Brew a Better Cup of Coffee

Writer: Karla Walsh

Coffee is one buzzy beverage. Americans drink more of it than any other drink besides tap water—about 89 gallons per person per year. More than 6 in 10 of us drink the beverage every day. Whether the pandemic inspired you to invest in a Chemex glass vessel or you’ve been going the DIY route for years, chances are these pro tips will help elevate your java experience.

Know your beans.

“Flavor profiles, location of origin and processing method can make a huge difference in the end product,” says Ryan Osborn, barista and operations manager at Mars Cafe. Beans marked “single origin” are produced from one specific region of harvest and will have a specialized flavor. Ethiopian beans, for example, tend to taste fruity. 

Beans marked “blend” may include two or more beans from different sources. “So you might experience a mix of Ethiopian [fruity] flavors and Columbian [nutty or chocolatey],” he explains. “Sample blends and single origins, plus notice the processing methods, elevation and certifications of your beans to discover which you like best.”

Grind it fresh.

“You know the amazing smell of fresh ground coffee? That’s the flavor escaping your cup,” says Nate Kempers, owner and barista at the Coffeesmith in Waukee, who recommends grinding your coffee moments before you brew it. “A good burr grinder will ensure a consistent flavor.”

Measure and weigh.

Osborn suggests investing in a waterproof scale, which he says will increase the consistency of your cup. Aim for 1 gram for every 15 to 16 grams of water. “This also comes in handy for ice coffee,” he says. “When making an at-home pour-over, add half the total water weight in ice to your cup.” 

Rinse your filter.

Before starting your brew, pre-wet the filter with hot water, advises Nam Ho, co-owner of Horizon Line Coffee. Simply pour a bit of hot water over the filter, allow the water to drip into the vessel, then dump it out before continuing with the brewing process. 

This not only warms up the pot but also “washes any impurities from the filter that may be present from the manufacturing process,” Ho says. “This will provide a cleaner, less papery-tasting cup.”

Water wisely.

“The water quality and temperature are just as important as the quality of the coffee,” Kempers says. “If your water tastes bad, your coffee will taste bad.” Ideally, he adds, use filtered water heated between 195 and 205 degrees, just off the boil.

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