So, I have to say that I showed up quite a bit late to the coffee party. I’ve always loved the smell of coffee but I guess I just never tried some that got me hooked and made me want more. Well, practically overnight, I turned into a fairly big coffee nut. Now I’m constantly looking for info and ideas about creating that next best cup of coffee. I thought I’d share some of the info I have found and collected for anyone else who might be interested in making the best coffee and save them the work of all the reading I did.
Coffee is sort of like seafood. The fresher it is, the better it is. Until you’ve had either of them super fresh, you don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve had the freshest seafood practically served right off the boat from the South China Sea, when my parents lived in Hong Kong. I had no idea how incredible it could taste. It was fantastic! The same goes for coffee, except that coffee freshness is a little more complicated. You want to find freshly roasted beans that have been roasted about 7 to 12 days prior and then grind the beans right before you brew a pot. Store any remaining beans in the most airtight way possible to prevent or significantly slow down oxidation.
Grind Your Coffee Beans
If you want the best tasting coffee, then you want the most freshly roasted beans, stored air-tight, and freshly ground using a burr grinder right before brewing. I did quite a bit of research on coffee grinders to find the best bang for the buck.
My first piece of advice is… Use a burr grinder. Blade grinders will heat up and not give you an even grind. This can alter the resulting coffee flavor. If you don’t mind spending a little more money, then go for a conical burr grinder.
Secondly, depending on the type of coffee you like, Percolator/French Press to Automatic Drip to Espresso, you may want a grinder with different settings for the fineness or coarseness of the grind. I prefer a medium to a slightly finer grind for Automatic Drip. If you like multiple kinds of coffee, then you will definitely want a wider variety of grind setting options.
I found a number of reviews on the best grinders, depending on features and price. I ultimately chose the Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill. It seemed to have the best mix of features and quality at the price-point. You can find it here on Amazon. I found mine for $44.99 but it is typically priced around $49.99. I’ve been very happy with it so far. It appears to be made really well, is easy to use, and cleans up fairly easily. It is not too loud and it grinds 8 cups worth of grounds in under 30 seconds. The reviews I have read claim that this grinder has a fairly long life and the motor can stand the test of time. I saw several reviews mentioning over 8 to 10 years of daily use and that the grinder was still going strong.
After a bit of experimentation with this grinder, I’ve found the optimum medium grind setting for my basket filter and taste is 2 clicks to the left of where this picture shows it to be set. I make sure to brush out the left over powder and bits of beans that stick in the hopper after each use. A tablespoon scoop with a brush on the end is included for cleaning. I remove the collector trap and just hold the grinder over the sink and brush around the opening. I pop the lid off the hopper and turn it upside down and shake it, as well. If you are using it daily, I would recommend unscrewing the bean hopper every one to two weeks and brushing the powder off the burrs, as it may collect and cake on there. I also rinse out the collector trap daily and use a paper towel to wipe it clean. I’ve been pretty happy with the noise level of this grinder. It is maybe half as loud as the obnoxious grinder my parents used to use to wake my sister and I up when we were kids.
Store Your Beans Airtight
Once you have your grinder, now it is time to find some exquisite coffee beans to grind. Beans are usually sold by the pound or more. Unless you are brewing 64 cups of coffee in the morning, it is doubtful you are going to grind a whole pound at once. That means you are going to have beans left over.
You don’t want to just leave the beans in the bag they came in. That is typically not airtight enough. Roasted coffee beans’ biggest enemy is oxygen or oxidation. If you’ve ever noticed on a bag of coffee, whether it is ground or not, there is a little valve with holes. This allows the bag to expel CO2, since the roasted coffee will off gas CO2 when it comes into contact with oxygen. The bad thing is that this process is what destroys the coffee flavor and causes it to go stale so quickly. So, it begs the question, why are the coffee vendors not vacuum packing their roasted beans?
I found a blog article from a small coffee roasting outfit that talked about this exact issue. They found that vacuum packing the roasted beans without a CO2 valve about 2 days after roasting gave them the best results. The bags did not fill with CO2 and explode. When the beans were packed too soon after roasting or the bags were not vacuum packed they found that the beans off gassed a greater amount of CO2 as a result. So, their conclusion was that the CO2 valve on the bags was not essential if they packed at 2 days after roasting and that vacuum packing the beans provided for better freshness.
So, all of this is to say that you should store your beans in the most airtight way you can to ensure maximum freshness for as long as possible. I chose 2 storage containers options. One container is for my daily use and the other is for longer term storage.
The first container I chose for daily use is the AirScape 64 floz brushed steel. This container has a sealing mechanism that allows you to force the vast majority of the air out of the container. Since, I’ll be opening the container every day to scoop out fresh beans which will expose them to the air, I want to force out as much air as possible when I close it for the next day. There were other container options with more of a vacuum seal. However, the more I read about these, the more I discovered that people who had tried them weren’t too thrilled with them. They were a bit of a pain to use and they found that the vacuum seal was not always maintained.
