each time. Once you've fiddled with various grinds and amounts, you'll be able to repeat your "perfect" pot of coffee each time.

Filtered water, from something as basic as a water pitcher filter will also result in a tangible improvement.

A pourover commercial / semi-commercial coffee machine, like units made by Bunn, heat water to a temperature well below boiling, which prevents most of the unpleasent compounds from being extracted from the beans.

I'm been an avid coffee drinker for 25 years, and freshly ground coffee brewed with a Bunn A10 makes the best coffee I've had anywhere.

Unlike espresso, making an excellent cup of ordinary coffee is neither expensive nor complicated. Bunn machines are available in Australia, and I believe the A10 can be had for under $250 US.

#33 nickrey

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 02:51 PM

Given your needs, I'd do French Press as well. I'd recommend bringing water to the boil then adding a bit of cold to it to take it off the boil. Then pour water over coffee. Next stir gently to extract flavour (some do, some don't but given your preference in coffee, you will probably enjoy this better). Press, then serve. Easy, no froth, bubble, or expensive gizmos.

Edited by nickrey, 24 November 2011 - 02:52 PM.

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#34 pastameshugana

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 03:04 PM

French press is simple, but it is a different cup than a filtered cup - generally more acidic (which is good if you like it).

I have a nice hand burr grinder I got from amazon for ~$20.

I have absolutely fallen in love with the coffee from red bird coffee (redbirdcoffee.com). They only roast and ship WHEN you order, you'll get an email telling you which day it roasts/ships - and the price is killer: at 5lbs it's $10/lb - and superiorly tasty!
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#35 johnmc

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 03:09 PM

Melbourne water is fine for coffee making.

An aeropress would be perfect for what you want. $55 and it makes a beautiful long black.

See Aeropress

As has been said above freshly roasted beans are essential (maximum age from roasting 2-3 weeks, also don't buy beans which have no roasting date on them or beans from a supermarket)
Coffee starts to stale the instant it is ground. So to get good coffee in the cup the beans must be ground immediately before brewing.

The link above ( no connection to me ) has the Aeropress packaged with a Hario hand grinder for $110. This combination will make you really good coffee ( not espresso ).
There are plenty of other retailers who sell the Aeropress.

If you don't want the exercise of hand grinding in the morning, the least expensive electric grinder I can recommend is the Breville Smart Grinder.
Breville Grinder
They are sold in the big stores so with astute haggling are a bargain considering the quality of grind they give.

I'm in Melbourne and restore old coffee machines for a living. If you need any extra advice you can get me on 0416 107 253.


Edited by johnmc, 24 November 2011 - 03:10 PM.

#36 barrett

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 11:08 AM

Step 1.
A digital scale, accurate to 1g. For measuring your coffee, and your water. Use a 1:16 to 1:17 ratio.

Step 2.
A grinder.
The cheapest burr grinder will give you vastly superior results than blades. The purpose here is to get a uniform particle size, so that you get a nice even extraction. Same reason you cut potatoes into similar sized pieces before you throw them in the pot.
Electricity is awesome. Hand grinding sucks - unless you're traveling, then hand grinding is better than traipsing around the city trying to find something non-digusting to drink.

Step 3.
A brewing device.
French Press: cheap, cheerful, a PITA to clean, and the cup, while having a lot of body, is not clean - there's a lot of silt in there. I find that unappealing.
Aeropress: they're alright. I've got some Aus friends that use one of these with a mini-porlex hand grinder for traveling. The grinder fits right in the aeropress. Despite the inventors assertions, it doesn't make espresso, but it makes a decent cup.
Pourover: they're usually over extracted, due to poor technique.
Pourovers with valves in the bottom (I use Brewt) - like the above, but with a valve, so you can use a coarser grind, still get body, but have it drain in all day, and not horribly over-extract.
Drip: for the few times I actually make coffee at home, the Technivorm is pretty nice. They go for around $300 here. Pop it on, and it's quick. I get a little bit of over-extraction, but that's probably due to the cheapy grinder I've got there.
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#37 Bruce Earls

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 02:36 AM

Hi Chris,
I taught myself to make coffee I like. I won't claim it is gourmet, but it is as good to my palate as a coffee shop.

