How to make a good cup of coffee

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How to make a good cup of coffee

Post by Scodiddly » Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:51 pm

So for all the times somebody has said "you need to know how to make good coffee to be a [intern | ass engineer | engineer], let's talk about how to actually do that.

First step in good coffee is a clean pot. Scrub all that nasty oily residue from the last pot out! And clean the other parts of the brewing apparatus on a regular basis as well.

Next, you need fresh coffee. Doesn't have to be boutique stuff ground in a special grinder, but it should be fairly recently purchased. Sniff the coffee grounds in the can (you smokers will be at a disadvantage in this process), does it smell fresh or sort of stale and dusty? If coffee doesn't get brewed a lot, buy smaller cans or maybe start using a grinder on whole beans. Beans don't get stale as fast as ground coffee.

OK, so how's the water quality? City water is generally fine to use, as long as it doesn't have swimming-pool levels of chlorine. If there's a chlorine smell, use a filter or even just leave a jug of water overnight so that the chlorine goes away.

Now we come to the actual process. Grab a fresh filter, and put in the recommended amount of grounds. Try to brew at least half a pot, because small pots are tricky to get right. Something like 4-5 scoops for a 10-12 cup pot is a good starting point. Some people like strong coffee, maybe you can keep tabs on who likes it weak and who likes the full-strength battery acid coffee. OK, so the pot is brewing. Resist the temptation to get a cup off the pot right away... be patient, let it the whole pot get brewed. That first cup will be way stronger than the rest, and if you take that first cup the rest of the pot will end up weaker than it should be.

Now's a good time to worry about whether the milk/cream is still safe to consume. You did buy fresh milk this week, right?

And don't forget the follow-through! Keep an eye on that pot of coffee. After a few hours it'll be "cooked", with a nasty stale smell and taste. Half of the job of making good coffee is knowing when to dump the pot (let it cool off and use it to water the plants, if any) and start fresh. A stale pot of good coffee is far worse than badly-made fresh coffee.

What else? DO NOT make some flavored coffee unless there's a second pot handy for regular stuff. Some people despise any flavored coffee. Decaffeinated coffee is a nice thing to offer, but be very very careful not to accidentally serve real coffee to the guy who asked for decaf.

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Post by ballpein » Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:10 pm

finally, an important subject to expound upon.

I'll add that one should never, ever, under any circumstances use soap to clean a coffee pot. The secret is a couple cups of ice into the pot, and a few tablespoons of salt: swirl vigorously and rinse well.

Also, buy a reusable coffee filter - mother nature thanks you.

I look forward to discussions of espresso, and french and turkish presses, in a future post.

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Post by lyle76 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:23 pm

whole bean coffee is a MUST. And please PLEASE don't use the same grinder you use for your - ahem - herbs...
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Post by @?,*???&? » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:24 pm

I've nearly posted this thread a number of times.

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Post by cgarges » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:30 pm

Coffee is such a funny subject to me. I don't drink it and for some reason, I make TERRIBLE coffee. I'm more than happy to show someone where all the coffee-making supplies are, but I always tell them that they don't want me making their coffee. The few times that they've insisted (and it takes A LOT of insisting), I've gotten complaints about the coffee, which always elicits an "I told you so" along with a big "eat shit" grin.

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Post by RefD » Tue Apr 01, 2008 11:04 pm

*usually drinks tea cos the oils in coffee make his guts go gurgle and his poop get squirty*

sad, really, cos i LOVE good coffee. :|
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Post by JGriffin » Wed Apr 02, 2008 12:01 am

cgarges wrote: I don't drink it and for some reason, I make TERRIBLE coffee.
I'd say one follows the other pretty logically. I too do not drink coffee and as a result the coffee I make is pretty darn awful.
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Post by Scodiddly » Wed Apr 02, 2008 5:15 am

I'm not a coffee drinker either, had to give up caffeine. But I do like coffee, and used to drink it regularly.

But seriously... how hard could it be to follow the instructions? It's not like we're grilling here, the coffee maker does all the work and then it's done. You have to measure two ingredients and then walk away.

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Post by Boogdish » Wed Apr 02, 2008 5:48 am

what is a "scoop"? Does this refer to a table spoon or a tea spoon or some more uncommon unit of measurement?

Also, you don't have to throw out coffee after a few hours, get a carafe, it'll keep it warm all day but won't "cook it", then you throw the coffee out the next morning.

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Post by Jay Reynolds » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:04 am

I've had one for home for about 9 months now, and its awesome.
Prog out with your cog out.

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Post by lancebug » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:14 am

Boogdish wrote:what is a "scoop"? Does this refer to a table spoon or a tea spoon or some more uncommon unit of measurement?

Also, you don't have to throw out coffee after a few hours, get a carafe, it'll keep it warm all day but won't "cook it", then you throw the coffee out the next morning.
If you use a carafe, airpot or thermos, you should pour hot/boiling water into it and let it sit for a couple minutes before you fill it with coffee (pour out the hot water first). Your coffee will be hotter when you want it and stay hotter longer if you pre-heat the container.

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Post by Smitty » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:14 am

My secrets to good coffee:

1) brew it just a little stronger than the package suggests.

2) use White Castle brand coffee (best coffee ever IMHO). or Dunkin Donuts brand, in a pinch. remember kids, the less healthy the restaurant, the better the coffee!
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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:25 am

Good coffee is fine, but I also have my recipe for 'get up and go': 1/2 tab of Walgreen's store brand "Keep-Awake" caffeine pills, which equals approx. 100 mg of caffeine. Cost per dose: approx. 2.5 cents. Beware when you tell your family members/casual acquaintances about this practice; for some reason people perceive this particular pill-popping as some sort of drug abuse even though a Starbucks drink contains 2 or 3 times as much caffeine... I swear people feel better popping Prozac than they do popping caffeine pills ...

When there is time to enjoy it, I do up a good murky rendition of Whole Foods brand french roast in the press. Their coffee has, in a metaphorical sense, a very 'flat frequency response' unlike the Starbucks/Caribou coffees which both taste like they are almost flavored. It's also very cheap ($11/16 oz.) as they use it as a loss leader to get people in the store (I suspect)

I will need to try that Dunkin' Donuts stuff sometime.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:44 am

I have to chime in on this. Coffee is very important to me. Maybe more important than beer. I bring a french press and my own beans on tour. I used to tour with a guy who brought his own stove top espresso pot and a coleman stove.
Anyway, fresh whole beans are a must. If there's a local shop that roasts their own that's the best. If not look for something good at the supermarket (Kicking Horse brand is very good) Spend $15 and buy a grinder. You'll thank yourself and me.

I won't get into which brewing process is the best. I'm not a fan of filter coffee but I won't turn down a cup if one s offered. Either way, clean equipment is a must.
+1 to who-ever suggested brewing stornger than the directions call for.

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Post by mjau » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:49 am

Bigtime coffee drinker here. I'm a big fan of french press as my preferred method of prep, but I'll take anything that's done well.
+2 on the usage of more coffee than prescribed - it makes for a less bitter pot of coffee
And...don't let it cook on the coffee maker all day. Make small pots and remake more when you run out.

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