A Beginner’s Guide to Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee

guide to perfect cup of coffee

There are so many ways to make the perfect cup of coffee at home that don’t involve brewing through the plastic cups and mystery filters that come with single-cup brewers and electric coffee pots.

After water, coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in America, so why not experiment with quality beans and the many brewing methods available? The beauty of trying different coffee brewing methods is that you get to taste your coffee, not just consume it to keep you from nodding off while you sit at your work desk. When brewed properly, a good cup of coffee is a luxury, and it should enjoy to the last drop!

First thing’s first – you need to get a good bag of coffee. If you’re considering changing the way you brew, then it’s also time to consider the type of coffee you are drinking. Ideally, you should look for a bag of beans that was honest-to-goodness roasted by a human. Any bag of coffee worth considering will have a taste profile on the bag describing the roast intensity, its country of origin (or countries if it’s a blend), and the flavor notes you might find inside your cup. Don’t skip over this crucial step – finding a bag of coffee with a taste profile that sounds appealing to you is all part of figuring out what you want to get out of your cup of coffee. It all starts with the beans!

Speaking of beans, the most critical mistake people tend to make is with how they grind their beans. In general, you want to avoid blade grinders at all cost. Blade grinders violently chop up coffee beans, leaving you with uneven grinds and inconsistent flavor. Burr grinders work by pulverizing the beans, which creates a uniform coffee grind. It really helps you brew a better cup of joe.

Next, you need to decide what brewing method works best for you. Each brewing method will yield a very different tasting cup of coffee, even if you use the same beans. In the world of coffee, there is an entire language for describing each and every step of the way to a good cup. From roasting to cupping, some cups will be “clean,” while others might be a little “dirty” (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). To get you started, here are four simple coffee brewing contraptions that can help you in your hunt for the perfect cup!

The Pour Over

pour over method - brew better coffee

The pour over method is one of the simplest methods of making a single cup of coffee using a cone-shaped ceramic dripper that sits on the rim of a coffee cup. To brew your perfect cup, start by putting a filter inside the dripper, wetting the filter (this will get rid of any papery taste or dust particles you might get from the filter) and setting the dripper on your cup. Add a scoop of fresh ground beans, pour a little hot water over the top (just enough to soak the grounds), and wait 30 seconds for it to “bloom.” This is a great way to tell if your coffee is fresh or stale. With a little water, fresh grounds will expand, almost like they’re breathing, as the gasses inside the coffee are released and replaced by water. This is when all the flavors described in your taste profile are released into your cup. If your grounds don’t bloom at all, then your coffee is likely stale or the bag it came in was not sealed properly. After the bloom, fill the dripper with water ¼ inch from the top in slow concentric circles and watch the magic happen.

The Chemex

The Chemex is very similar to the pour over method, but it removes the element of brewing on top of a cup and you can also brew more than one cup at a time. This beautiful, hourglass-shaped glass decanter comes in various sizes and also uses a paper filter. Again, you will want to wet the filter and pour out any water that dripped into the decanter to remove any dust particles and set the filter flush against the walls before brewing. Brewing is sweet simplicity – coffee and hot water goes on top (don’t forget to let that bloom happen) and delicious coffee comes out the bottom. The real beauty of the Chemex is that because it’s made of glass it can easily be washed out and used to decant any beverage you’d like to serve.

The Aeropress

The Aeropress is a sturdy and travel-friendly contraption that combines the simplicity of a French press with the pressurization of an espresso machine. Made of shatterproof plastic, the Aeropress is built to endure and uses a round filter about the size of a jar lid. The Aeropress itself is made up of two main cylinders: the first has the filter in its bottom and sits on the rim of your coffee cup. This is where you add your scoop of coffee and the hot water. After stirring for about a minute and a half, the rubber plunger of the second cylinder is fitted to the inside of the first, creating a vacuum between the plunger and the waterline. As the name suggests, you then slowly press the plunger down, effectively forcing the coffee down through the filter and into your cup. This is a very versatile contraption with many brewing methods that will yield different results. You can brew a single cup, or make your own version of espresso – so much fun in such a small package!

The French Press

The French press comes in many shapes and sizes and is very simple to use. Each press will have the same main components: a pot, and a lid with a plunger that has a filter attached. Start by putting your coffee in the pot and gently shaking the grounds so they settle on the bottom. You will want a fairly coarse grind, almost as coarse as instant coffee, to get the best taste out of this brewing method. Then, pour enough water over the grounds to allow them to bloom. Once the bloom is finished, fill the pot with water and put the lid on top with the plunger pulled all the way up. Your filter should sit just above the waterline. Let your coffee brew for 4 minutes before slowly pushing the plunger, and the grinds, all the way to the bottom of the pot. This type of coffee can taste silty because the grinds are just hanging out at the bottom of the pot, but the added texture might be exactly what you’re looking for!
The hunt for good coffee should be joyful, and experimenting with various methods of brewing is all part of trying to find the perfect cup. A great place to start is by unplugging whatever contraption you’ve been mindlessly using and playing with the many variables that go into making a balanced cup of high-quality coffee. Rest assured, there is nothing more satisfying than finding your flavour.