My first step was to start using a french press. The advantage to it over the cheap machines I had was that I could add really hot water, which to my understanding releases some desired flavors.

My next step was to accurately measure the coffee, water and brewing time. I haven't found a need to be accurate to the gram. I satisfy myself with measuring my water in a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup (I use 2 cups), and my coffee on a scale that measures to the .05 oz. (I use 1.75 ounces of coffee). I boil the water in the microwave, wait for it to stop bubbling, add it to the grounds in the french press and let it steep for 4 minutes, then press and pour into a cup.

If you can produce the same cup every day, then you can start to experiment with different roasts or sources of beans. You can add a grinder (I have the Cuisinart burr grinder). You can decide how you want to store your beans (I freeze mine, in part because frozen beans don't dirty the grinder near as much as room temperature ones). Once you can make a baseline consistent cup of coffee, you can modify your process to produce the cup you really love.

A couple words of caution. If you have a glass French Press, you will break it. The standard one I buy costs 40 dollars US. However, they also sell the glass replacement carafe for 20 dollars, so when you break it, don't replace the whole thing, just the glass. If you choose to grind coffee, and choose to not freeze your beans, you must clean the grinder often. I burnt one out by not cleaning it; the powder from the grinding built up so much it jammed the motor. Now I freeze my beans, and haven't had to clean the grinder in months. You have to decide if you can taste the difference, but my palate cannot.

I hope you can find a process that makes a cup you can enjoy every day.

#38 haresfur

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 02:55 AM

Can't beat filter cone, paper filter, electric kettle in my book.

Gets my vote, too. Use an espresso roast to get something resembling a flat black.
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#39 Snadra

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:06 AM

A couple words of caution. If you have a glass French Press, you will break it. The standard one I buy costs 40 dollars US. However, they also sell the glass replacement carafe for 20 dollars, so when you break it, don't replace the whole thing, just the glass.

Two years ago we gave relatives a double-walled glass French press. They dropped it on the tiles taking it out of the box. Last year we gave them a double-walled stainless press. No accidents yet, and it's only likely to get a dent anyway. On the other hand, as I pulled mine off the shelf the other day, I realised I've had it for nearly 20 years. It has survived 5 moves, including one international move, and gets used several times a week by a very clumsy Snadra.

#40 Mjx

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:19 AM

I'll add my vote for a press unit, even though my most common go-to is espresso. If you're using good beans and your water is decent, it will give you a great cup of strong black coffee (several cups, in fact).

I'm lazy as hell, but don't find cleaning it that big of a nuisance, and nothing catastrophic will happen, even if you leave cleanup of the machine for the evening, when you get home from work. If you want to brew another pot straightaway, there's no real need to dismantle the whole damn thing, either: dump, scrape, rinse, and you're good to go for another round.

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#41 emannths

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 05:43 AM

I use a french press. My "cleaning" involves rinsing the press with hot tap water daily (and rinsed again with boiling water when I preheat the thing), and soaking in boiling water with Oxiclean weekly. I could wash it with soap and water daily, but this seems to work just as well.

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet...if you're going to brew using any method other than a coffee machine, please buy a thermometer. They're cheap, useful throughout the kitchen, and important in coffee brewing since missing your target temp by 5-10F can result in lousy coffee. Good luck trying to hit 93C +/- 2C without one...

With some good beans and mediocre technique, you'll be able to at least match your local coffeehouse. With some practice and maybe a small upgrade in equipment (better grinder, scales and thermometers, etc), you'll beat their pants off.

#42 andiesenji

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 11:11 AM

I don't care for coffee made with a French press myself but I have two friends who travel extensively and take one of these small Frieling SS French presses with them on their travels.
I know they have tried many different ones over the past few years and prefer this one, the 28 ounce as that gives them exactly enough for two 12 ounce mugs.
They heat the water in a small Adagio Teas 30 ounce electric kettle.

As for me, I do have a French press but the coffee has never been a favorite with me. I much prefer coffee made in a Silex-type vacuum pot. I think the vac pots produce a superior brew.

Edited by andiesenji, 29 November 2011 - 11:14 AM.

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#43 EatNopales

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 12:16 PM

The funny thing is that my home standard is super market grade coffee brewed at home with paper filter, cheap grinder... and I can't drink coffee out because I have a hard time finding anything better.

