Whether you own an automatic coffee maker or a manual brewing system, attention to the small details of making coffee pay off. Some rules for making good-tasting coffee apply for certain brewing methods, and some tips apply to all methods. Since coffee grounds and beans vary in taste, experiment with different kinds and keep notes so you can find those that you like.
No matter what brewing system you use, the fresher the coffee beans or grounds, the better your coffee will taste. Store ground coffee in the refrigerator and beans in a cool, dark cabinet. Measure the amount of water your coffee maker holds before figuring out how much coffee to use. Typical coffee measurements -- 1 to 2 rounded tablespoons of coffee for each 6 ounces of water -- work for all types of coffee makers. And use good-tasting cold water to help ensure that your coffee tastes as good as it can be; use bottled water if your own water has a sulfuric or metallic taste.
If you control the timing and the process when you use manual-drip coffeemakers, the water can extract coffee oils from the grounds more thoroughly, resulting in more flavorful coffee. Fill the coffee filter with water and let it go all the way through the system to "bloom" the coffee, before continuing to pour the rest of the water; the process allows all of the grounds to become thoroughly heated. When you begin pouring again, ensure that you pour evenly over all the grounds, not just in one spot.
Plunger, or French press, coffee makers use a combination of pressure and heat to extract the flavorful oils from coffee grounds. Because water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and the smoothest, most flavorful coffee comes from water between 195 to 205 F, the National Coffee Association of U.S.A recommends that you let boiling water sit for about a minute before pouring it over coffee grounds to you extract the oils from the grounds effectively. Then, let the water sit for 2 to 4 minutes in the coffee maker before pressing down slowly on the plunger.
Your only task with automatic coffee-making methods is choosing which type of coffee to buy. For example, pod coffeemakers require you to insert a pod or small plastic cup and press a button; the coffee maker then presses the concentrated coffee and adds the right amount of water. With automatic-drip coffeemakers, which release water from a filled reservoir, you need to choose the right texture of grind so the coffee brews properly. Experiment with different-sized grinds if you're not sure which size to buy. Automatic coffeemakers keep coffee hot on burners so it gets stronger and more bitter as it sits; transfer coffee to an insulated thermos after brewing to avoid the problem.
- Consumer Reports: Coffeemaker Buying Guide
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- National Coffee Association of U.S.A: How to Brew Coffee
- Fine Cooking: Making Automatic Drip Coffee Better by Blooming