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Best way to make coffee (not espresso)


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What is the best way to make a good cup of coffee with a drip process? I am not talking espresso (I love it out--but I am not about invest the time and effort, or the money to buy excellent equipment, to make it at home!) but good american-style coffee. And I know about buying fresh-roasted beans in small quantities, keeping everything clean, and measuring pretty carefully. I have been grinding my fresh-roasted coffee beans very finely, using the finest grind on a classic Braun grinder for 20+ years. (I have gone through several of those grinders over the years and the current one is dying.) We have always "measured" the coffee by using the timer scale on the starting knob and have always measured the (filtered) water to our tastes. And I make the coffee in a Braun coffee maker using Melitta filters. We are about to replace the grinder with another or a similar non-commercial machine for the home. Such as Bodum, Solis or the like.

With this in mind, what is the best way to grind the coffee beans to get the best taste? As finely as possible? That would get more cups out of a given quantity of beans. Or a little more coarsely? Maybe the coffee would be better?

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If you're going to stick with the drip method, you're going to operate within a series of limitations that, some would argue, prevent you from making excellent coffee no matter what. Drip coffee makers are intrinsically flawed in terms of the way they run a large amount of water through the same grounds -- I've actually heard some coffee geek types say that the best move with a drip is to stop the brewing half way through and only drink that part.

In any event, it sounds as though you're doing the right things on most major fronts. The areas where you might be able to eke out a bit of improvement are 1) you might prefer the results from a permanent gold filter; 2) you might benefit from roasting your own beans; and 3) you might do better with a better grinder. I'm not sure exactly what type of grinder you're saying you have, but I'd definitely recommend a Solis Maestro for your next one. Conical burr grinders are superior because of the evenness of their grind. There's no guesswork in terms of how fine you need to go, because the grind isn't based on time -- it's based on the way the burr is set, so you just set the dial to the correct grind for a particular method (or you go one or two steps finer or coarser, depending on your preference).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In my opinion, the best way to make regular coffee is also one of the simplest: the French press. It requires minimal equipment (press, kettle, grinder) and doesn't cost a fortune.

The main problem with most drip coffee pots is that they don't get the water hot enough to properly extract enough of the aromatic compounds from the coffee. The manufacturers, wary of lawsuits, have made sure that the coffee isn't lap-scalding. Unfortunately, it results in a less-than-stellar cup.

If you use a press pot, make sure that the water is just "off the boil". Pour it over the coarsely ground coffee (2 tbs/cup) and stir it up. Don't grind the coffee too finely or it will result in sludge and bitterness.

Let it steep for 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, push down the plunger slowly.

Pour your cup and enjoy!

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If you're not going to go with the French Press, the Melitta 1 cup drip makers are really quite good, but don't have a heater with them. YOu need to use a tea kettle with them.

However, I have been using them with fresh roasted coffee for well-nigh 4 years. Superb coffee. All I need now is a good grinder so my french press can be broken out again.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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The manufacturers, wary of lawsuits, have made sure that the coffee isn't lap-scalding.  Unfortunately, it results in a less-than-stellar cup.

I don't know if it has anything to do with lawsuits -- drip coffee makers have been underpowered since long before the McDonald's incident. And there are some dual element models that do achieve sufficient power to get the water into the desirable temperature range. But in the end you're still making coffee by dripping water through the grounds, which is a lame way of extracting their flavor. I agree that the press pot is the way to go, but some people just don't like press pot coffee -- and no matter what you do it will be cloudy compared to drip. A lot of the serious coffee people say the vacuum system (I forget the technical term for it) is the best way of brewing coffee without getting into high-pressure methods. One of those will probably be my next acquisition.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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A lot of the serious coffee people say the vacuum system (I forget the technical term for it) is the best way of brewing coffee without getting into high-pressure methods. One of those will probably be my next acquisition.

They're called vacuum brewers or vac pots. Very cool way to brew.

I have seen ads for a number of electric moka makers recently. Could be an interesting alternative to an inherrently crappy drip machine or an expensive espresso machine.

--

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We don't all like french press coffee - I know I don't csare for it as much as good drip coffee. the ideal temp range for brewing coffee is just off the boil - between 205 and 210 degrees. Most auto drip makers, even some very expensive ones, either don't brew hot enough (in some case they miss by a wide margin) or they taqke too long to complete the brewing process (or both). Some suggest brewing two separate four pot cups to maintain best quality, others choose the best compromise in a full size drip machine (IIRC there are Bunn, Technivorm and Capresso machines that do fairly well at both). You could get the Kitchen Aid four cup model at about $50 - it's suppposed to hit the mark on all counts.

I use a teapot and a Melitta cone. Just off the boil water is poured in to infuse the grounds.... alow it to drip through and then add the remaining water in two pours. I brew directly into a preheated thermal carafe and my results are great. The gold mesh filters (available in flat bottom or melitta shape) allow more essential oils to get through the way that the French Press pots do. The robustness this adds is appealing to many bubt there is often a bit of sludge in the bottom of the cup. If using a thermal French press such as jason mentioned, please note that the coffee keeps brewing to some extent, even after you've pressed the plunger. Best bet is to pour into thermal carafe after plunging if making more than a few cups.