The real secret is finding the right fineness of ground & hitting the perfect temperature range for the water (about 188 F)...

Too Coarse = Weak Coffee
Too Fine = Too Much Bitterness & Soot in the Cup

Too Cool = Weak Coffee
Too Hot = Too Much Bitterness

Control those elements, choose a decent coffee bean & everything else is pretty forgiving. I go with Cafe Pajaro from Trader Joe's... its organic, fair trade & cheap (about $6 / pound), its a moderately dark roast with good balance.

I have one of those instant hot water spouts and with a the help of a thermometer I determined that nuking the water from the water spot for an additional 35 seconds in my particular microwave gets it up to 188F pretty consistently... I grind the beans in my entry level Bodum, run through in Melita or store brand paper filter... voila great coffee every time... once you develop a flow... the whole process through clean up is really quite effortless & quick.

I like French Press coffee but the dramatic increase in cancer risk from the soot sitting in the digestive system doesn't justify the additional flavor boosting oils in the French Press coffee.

Edited by EatNopales, 29 November 2011 - 12:21 PM.

#44 djyee100

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 01:49 AM

For one or two cups of coffee in the AM, I use a manual drip maker (a Melitta) with a cone-shaped gold filter. I was told by a coffee expert that this kind of coffee is similar to that of a French press. It is, however, easier to make and easier to clean than a French press, and the gold filter is an economical buy over time. My gold filters last for years, and I clean them in the dishwasher.

I set up the pot in a pan of hot water on the stovetop to keep the coffee very hot, the way I like it. Yes, this is a low-tech way to go, and my friends have given me funny looks until they taste my coffee and like it. I do spend money on high-quality coffee, Peet's Arabian Mocha Java and Major Dickinson blends, and that makes a difference, too.

I set up this system a long time ago and haven't revisited my decision since. Way back when I tried a French press, I cracked it within three days. I was told to avoid electric drip makers because they require more water for a good extraction (in fact, the bigger the pot the better). With a manual maker, you can first soak the grounds, then pour in the rest of the water for a good brew in small amounts.

I used to grind my coffee fresh every AM in a burr grinder. I did this for years. Then one day I said the h--l with it, it's too much work first thing in the morning, and I hate the sound of that grinder when I'm half asleep. So now I use pre-ground coffee. To be honest, I'm such a zombie in the AM that anything hot, strong, and coffee-like will do it for me. You may be more discriminating. good luck with your coffee quest!

Edited by djyee100, 30 November 2011 - 01:53 AM.

#45 Mano

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 09:57 AM

  • I don't want to have to piss fart around too much in the morning--I'm prepared to downgrade from awesome coffee to very good coffee if it saves a whole lot of work. This applies to the cleaning regime, too. Having to disasseble and cleanse a Meccano kit on a regular basis isn't my idea of fun.
  • I'll be buying freshly ground coffee once or twice a week from a good, local shop (I may look into grinding my own in the future ... but baby steps).
  • I don't have a set budget in mind as, tbh, I don't know how much things cost--keep it in the double or triple figures, tho'.
  • A stove top device, while I've consumed excellent coffee made in such a thing, isn't ideal--my stove is just too angry and I'd rather not start the morning burning the ever living shit out of myself or melting a plastic handle.

Going from a whirly blade grinder to a burr mill made the biggest improvement of all the changes I made. I don't know what's available in Australia, but buy a decent mill for around $75-100 and either go French press or get a decent drip maker with auto shutoff for $30-100. Buy whole bean coffee by the pound, even from the supermarket, grind right before brewing and you'll be drinking very good stuff. There may be a learning curve figuring the right amount of coffee for water.

My setup is a $275 Technovorm (nothing automatic about it) and a $200 grinder and I'm certain I wouldn't be able to tell the difference in taste with a setup at half that cost.

FWIW, the three other people I converted to burr grinders agree with me.
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#46 ElsieD

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 05:28 PM

What make of burr grinders to people use? I'm in the market to replace my bodum blade grinder.

