MAKING EXCELLENT COFFEE
Brewing an excellent cup of coffee takes care and a bit of time. If you have the right beans, the right grind, and fresh water at the optimal temperature range, you can do it.
Note that this does NOT say that you need a $400 coffee maker. Save your money and buy a good grinder instead.
In our experience the best coffee is made using the vacuum or siphon process. The results are hearty, full-bodied without much sediment, and quick. While there are several models available, the Yama Glass Stovetop Coffee Maker is the best for the money, especially since it uses your existing stovetop rather than its own fuel source. Read more about it here, although be warned that the linked article refers to the Yama as #1 and the Hario Technica Coffee Siphon as "the best."
Read more about vacuum/siphon makers here.
BTW, if you purchase the Yama maker, we recommend that you discard the included cloth filter and replace it a Cory glass filter rod.
The second best brewing method is French press. For this, you'll need a press and a mug. Oh yes -- and your favorite HelioRoast beans. (The next best method is Pour Over — see Pour Over below.)
Bodum and Frieling make excellent French presses, but by far and away, we prefer the Espro model the best because of its superior method of filtering solids and retaining heat.
Using the same proportions of coffee to water as already discussed, grind your coffee "coarse." Heat water to the same temperature as above: 195 - 205 F. Combine the grounds and the water and (if using a glass pot) stir very gently with a wooden or plastic utensil (metal might crack the hot glass) so that they are all thoroughly saturated. Allow the slurry to settle for three minutes. Most will settle to the bottom of the pot. While waiting, gently seat the screen portion of the plunger on top of the class to decrease heat loss.
After this initial saturation, gently stir the slurry. Then replace the top and set the timer for another two minutes.
When the coffee is ready, slowly press the plunger to the bottom. Do not force it, but if you find that it is difficult to depress, remember to grind your beans more coarsely next time.
Here's the important point: as soon as the plunger is fully depressed, pour the coffee out of the pot. Do not allow the hot water to over-extract the grounds. * If you want to retain some coffee for later, store it in a pre-heated thermos or carafe. (Here is where Espro’s superior filtration shines: nearly all solids are removed at this initial plunge. In addition, a silicon gasket separates the saturated grounds at the bottom of the pot from the drinkable coffee above it, which means that you can also use the double-walled pot as a thermos while you're enjoying your first cup.)
French pressed coffee yields a delightfully thick body, so be aware that there will be grounds at the bottom of your cup (very few with Espro!). The usual rules apply for adding milk and sugar.
Finally, the third best brewing method is pour-over. For this, you'll need a kettle, a grinder, a funnel, a paper filter, and a mug. Oh yes -- and your favorite HelioRoast beans.
The best stove-top kettle to use is the Hario Buono Drip Kettle because it allows you to target precise amounts of heated water where you want it in the funnel. Bonavita Electric Kettle has the same features. Use a ceramic funnel -- like the Hario Coffee V60 Dripper -- so that you do not taste plastic in the coffee. (The Amazon links here and elsewhere on our site are included for convenience only. You may find better prices elsewhere.)
Fill the kettle with enough fresh water that it is not dry at the end of the procedure.
While it's heating up, soak a paper filter in your coffee mug with HOT water. This does two things. First, it reduces the papery taste of the filter, and second, it warms up your mug. When you're ready to make the coffee, transfer the wet filter to your funnel and pour the hot water through it. This will flush most of the papery taste down the drain.
Use your grinder's settings for "fine" or "filter." If you're using a blade machine, then grind your beans in the mid range between French-press coarse and espresso fine. The usual ratio of coffee to water is between 1.00 - 1.25 oz of coffee per 12 fluid oz of water, but of course your mileage may vary. If your water races through the grounds, grind them finer next time. If it backs up and produces a reservoir on top of the grounds, grind it coarser next time.
Place the wet paper filter in the funnel and transfer the grounds into it. Jiggle the funnel to level them.
When the water has boiled, take it off the burner and sprinkle the grounds with as little as needed to dampen them all. Wait for 30-45 seconds while the water temperature in the kettle drops. The highest optimal brewing range is 195 - 205 F. Sprinkling starts the process of flavor release so that the relevant molecules are warmed up and ready to exit the coffee ground by the time you pour the rest of the water through.
Using a back & forth wrist motion, pour the water very slowly over all of the grounds. Optimally you should not build up a reservoir on top of them.* (If you do, allow the water to recede and then "wash down" the sides of the filter.) As you do this, you'll notice a wonderful "crema" -- officially called the "bloom" -- building up on the top of the brew. Sniff it.
The top level of grounds here is called the crust, and you'll enjoy this aroma. And yes, you are testing the nose of the coffee. Using the description on our bag label, see if you can identify the distinct aromas; various combinations of flowers, berries, nuts, and chocolate are the most common. Remember the nose and then see if you can identify the same tastes in the coffee once you begin to drink it. Among other things, this will help you to decide what to pair this particular coffee with. Cheese? Fruits? Pastry-based desserts? Tarty vegetables? Cream-based pastas? Mid-winter stews? You get the point....
Finally, start to enjoy the cup. Coffee should not be drunk above 165 F because at that level your taste buds are too busy trying to fend off what they identify as a potential injury to be able to report any flavors to your brain. Pay particular attention to how the flavors change as the temperature drops. This is one of the many advantages that coffee has over wine. Red wines are rarely if ever served at anything other than room temperature, which means that all flavor-producing agents have to be present at this temperature or otherwise be wasted. Conversely, chilling white wines reduces, not enhances, their flavor range, as can easily be tested by drinking it non-chilled. Coffee, on the other hand, tastes noticeably different at 105 F than at 150 F, and we believe that you will find yourself thoroughly enjoying both. **
When you drink one of our single-origin coffees, give yourself a treat: take a third- to a half-mouthful of coffee, swish it a few times so that it touches all parts of your mouth, swallow, and wait for a moment or two without eating or drinking anything else. Then, placing your tongue on your palate, inhale through your mouth, making sure that the fresh air hits the back of your mouth. The results are indescribable! (But we're sure that you'll want to try anyway.)