PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- What do you need to make the best cup of coffee? Like all things culinary, your end result can only be as good as your starting point—i.e. quality ingredients are everything.
Brewed coffee has only two components, and water makes up 98 percent of the finished beverage. Equally important is the quality of your coffee seeds, erroneously referred to as beans. And we can’t forget equipment and method—the final pieces to the coffee pot puzzle.
Let’s start with water. The ideal water for making coffee has a total dissolved solids (TDS) count of 150 parts per million (PPM). My tap water in Phoenix comes out at 450 PPM, which is considered safe to drink, but not the best tasting. Most filtered water has a TDS reading of 20 - 50 PPM, which is still far too low. For a perfect cup every time, we at Press Coffee recommend using Third Wave Water mineral packets, add one to distilled water. This will bring your TDS to the ideal levels consistently when making coffee.
Unsurprisingly, another key ingredient when making coffee is, well, coffee—and not all are created equal. Many are roasted overly dark to mask any defect flavors that can be present in lower quality crops. These include notes of yeast, bell pepper and grain—not what most people want in their cup of Joe. Also, when you roast at high temperatures for too long, you end up with prominent notes of ash, burnt wood and smoke.
Specialty grade coffees, which score 80 points or higher during the grading process, can be roasted lighter to exhibit their origin characteristics. These can include fruit bomb coffees from Ethiopia, tobacco and graphite laden Sumatrans and even sparkly, tangerine notes from some Latin American coffees. Coffee is very similar to wine in that respect, and it is worth trying different single origin coffees to find what you like best. The window of freshness ranges from 4 to 30 days after roasting, and your best bet for finding these consistently is to buy from a local specialty roaster.
Next, how do you combine the water and bean to make a great cup. If you were to ask many coffee professionals what machine they use to brew at home, you may find they don’t own one. Complete control of temperature, time and turbulence are key and you lose access to these variables with most consumer level coffee machines. Chemex, Kalita and Clever are three popular pour over options we recommend, and the AeroPress is prized in the specialty community as well.
I prefer a simple modified French press method when making coffee at home, which includes a filtration step to clean up the body and help filter out any grounds, while retaining big flavors from the full immersion technique. Freshly grinding your beans at home will also improve the quality of your coffee. The conical burr grinder is great for a consistent grind size. We also recommend water that is 200 degrees F—just below boiling.
Lastly, use a scale to measure your ground coffee and water! It can be very frustrating to make a perfect cup of coffee on Saturday and not be able to duplicate it on Sunday. Trial and error are key but with the right tools and ingredients you will be on your way to making the crowning cup of coffee every morning.
Andrew Robertson, district manager with Press Coffee is a coffee expert and teaches Press Coffee’s 101 coffee classes. Press has been Arizona’s own local coffee roaster since 2008. Quality driven and community focused, Press shares its passion for specialty coffee by providing the highest quality coffee products, service and knowledge with customers and community every day. Press Coffee has eight Valley locations in Scottsdale, Tempe, Phoenix and Chandler. Visit Press Coffee online at www.PressCoffee.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @presscoffee.