#47 emannths

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:53 AM

For the medium grind I use for French press, the $90 Capresso Inifinity grinder I have does a good job (coffeegeek reviews here, click on the names for more detail). It's still blown away by pro-quality machines of course, but the Capresso can be had at a fraction of the cost. When the static gets bad in the winter the grounds have a tendency to leap out of the container, so my grinder lives in a little tray to keep the mess contained. I should also note that I was very confused when I first received it because the thing wouldn't grind--the motor turned on and you could see the beans moving, but nothing came out the chute. Turns out that somehow they'd wired the motor backwards so the grinder was running in reverse! The replacement Capresso sent worked much better!

Edited by emannths, 01 December 2011 - 07:01 AM.

#48 Mjx

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:44 AM

What make of burr grinders to people use? I'm in the market to replace my bodum blade grinder.

Got my boyfriend a Mahlkönig Vario model for his birthday last spring, and it works like a dream, and is also remarkably quiet (it makes less noise than the Silvia I got him at the same time): I definitely recommend it (it was one of the models that was most frequently recommended, when I was researching burr grinders).

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#49 Dan C.

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 08:31 AM

upgrading to a burr grinder made the biggest difference in brew quality for me. I'll second the recommendation for Capresso Infinity, it's a nice entry level burr grinder that produces good results for non-espresso needs. oh and also utilizing a digital scale to ensure I get a good bean:water ratio

while I thoroughly enjoy using my Technivorm, I do love a nice pour over occasionally, the entire process is very therapeutic for me haha

Edited by Dan C., 01 December 2011 - 08:31 AM.

#50 Zachary

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:06 PM

For grinders, as long as you're not making espresso, the Solis Maestro Plus from Baratza is $150 full retail, and you may be able to find it cheaper. I've had mine for eight years, use it every day, clean it once a week, and it's never failed me once.



#51 Bruce Earls

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 09:22 PM

I go back to my Cuisinart® Supreme Grind™ Automatic Burr Mill as a recommendation on the low end of the market. Assuming you keep it clean, it does a perfectly fine job, and for only $50. Note that as I get better at making coffee, I will likely upgrade to something better (assuming there is something the others do better), but if you are really looking to minimize the initial costs of learning, you can get the french press and grinder for about 90 bucks.

#52 Snadra

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 10:02 PM

The problem for those of us down under is cost. That Cuisinart supreme grind has an RRP of $119 here. Sigh.

Chris, I am after a similar goal. Yesterday I picked up an Isomac Granmacinino that I bought off eBay for $149. I've made two pots of French press and one pourover since then and the quality difference over the Melitta ground coffee I've been using (which was passable as long as i was still getting good coffee in the city) was incredible. And that's just with the random beans i picked up from Pine Coffee. The only extra work I had to do was stand for the 30 or so seconds it took to grind the coffee. The seller told me it's basically maintenance free (as opposed to the coffee machine he also showed me). My mother uses a blade grinder, and I find it rather painful.

I don't know what your price point is, but a number of people on Coffee Snobs seem to use the breville or sunbeam as an intro machine - there are a fair few available on eBay.

So, joining the chorus based on my recent experience: For maximum return with minimum effort, you could go the pourover route with disposable filters (easy to deal with), and fresh ground coffee. Especially if you're only after 1 cup in the morning. I have a Melita pourover cup, and buy the Harris Coffee filters from Woolies - works great for a quick morning cup and is nearly as quick as instant.

#53 barrett

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:38 PM

Questions of temperature have come up here a few times, and I'd like to address those.
If you're doing a press, pour over or similar, take a fresh brewed kettle and go for it. Even after preheating everything, there is substantial heat loss, that will get you down to that 200F/93C mark. Remember too that the coffee isn't preheated, so no matter how much you preheat, you've got coffee that's going to suck heat out of the water.

If you're doing a pour over, and pulse-pouring, little bits at a time, awesome. That's good technique. Much better than dumping all the water in and developing a 'high and dry' problem. When you're doing this though, the water will cool a lot, so it's best to pop it back on the heat. We use an induction heater to keep it right hot. Remember most pour overs don't have a lid, so you're losing a lot of heat through the top of the thing.

If you're in a testing mood and want to replicate, we did all our testing with a Fluke thermometer, and a bead thermometer in the coffee slurry.
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#54 Zachary

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 05:42 PM


I would *love* to see a graph of ground coffee mass vs. delta Temperature if you have one lying around.



