The Simple Art of the Perfect CupWritten by Amanda Lecky / Photography by Steve Henke / December, 2013
In the rushed routine of daily drive-through orders, it’s too easy to forget the rich and delicious history of coffee.
When it comes to your morning coffee infusion, faster is often necessary—but in all the rush, the delicious ritual of brewing and serving coffee is sometimes lost. So take the time to savor the aroma and flavor of the world's favorite beverage by trying a new brewing style, a locally roasted, organic bean, or just by serving up your coffee in an incredibly elegant cup. You’ll find the experience is more than just good to the last drop.
Whether you’re popping in a coffee pod or taking an exotic, Turkish turn, make every coffee hour a special treat by serving yourself in style—complete with treats from the region, like Turkish delight, pictured above.
Be Your Own Barista
You know what they say: If you want it done right, do it yourself. Jose Vido, of Morningstar Coffee, shared the basics of perfecting your brew.
» Type: There are two main categories of coffee beans. Arabica beans have a more delicate, less acidic flavor than Robusta beans, and are considered superior—although Robusta beans are often favored for espresso.
» Variety: Different growing regions create different flavor profiles. For example, Ethiopian Arabica beans are less bitter than Kenyan Arabica beans. There’s no “best” variety; which one you like best will depend on your tastes.
» Freshness: Once coffee beans have been roasted, their natural oils begin to dissipate, releasing their rich flavor into the air, instead of into your cup. Find a local roaster and buy beans roasted no more than a week before your purchase. Then, grind the beans yourself, just before brewing.
» Light roast: If you like more delicate—and also more acidic—flavors, a light roast, which allows the distinct qualities of the bean to shine through, may be for you.
» Medium roast: The most popular roast for commercial coffee brands, this results in a sweeter, toastier flavor than a light roast.
» Dark roast: This style is roasted until the sugars in the bean start to caramelize, and the oils are drawn to the surface, creating a smoky flavor. This roast style often obscures the flavor of the bean itself, and is sometimes used for lesser-quality beans.
» Automatic drip: This is the style most of us are familiar with. You put ground coffee in a filter basket inside your coffee maker, fill the water reservoir, and wait while the machine does the work. The results are fast, but most coffee aficionados prefer methods that extract more flavor from the beans.
» French press: The French press is a glass or plastic cylinder fitted with a metal plunger. You put the ground coffee in the bottom of the pot, add not-quite-boiling water, let the coffee steep, and then press down the plunger. Because there’s no paper filter, more of the bean’s flavorful oils end up in the brew, producing a rich result.
» Pour-over: Using an inexpensive cone-shaped filter holder set atop a single cup, you slowly, slowly add almost-boiling water to the grounds you have spooned into the base of the cone; the water-adding process can take several minutes. But the taste, the pros say, is so smooth and rich, the extra time is worth it.
Store your freshly ground coffee inside the Friis Coffee Vault ($25); its airtight stainless-steel construction maintains freshness longer by eliminating the effects of exposure to light and air.
One popular type of pour-over coffee maker, the Chemex Classic ($34.95-$42.95) allows you to make more than one cup at a time. Choose from three-, six-, eight-, or ten-cup models.
Coffee gourmets prefer burr grinders over blade grinders, and the Baratza Precision Grinder ($229) is one of their favorite models. It offers 40 grinding settings, for precise control.
COLD-BREW TO GO
For when you just don’t have time to make it yourself, Slingshot Cold Brew ($17 for a two-pack) is hand-brewed in North Carolina, and available in both ready-to-drink and concentrate.
DIY COLD BREW
The Toddy Cold Brew System ($39.50) extracts the bitter acids that other brewing methods leave behind, for a smooth, delicious cup of iced coffee every time.