There's no great secret to making the perfect cup of coffee: use freshly roasted coffee beans that can, ideally, be ground at home, make sure the equipment you use is clean before brewing, and use freshly drawn water. Some of the biggest causes of inferior coffee are unclean equipment, or equipment that is not used at a suitable temperature, poorly ground coffee or incorrect grind sizes, and inferior coffee beans or ground beans that have been left unused for a long period of time before being brewed.
You'll always want to use the freshest roasted coffee available when making the perfect brew; the longer roasted beans are left to sit before being grounded, the more flavour and aromas they will lose, and the more insipid your coffee will be. At Coffee-Direct, we roast our beans to order and package them as soon as they have been roasted. This provides customers with the freshest beans possible, delivered in specially designed packaging that allows the coffee to retain its intense aromas and complex flavours.
You'll want to grind your freshly roasted coffee beans yourself if you want to get the most from them. Professional coffee grinders are inexpensive and integral to making delicious, rich coffees from home, and they can be used to create a grind that works best for your tastes and coffee preferences. When you grind your own beans you can also preserve the flavours of your coffee for longer, and you can expect the finest, deepest flavours in every cup.
Not only can you tailor your grinds to your preferred size, but you can experiment with different grinds to get the most out of your favourite beans. As the grind of a bean will greatly affect the flavours of your coffee, getting the wrong grind can end up spoiling your favourite drinks. By trying out different grind sizes with your own coffee grinder, you can decide what grinds work best with your beans, and alter the strength of your coffee by varying the amount of beans used in the grinder.
Using freshly drawn water is especially important when creating the perfect cup of coffee, and it is best to use the clearest, cleanest water possible, free of impurities that can be detrimental to the flavour of your coffee. If you want to get the most from your coffee then it is a good idea to invest in a water filter, especially if you live in a hard water area where impurities are likely to build up in your drinking water.
You'll also want to make sure that you use the correct amount of coffee per cup for your chosen brewing method. Grinding from home is a great way to discern the best amount of coffee to use in your drinks, and you can experiment with different amounts and different grinds until you find the perfect measurement. The amount of ground coffee you use will depend upon your chosen method, whether that is through a cafetiere or a coffee machine, and upon your strength and flavour preferences, so it's a good idea to try different measurements out a few times when you buy a new coffee bean variety.
It goes without saying that you should drink your coffee as soon as you have made it, before it has time to stew. Of course, this doesn't mean you should risk burning yourself on freshly brewed drinks, but you will want to avoid allowing your coffee to stand for a long period to become lukewarm – a perfect coffee not only provides intense, complex flavours, but offers wonderful, fresh aromas, which will gradually be lost when the coffee is left to stand.
As for the method you choose to prepare you coffee, there are a few rules to follow to achieve that perfect cup. If you are using a cafetiere, then it is important to warm it first before making your coffee, as a cold cafetiere will rapidly drop in temperature within the first minute of brewing. Simply fill your cafetiere with recently boiled water before you prepare your drink, then empty it and add your ground coffee to avoid this temperature drop.
You should also ensure that the equipment you are using to prepare your coffee is clean before use, and kept clean between brews. As coffee can be quite oily, it can leave an aftertaste in equipment that will become bitter and unpleasant if the oils are not removed. By regularly cleaning your cafetiere or the separate parts of your coffee machine, including the water tank, you can be sure that your coffee will be free of impurities and compromising flavours.
Make sure you leave enough time for your coffee to fully brew if you are using a cafetiere. Cafetiere coffee should be left to brew for four minutes, which is a good amount of time for the flavours to be drawn out from the beans, and not so long that the coffee is allowed to stew. A shot of espresso coffee should take between 20 and 23 seconds to brew, and should measure no more than 2 fluid oz.
Finally, if you are frothing milk to make a cappuccino or a latte, make sure you don't spoil the flavour by boiling the milk. A good way to measure the temperature of your milk is to use a metal jug and place a hand on the side of it as you steam the milk. The milk will be ready just before the jug becomes too hot to touch at the side, and won't have boiled or become too hot to froth properly. You'll also want to balance the amount of air in the frothed milk: too much and it will become too light and bubbly; too little and it will merely dissolve into the coffee and leave no layer of froth. By angling the jug of milk to about 45º and taking the steamer nozzle out of the milk around three or four times during steaming, you'll be able to make creamy, thick and luxurious froth for all your lattes and cappuccinos.