#55 barrett

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:53 PM

I've graphed nothing. Being as the ratio of coffee to water is constant, I don't see the value in it: it's going to be a straight line. We just work on how hot we need to start to get the desired result (200ish/93ish.)
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#56 Zachary

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 09:52 PM


Sorry if I wasn't clear. The ground coffee sucks some of the heat out of the water as it hits the grounds. So starting with 202 water in the kettle might mean 198 if you have 42 grams of coffee in the V60. Is there data that says a mass of coffee X changes the temperature of the water Y degrees for many common values of X?



#57 barrett

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Posted 15 December 2011 - 04:18 PM

Well, it's not that easy, because you're also losing heat through steam, the ceramic being heated (even if it's preheated, which it should be) We count on losing 10 degrees.
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#58 Gregg

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 07:11 PM

We have a blade grinder and a daughter getting married in June so a burr grinder is quite a ways down the list right now. We have a local roaster who is not the absolute best I've ever run across, but is doing a nice job. They have a commercial burr grinder there and will grind for me. It's kind of interesting because I think you get just a little sample of whatever they person before you had mixed in, but it doesn't seem to bother anyone. I get about a week's worth at a time so it doesn't seem to break down very much. It does come in a bag with a one way seal. I do keep it in the butter compartment of the fridge. After reading some of the advice here I may switch that to a dark, cool cabinet to see if we can tell the difference.

At home we just use a standard Mr. Coffee drip machine. The water comes through the filter in our fridge. I do take the time to heat water for coffee in a tea kettle every day. Once it steams good (but not quite boils) I pour a little over the grounds to bloom them. The rest of the hot water goes into the reservoir. On a non-rush day I will wait about a minute for the grounds to bloom then just turn it on, most days it just goes on. The Mr. Coffee has a thermal carafe, which is great. It's not an absolutely perfect world solution, but is economical, simple and does make darn good coffee.

#59 Jane Randahl

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 11:49 PM

I am actually thinking of doing the same thing so I have been doing a bit of research myself. There is definitely an art to making coffee, but luckily most of the work has already been done for us.

I'm assuming that you are used to high quality coffee so will not be opting for your Foldgers of the world, but there are a variety of online sources available as well as some useful tips above.

As far as the coffee maker goes I would opt for something in the 30-70 range as there are a variety of models that don't require a water pot and can ration out exactly a cup. This might help to get your percentages right.

I've been told to simply buy beans at the store and grind them yourself as it is much cheaper than buying pre-ground beans. Or of course you could invest in your own grinder also as listed above.

If you find this to be taxing there are some machines out there that cost a pretty penny and pretty much do all the work for you. This may seem expensive but considering how much you likely spent on coffee outside the home, it could be paying for itself in no time.

#60 abooja

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 08:39 AM

I can't seem to make a decent cup of coffee to save my life.

Some background: I am by no means a connoisseur. In the past, I drank a lot of Starbucks mocha, primarily to disguise the flavor of their coffee. When I couldn't brew a decent cup at home, I bought a Technivorm Moccamaster. When that still didn't work, I resorted to Folger's Singles with hot cocoa mixed in. I then switched to tea. :blush:

Recently, I had what I thought to be a great cup of coffee at my brother's house. He grinds his own, but brews a blend of Eight O'Clock and Kona style coffee from Costco.

So, I dedicated the old blade grinder to grinding nuts (there's another for spices), and purchased a Capresso Infinity burr grinder. I ordered some green beans from Sweet Maria's, and a recommended popcorn popper from Amazon. While waiting for the beans to arrive, I'm experimenting with different supermarket coffees, coffee-to-water ratios, and methods of optimizing the Technivorm. I'm grinding immediately prior to brewing. I bought what I believed to be the most recently roasted beans from Wegmans, their "Single Origin Organic Guatemalan", which claims to be a medium roast, with medium body and full flavor. No matter how much or how little coffee I use, I hate it. It's either too strong/bitter, or strong and insipid at the same time. I haven't even used the popcorn popper yet, and I'm already looking to buy a heat gun and try that method of roasting instead.

All this for a decent cup of coffee, that my culinarily challenged sister-in-law can crank out in her Mr. Coffee without a second thought. What am I doing wrong?