For longer term storage, I chose the Friis 16 oz Stainless Steel Coffee Vault. This storage container does not force any air out, but does have a one way CO2 valve. Typically this container will be filled to the very top with beans. So there will be little space for air. It provides an airtight seal. If the beans do produce any CO2 it can escape. Once I empty my AirScape container I will just dump these beans into my daily container.
It’s Not Cool to Freeze Your Coffee
Contrary to a long believed trick to maintain fresh coffee, freezing coffee is actually not good for flavor. One of the biggest enemies of fresh coffee is moisture. When you freeze coffee, the air around the bean and the oils in the beans condenses which will leave moisture on and in the beans. This begins to deteriorate the bean and you will start losing the great flavor. Since coffee beans are porous, they absorb flavors and aromas from their surroundings. This also means that all the flavors in your freezer can potentially be absorbed.
In addition to not freezing, don’t refrigerate your coffee. The moisture created by the temperature in the refrigerator ruins coffee. The refrigerator is possibly the worst place you could store your coffee.
I recently came across an article suggesting that chilling coffee beans overnight before you grind it will help achieve a much more even grind which can yield a much more flavorful brew. Scientists from the University of Bath were involved in the study, so it seems to have legitimacy. They even went as far as saying that that the colder the beans are when they are ground, as well as the colder the burrs, the better the results.
I think if you had a small airtight container you put in the fridge overnight with just the amount of coffee beans you need to grind the next morning that might work. Based on the findings in this article it indicates that the results are worth any minor condensation impact chilling the beans overnight might cause. I would still highly recommend against storing your coffee beans in the freezer, other than the amount you plan to grind the following morning to only chill them overnight.
Everyone has different tastes whether it is a darker or a lighter roast. So, I can only speak to what I like and what I’ve found so far. One thing I have learned is that lighter roasts actually have a higher concentration of caffeine per ounce of grounds than darker roasts do. So, if you want more of a jolt for a lower investment, you actually want a lighter roast. Also, you want to find the roast date on the package to determine how fresh it is. Based on everything I have read, the most ideal roast date for the perfect bean flavor is about 7 to 12 days prior to the current date. This gives the beans the time to off gas the bulk of the CO2 and allows the flavor of the roasted bean to mature. If the beans are vacuum packed they will stay fresh longer as it will stop the oxidation process.
My initial choice was at Costco of all places. I was walking down the aisle and saw a wide variety of choices at really reasonable prices. I found a 2lb bag of Kirkland Signature Espresso Blend roasted for Costco by Starbucks. It is a dark roast and has a fantastically robust aroma. I can say without hesitation that this coffee is the best tasting coffee I’ve ever had when comparing to Seattle’s Best #4 and #5, Gevalia House Blend, Gevalia Breakfast Blend, and even Starbucks. I have a feeling that my bar is still set fairly low, as far as “good” coffee goes. I will post further updates here as I experiment with different roasts and brands, as I’m sure I’m going to find some other even better options, as time goes on. For now, though, this coffee certainly provides excellent flavor at a very bargain price around $7 per pound, compared to the pricier Starbucks beans that I’ve seen going for $12 to over $30 per pound in the grocery store.
This is a topic that I have not really done much reading on yet. At this point, I’ve chosen to use a traditional automatic drip coffee maker. When it comes to automatic drip, I have read and experienced myself that it does make a difference the type of filter that you use. Now that I have tasted the difference, I would recommend against using a paper filter. Paper filters trap much of the oils in the coffee that give it much of its flavors and aroma. I switched from paper filters to a permanent Goldtone reusable
wire basket filter and I have certainly tasted an improvement in flavor. I found this one that fits most 10-12 cup automatic drip coffee makers and it works well in mine. This one will easily hold 10 to 12 tablespoons of coffee grounds without overflowing. For typical brewing strength it is generally recommended to use 2 tablespoons of grounds for every 6 ounces of water. Many people will complain that they get grounds in the coffee using this method but I’ve not found that at all. I believe it depends mostly on the fineness of the coffee grounds. The automatic drip process works best with a more medium coffee grind. The medium grind will stay in the basket filter and not leak through. Some grinds can have finer coffee powder. It is possible that some of this powder will leak through the basket. When filling the basket with fresh coffee grounds, I recommend that you remove it from the machine and place it on your counter. It is possible that some of the coffee grounds can deflect around the basket and into the trap. Filling the basket on the counter is a simple step that should prevent that kind of disappointment in your cup.
- What Is The Best Coffee Grinder: 2016 Ratings (Top 10) Yosaki Magazine (2015)
- Halse, K. Best conical burr grinder reviews. Heavy.com (2016)
- Artisan Roast Why I Stopped Packaging Our Coffee In One-Way Valves. agoodkeensavage.wordpress.com (2012)
- Pearl Cup Coffee Be Cool to Your Coffee: Don’t Freeze It!. pearlcupcoffee.com (2013)
- Purvis, J. Cool Your Beans? johnpurvis.wordpress.com (2016)
- Uman, E. et al. The effect of bean origin and temperature on grinding roasted coffee. Sci. Rep. 6, 24483; doi: 10.1038/srep24483 (2016).