Note: I originally published this in 2004, but since it was orphaned at the old site, I figured I should bring it here.
I’ve been to your home or apartment. We’ve broken bread, drank some wine or beer, had a few laughs and a good time. Its getting late, and some caffeine would be good for the ride home.
Here’s the problem: Your coffee sucks. That’s right, I said it: You do not know how to brew a good cup of Joe.
You suffer (actually, I’m the one who suffers) from one of four likely problems. Lucky for you, opinionated bastards like me are here on the ‘net to give you good advice you didn’t even know you needed:
1) You Use Crappy Coffee. Forget instant, that’s not even under consideration. Store bought, no name, canned ground coffee is at its best, mediocre. If you buy a good French Roast, and use 5 to 6 heaping scoopfuls (not spoonfuls, but those little plastic scoopers), you get a halfway decent brew.
But most people don’t. They buy whatever lame ass coffee is on sale that week, and then they use miserly portions. Bleeeccch.
2) Your Coffeemaker Sucks
That’s right, its a piece of shit: It brews too fast, and it doesn’t make the coffee hot enough.
A good brewer will slowly let the water drip into the basket, allowing the natural oils, flavor and aroma of the beans to come out. Ahhhhh, can you smell that? Hmmmmm.
Ideally, your brewer will use fresh filtered water, crank up the heat, and then have the warmer turn off quickly — otherwise, it will burn the brew.
By the way, when was the last time you cleaned that stanky coffeemaker of yours? You can buy commercial products, or just run a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Clean it every six months or so.
3) Your Coffee Was Ground Ages Ago
Forget the stuff in the can — that was factory ground in 1994. I’m talking to the people who buy beans, ground them up immediately, and then put them in a jar in the fridge for months. That starts the gradual loss of flavor and aroma immediately. (Why even buy beans?)
You want beans, and you want them ground as close to the brewing process as possible.
4) Your Tap Water is Nasty
Depending upon where you live, your tap water ranges from tasty to industrial run off to chemical contaminants to carcinogenic.
Cancer flavored coffee tends to taste bad.
OK now you know why your coffee sucks. Let’s resolve each of these issues for you poor shlumps who up until know, did not know any better (but now ya do):
1) BUY GOOD COFFEE
There, that wasn’t too hard to figure out, was it? It doesn’t have to be expensive, just good.
My favorite coffee supplier is Porto Rico Importing; They have excellent coffee, and its about 1/2 to a 1/3 of what Starbucks charges. Here’s their contact info:
201 Bleecker St.
New York, N.Y. 10012
If you are tight with the moolah, then you can stock up during their twice yearly sales: Going on in the Springtime sale (April 15-30); They run a fall sale (for Peter’s birthday) in October.
Try the Danish Blend (1/2 Mocha & Java, 1/2 French Mocha), or Peter’s Blend (1/3 French Mocha, 1/3 Colombian Supremo, 1/3 Venezuelan Tachira). Both are on sale for $3.99/lb this week.
I’m sure there are plenty of other good roasters in your region. Outside of NYC, the Fairway on Long Island has their own roaster — also good coffee at reasonable prices.
Hunt around a bit, you’ll find something.
2) Get a Kickass Coffeemaker
My old machine is the Capresso CoffeeTeam Luxe 10-Cup Electronic Coffeemaker with Conical Burr Grinder. It cost me about 2 beans (I never see it go on sale). Its a great balance between performance and cost. The next step up beyond it are $600 to a few grand (see pictures at bottom). That’s a lot of wood, Jerry.
For half the price of my machine — about $100 — there’s a decent looking Cuisnart. It comes in Black or White; You can spend $150 for the Chrome machine, but at that point, you are better off spending the extra 50 clams for the Capresso. I’ve never used this Cuisinart machine (but I have used their previous model grind and brew). Please post any comments on this if you have first hand experience (There’s a wide range of opinions at epinions).
Way back when, Toshiba made a grind and brew called “My Cafe” — and it was terrific. They still pop up on eBay, and in used appliance stores from time to time. Nice symmetrical design, too. There was a cottage industry repairing them. If you see one, grab it.
3) Grind Your Coffee Fresh
The ‘grind and brew’ machines resolve this issue. If you don’t want to go that route, than buy a small burr or blade grinder. As close as possible to the actual brewing, freshly grind the coffee beans. (Hmmmm, smell the aroma).
If you grind them at night for the morning’s coffee, that’s acceptable. Anything longer than that loses too much flavor.
4) Use Fresh Filtered Water
You have plenty of options: Some people buy the large 5 gallon jugs of bottled Deer Park water, or, you can buy the 2 gallon refrigerator size. Others use a separate filter (i.e., Brita) — its a pain, but better than tap water.
We installed a Moen carbon filtration system right into our kitchen sink; Most brand name kitchen hardware companies — Moen, American Standard, etc. — offer this as a modestly priced option. If you are remodelling your kitchen, this is a MUST DO option. If not, it is merely highly advised.
Yes, I’m being a bit on the picayune side here? Yes, but that’s the price for really good java.
I’ve been meaning to get this post up for sometime. Now go make me a good cup of coffee. I’ll be right here waiting . . .
UPDATE October 29, 2006 7:53 am
I originally posted this here over 2 years ago. This week, I received as a birthday gift the latest Capresso Design — and its awesome: The Capresso 455.05 CoffeeTEAM Therm Stainless Coffeemaker/Burr Grinder Combination
Yeah, its $300 — but its the best machine I’ve come across that’s under 4 figures.
P.S.You probably don’t want to spend this type of wood, but consider what you get if you spend 10X as much, you can get the $3,000 Magic Saeco.
Now that’s a nice looking machine . . .
Graphic courtesy of New York Times