Unbleached brown paper filters are considered better than white - less residual taste - pour in abit of hot tap water and then pour it off before adding coffee if you want to truly minimize the possible negative results that some say result from paper filters.

The Solis Maestro is a good burr grinder - it was genrally widely sold at $129 but now that the new Maestro Plus is available, the original Maestro can be found for $90 - $100 if you shop around. Shortcoming is that many have reported that heavy use (e.g. grinding enough coffee for a pot every day and two per day on weekends) can lead to significant wear of the burrs. Result will be some inconsistency in grind size after the first couple years. If inconsistency in grind size is not an issue (it definitely is with French Press and with mesh filters).... might just as well stick to $20 blade grinder).

If you don't need to grind for espresso (Maestro is the cheapest burr grinder on the market that grinds well enough for real espresso production).... look into the KitchenAid burr grinder. It's built like a tank with an old-school look and I'm told they last forever (that's a long time). Couldn't seem to find it at Amazon but I could swear that they were selling them a few months back. Here's a website that has the

KitchenAid burr grinder

at $129.95 - the going rate for a "sale" price wherever you choose to get it.

Fat Guy made another excellent point (as usual!): freshness of the coffee should come before all else or your efforts are for naught. Find a reliable microroaster locally who sells beans the day or day after they're roasted. keep no more than a 7 day supply on hand, store in an airtight container until ready to grind and use and keep in a dark place at room temp if possible (or at least don't fill the hopper all the way) . Home roasting is even better but not convenient for some (but not too difficult). If you have no reliable local microroaster, find one who ships - I can suggest several.

Edited by phaelon56 (log)
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Try a little test to see how good a job your drip coffee maker does. Bring a pot of water to a boil, take the filter basket and filter from your coffee maker and load it with your usual amount of coffee grinds, take the water off the boil for 15 seconds or so and then hold the basket over the coffee pot and pour the water slowly onto the grinds. I suspect you'll find that coffee to be much better than what your drip maker produces. You can buy manual drip filter holders for $5 or so, or go to a vac-pot or french press. I personally prefer a vac pot for my coffee, but I also have a french press that gets used from time to time.

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I went with the Yama several years ago and haven't been disappointed. I also bought the Bodum Santos lamp kit for it. The advantage of the vacuum method is (at least as I understand it) the temperature of the water. You can't get it too hot and over-extract. I roast my own beans so have a modicum of control over the finished product.

--------------

Bob Bowen

aka Huevos del Toro

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I'd like to recommend a easy method for those who wish to make superior drip coffee at home. I use a Melita # 6 Cone, with Carafe for preparing upto 4 cups of drip brew. Use the Brown Cones, put into your cone after rinsing with cold water. After setting into the cone, wait until your water has come to a boil, then moisten the cone/filter combination with water and full with the amount of coffee, ground to your taste. By that time the water should be at the correct temperature for your drip brewing [200/205 degrees]. Pour the water over the grounds in a circular motion around the edge of the filter slowly. Keep pouring until the water cover the grounds and bubbles to the surface. wait several seconds, then continue pouring very slow, in the same circular motion. Slow down if the filter seems to full, but if pouring slow enough for only 4 cups this should only occur rarely. Most of the time you should be able to do this whole process in just several minutes. The # 6 filter is ample size to expedite making four cups quickly as its the largest size capable of making up to 8 cups, but that much volume, with grounds loses the superior taste, that only making 4 cups with one slow drip produces. I find this method to be the least expensive most consistant coofee making method available. Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Here's a website that has the KitchenAid burr grinder at $129.95 - the going rate for a "sale" price wherever you choose to get it.

It's available on eBay for a starting bid of $124.95 + free shipping to the lower 48. If you live near a Younkers, they're running their Goodwill coupon sale through Sept. 21 (a clothing donation => 10% off kitchen electrics => $116.95 for the grinder).

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I use wesza's technique but with a single cup handheld plastic drip cone. (great for travelling)

When pouring the water, I just pour a little- wait for the bubbles to burst, then keep on pouring til the cup is half-full, then I add water which has been returned to a boil while the drip was going on. In this manner, I get a semblance of a cafe Americano, ie. still with a stronger flavor (but less caffeine) than straight drip.

And when I ran out of paper cones- guess what works as well? A good old paper towel, twisted as a cone (don't double it).

"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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Coincidentally, my 12 year old Braun drip coffee maker just gave up the ghost. I was thinking of replacing it with a Bodum Santos (electric version) vacuum brewer. Any comments on this particular model?

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Coincidentally, my 12 year old Braun drip coffee maker just gave up the ghost.  I was thinking of replacing it with a Bodum Santos (electric version) vacuum brewer.  Any comments on this particular model?

Thats what I use every morning to make my coffee, I've got one small gripe with it - you can't brew less than 4 cups at a time or it will double brew your coffee and the end result will taste like crap. As long as you put in enough water and properly put it together it makes great coffee with little or no effort. I would recommend that you pre-soak the grinds with a spray bottle before turning it on as the coffee tends to float otherwise. You can also adjust the brew time by sliding a dime or a quarter under the base at the back to increase the amount of time the coffee is in contact with the grinds, a dime or a quarter under the front lip will do the opposite.

It's also remarkably easy to clean.

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