Whenever I mention that I like drinking coffee, many people say, “Oh, so do I!” Whenever I mention that I like making it at home, I’ve many times heard, “Oh, it doesn’t taste good when I make it. I get it out.” Usually at Starbucks.
Honestly, making coffee at home — regular old boring drip coffee — is really easy.
Step 1: Stop going to Starbucks.
I think Starbucks and Peets make terrible drip coffee. They over roast their beans. Many Americans confuse extreme dark roasting with good coffee. STOP THIS. You are just encouraging bad behavior. There are many types of beans and different types of roasts. There are entire books dedicated to this topic. Suffice to say: enough with the Dark French roasts. You’re killing it for the rest of us.
Starbucks and Peets are good for one thing: coffee with lots of milk and sugar in it, to the point where you can’t even tell it’s coffee. I love Starbucks Gingerbread Latte at the holidays. I always have to tell them “no whip,” because who the hell puts whipped cream on a latte? STOP THAT. And Frappucinos? If you want a milkshake, get a milkshake. It tastes better and you’re not trying to fool yourself that it’s “just” coffee.
Step 2: You need good cold water.
Coffee is only as good as the water it’s made from, because the drink is mostly water. If you don’t like drinking the water that comes out of your tap, I guess you’ll need bottled. Most Americans overestimate the badness of their tap water, however, and underestimate the badness of bottled water (which is terrifically wasteful). Unless your water is seriously hard or has a sulfur smell, it’s probably okay. Just make sure it’s cold.
Don’t use water that’s been sitting around, because water can get flat. Just get water as cold as you can.
Step 3: Use freshly roasted beans and grind them yourself.
Beans get stale just sitting around. A good rule of thumb is about two weeks — if you don’t use coffee that quickly, try to buy as small an amount as possible, and preferably from a seller who will do you the honor of stamping when the beans were roasted somewhere on the package.
You don’t want to use pre-ground beans (like Folger’s or some other supermarket bean). Because when the coffee comes in one of those big canisters, you have zero idea when they were ground (possibly during a previous Presidency). The whole reason for grinding beans is to release those yummy oils that make coffee so tasty. So when you open a canister of previously ground beans, that yummy smell coming out? Is your coffee. All that’s left is dry, tasteless coffee bean bits.
So: get beans as freshly roasted as you can, and grind them yourself. I recommend getting a dedicated coffee grinder, like the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder – Black, because you can set the size of the grind you want, and the grinder makes it perfectly. You can’t get the perfect grind in one of those spice grinders, because you’ll either under-grind (leaving coffee bean pieces too large) or over-grind (making the ground coffee too fine, which makes it more likely to slip through the filter, and therefore making the resulting coffee too strong).
Step 4: Use 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds per six-ounce cup of water.
Yes. For some reason, when calculating the perfect cup of coffee, you calculate a cup as being six fluid ounces instead of eight. It’s not like the English system makes any sense anyhow.
If you want strong coffee, make your tablespoons heaping. If you want slightly weaker coffee, make them scant. This isn’t rocket science; it’s just math.
So: in order to make enough coffee for you and your two friends (all of whom will have two cups, because your coffee is awesome), let’s say you’re going to make six cups of coffee.
Measure out 6 heaping tablespoons of ground coffee into the filter. Using a measuring cup, measure out 36 ounces of cold water.
Step 5. Use a good drip coffee maker.
I find the machines that have a cone filter (like Cuisinart or my late, lamented Krups) make better coffee than a Mr. Coffee (which uses a flat-bottomed filter — what’s that design about, anyhow? Don’t they know that the coffee is headed downwards?). But the coffee I made in the Mr. Coffee was just fine. I also prefer gold filters to paper filters, because you can reuse gold filters, and paper filters have been known to disintegrate in my hands. NOT THAT I’M BITTER ABOUT THAT.
Ta da! You now have very good coffee, made in your own home.
If you must go to Starbucks for coffee, don’t get their regular drip. It’s dreadful. Instead, get an Americano, which is espresso mixed with hot water and approximates drip coffee. (Americano = that weak stuff Americans drink.) Starbucks uses robo-espresso makers, which makes the espresso the exact same way every time. It’s a lot more tolerable than their drip.