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What makes a good cup of coffee?

While in the end we all may have different ideas about which coffee tastes best, there are things you can do to maximize the flavor of your coffee. Recently at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference, I took a class on brewing and extraction techniques. The goal of the class - to teach us the principles of optimum brewing. I'd like to share some of what I learned with you. 

The six essential elements of good brewing are:

  1. Correct coffee to water ratio: To get all technical on you for a moment, the ideal ratio is one part coffee to 15-18 parts water. Just think about those times when you've had a cup of coffee that tasted too watery or that cup of coffee that was like tar. The correct ratio is important!
  2. Appropriate grind for the brew method: Larger coffee particles release flavor more slowly than smaller particles and each brew method varies in time. Therefore, make sure you have the right grind in order to get the best cup. 
  3. Optimum brewing method: At the DLG office, we've done some taste testing with different methods. We've tried the French press, Bonavita immersion method, Moka pot, Aeropress and more. Based on personal preference, it seems we each chose a different brew method as our favorite.
  4. Proper brewing technique: Make sure you're making the coffee to specifications for each brew method. Variables you can control (or change) are the water contact time with the coffee, water temperature and turbulence of the coffee (if you stir it or not, how you pour the water in, etc.). Even little changes in the process can make a difference in the flavor. 
  5. Use good water: Brewed coffee is 98-99% water so the quality of your water is important. It should be free of odor or taste, contain no visible impurities or chlorine and have a pH of 7-8. 
  6. Use the proper filtering medium for the brew method: Ensure you have the right filter so it extracts the right amount of flavor. It's also standard procedure to rinse the filter before use.

Visit our Brew Methods page for instructions on different brew methods. Experiment. Have fun! One of the things that I like most about the coffee industry is that while there are rules, it seems like they are actually only a point of departure for creativity. Discover your favorite cup.

We'd love to hear from you on how you make your coffee! Post something on our Facebook page, Tweet it or post something on Instagram.