How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Published Sunday, September 6th, 2015

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

“My name is Gidget Fraser and I’m a coffee addict…”
…is what I would say if people like me needed support groups.  Fortunately we don’t because coffee is wonderful and there’s almost no downside to it.  In some “extreme health” circles coffee has been vilified because it does contain trace amounts of certain natural chemicals, but honestly all reputable scientific studies have consistently revealed that coffee isn’t just great, its better than we thought.  Coffee really is a health food.  In addition to being a coffee addict, I’m also an admitted coffee geek.  For those of you who may not be familiar with the subculture of craft coffee, the rabbit hole goes deep, is full of nerds worse than LARPers, and at least as technical as beer geeks.  I spent many years studying the art of brewing coffee.  I’ve traveled to 14 different countries pursuing great coffee and espresso from each.  I’ve been down the rabbit hole and back.

This article isn’t for the geeks like me who have a professional-grade espresso machine in their kitchen, but for the average person who wants to enjoy a darn good cup of coffee without too much fuss.  I’ve waded through the mire of methods, machines, gadgets, and gizmos.  Rather than bore you with a “Top 10 List” of brewing system, or explain all the methods that you shouldn’t try, I’ll skip right to the end.  This is what you need to make the perfect cup of coffee:

The Basics: Beans, grinder, extraction device
The simplicity of brewing coffee is to extract the chemicals from the beans using a solution (water).  Everybody focuses too heavily on the extraction method/device, (which is the least important part) while dismissing the absolutely vital elements: the grinder and beans.

Extraction Device: Bodum French press potbodum
The best method for home brewing
coffee is the french press pot, the most common brand of which is the Bodum.  If you don’t have one, they come in various sizes: 3 cup, 8 cup, 12 cup.  The Bodum is capable of extracting a truly exquisite cup, provided that the two other elements are also quality (beans and grinder).  Note: You cannot make espresso in a french press, no matter what anybody tells you.  It can make a strong 1oz cup of coffee, but its simply a different animal than espresso.

Beans: Freshly roasted whole beans (not pre-ground)
Pre-ground coffee is stale.  Freshly fresh beansroasted is obviously going to taste so much better.  Ideally 7-14 days since it was roasted.  If you can’t buy locally roasted fresh beans, at least buy whole bean.  If you can only get pre-ground, then drink tea.  You can order
an infinite variety of specialty/craft beans online, which is entirely your personal preference.  I can’t tell you what beans you’ll prefer anymore than I can tell you what wine you like.   Test different beans to discover what flavors you enjoy.

Burr Grinder
While it may sound overly geeky, the grindergrind is truly the most important step in making a great cup of coffee (other than the water).  More important than the beans?  Yes!  Excellent beans with a cheap grinder will taste bad, while cheap beans with an excellent grinder can still taste okay.  The common blade grinder is inconsistent (some parts of the grind is too fine while some is too course).  A quality burr grinder will grind all your beans the same consistency because you can adjust the grinder to precise particle size, which yields a far better cup.  Burr grinders aren’t cheap however (roughly $100) when compared to a blade grinder (roughly $20).  I fully recognize that not everybody can afford a $100 grinder, so if all you have is a blade grinder, that’s fine, but if you’re not happy with the results just be aware that your grinder is to blame.  You can still make a darn good cup of coffee using a blade grinder and the steps below, but if you want to make the perfect cup of coffee you’ll need to invest in a burr grinder.  Note: If you can’t afford an electric burr grinder right now, there are manual burr grinders available for around $20, with the added bonus of getting to feel like you’re a pioneer!

Obviously water quality matters.  If your water tastes bad, so will your coffee (since coffee is 99.9% water).  However you don’t want ultra pure water either.  Distilled, reverse-osmosis, or other heavily filtered water does NOT make good coffee because it lacks minerals.  The tiny minerals in the water actually grab hold of the coffee oils and chemicals which provides the great taste.  If the water lacks minerals then the water is literally too slippery and will slide right past the coffee bits that you want.  Use spring water, tap water, or some combination.

 Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

  1. Pre boil your water.  You’ll want 6oz of water per “cup of coffee”.
  2. Grind your beans.  Course, like rough sand.  It may take a bit of time to get the grind adjusted to exactly where you want it.  Uniform large particles is desired for a Bodum french press.  If you have a combination of dust and boulders, see the Grinder section above.
  3. Add grounds to the Bodum.  Two rounded tablespoons per “cup of coffee”*.
  4. Add water to the Bodum.  6oz of water per “cup of coffee”*.
  5. Optional step: stir the saturated grounds with a wooden spoon or chopsticks a few times.
  6. Put the lid on the Bodum, but don’t push down on the plunger.
  7. Set timer for 4 minutes*.
  8. After steeping 4 minutes, plunge the filter slowly.  Grasp the plunger stick, keeping it absolutely straight up, press down evenly and controlled (if it goes crooked, grounds will escape into the upper part).  It will be stiff, but don’t push too hard.  I just let the weight of my hand/arm push it down.
  9. Turn the lid so that the grill is aligned with the spout.  Hold the lid while pouring slow and steady.


*Two rounded tablespoons per 6 oz boiling water steeped for 4 minutes.  This ratio is how I like my coffee, and is commonly accepted brewing practice for a Bodum.  Feel free to experiment with the ratios slightly, just keep notes of what you changed so you can remember what to do, or not do, next time.  For example: 6 oz water steeped for 3 minutes; 8 oz water steeped for 4 minutes.  Find the taste that you prefer.

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