CAN YOU REALLY MAKE PERFECT DRIP COFFEE AT HOME?
Make perfect drip coffee at home? In fact, yes, it can be done. We have a feeling that any one of the many millions of coffee drinkers may claim to know the secret of how to make perfect drip coffee. There are literally just as many ways to brew a cup of coffee as there are coffee drinkers. But regardless of the methods, there are some things that must be done in order to bring out the best of that wonderful flavor that true coffee lovers enjoy. We wonder how many you use.
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HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR COFFEE?
Coffee, Java, Joe… We gotta have it. Everyday, countless number of people wake up and search for that hot cup of nectar from the gods that can get them moving again. Is it just the caffeine, or is it more a habit or ritual to get the day started? We think that with all the many different ways of brewing coffee and all the many different ways of serving it, it deserves some attention.
There are many different kinds of coffee appliances that have the owners convinced that they use the best method to brew coffee. In fact, some of the Best coffee making machines are not auto drip coffee makers at all. Instead, they are manual appliances that are more time and labor intensive.
Still, the convenience of being able to program your coffee maker at night for your morning brew is a great plus. Also, with a good auto drip coffee maker you can usually brew enough coffee for yourself and family or friends at one time.
We found some great coffee makers that use the best techniques that are used in the manual coffee makers. But before we introduce those we thought, maybe you would like to know just what it takes to make great coffee. Great coffee is something to be enjoyed like the girl in the image above. It makes for some great me-time. It is also a pleasure to be able to serve great tasting coffee to family and friends.
THE BASICS OF PERFECT DRIP COFFEE
We will elaborate below on the things that you should do, but we want to give you a quick check list first of things you need to pay attention to as you read…
- The water – it has to taste good or the coffee won’t
- The coffee – preferably whole beans that you grind yourself – the fresher the better
- The grind
- The ratio of coffee to water
- The temperature of the water going over the grounds
- Pre- infusion… allowing the grounds to “bloom”
- Proper extraction
- Good Coffee Making Equipment
You may already be familiar with these important things, but just in case you are not, we will explain them in more detail.
So, how do you really make a perfect cup of drip coffee at home? There is a formula that the world’s foremost coffee masters use and you can use it too
You may not have the same equipment as the coffee baristas but you can modify what you do have or can get and still get a great cup of coffee. As you practice and fine tune your methods, supplies and equipment, you will learn the nuances of making strong bold coffee without bitterness. You will learn how to make smooth mellow coffee from a light or medium roast. You may even become a coffee master yourself simply by tweaking the process to suit your own palate.
THE BEST WATER FOR MAKING PERFECT COFFEE
While making coffee at home, many of us simply take it for granted that water is water and should not make any difference in brewing a great cup of coffee. However, unless your water tastes good, then your coffee cannot be at it’s best. This is true even if we buy the best coffee beans in the world, grind it by hand at home just before brewing it in the world’s best hand-made Dutch Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker. Therefore, you can’t have great tasting, quality brewed coffee unless the water you start with is also good tasting water.
After all, you probably already know that brewed coffee consists of 1.5% coffee flavor particles and about 98.5% water! It makes perfect sense then why the right water is so important in brewing your great cup of coffee at home.
Some people are blessed to have water in their homes that is like natural spring water. However, most people have water that needs to be filtered to avoid a strong smell or taste, like chlorine. Water that has been softened or distilled water also will leave an undesirable taste in the coffee. You should refrain from using hot water from the tap or water that has been reboiled to brew your coffee. When water is reboiled, it loses all its oxygen (deoxygenated) and creates coffee that is flat, has no acidity and clarity.
PUR Classic Water Filtration System 11-Cup Pitcher with Filter Change LED Indicator LightPUR 3-Stage Advanced Faucet Water Filter, 7.7-Inch by 3.2-Inch, ChromeBrita Large 10 Cup Grand Water Pitcher with Filter – BPA Free – Red
So what can you use? The best water for making coffee has been purified by filtering. You can use purified bottled or spring water as long as it has not been distilled. You can also filter your own water with simple filter systems like Brita or Pur. You do not want to remove all the minerals but you do not want anything in there that will leave a bad taste either. Yes, the right water does make a huge difference in your coffee.
FRESH ROASTED COFFEE BEANS
Number 2 on our list is the coffee itself. The preferred flavor and richness is a matter of personal taste. Only your own taste buds can tell you which variety you prefer. However, coffee is best when the roast is fresh and you grind the beans just before brewing.
Coffee begins to get stale when exposed to the air and it loses some of the specific nuances of flavor as a result. For that reason, It is best to buy your coffee in small quantities that you will use up within about a week. Keep it tightly sealed and in a reasonably cool place… But not in the fridge or freezer as that can cause it to draw moisture and ruin the flavor of your coffee.
If you can invest in a coffee grinder and grind your coffee beans just before brewing, you can tell a noticeable difference. If that is not possible for you, just make sure that your ground coffee is as fresh as you can get it. If you must purchase from your grocery store, look for the best by date. It is probably on the bottom of the can or bag.
There are many varieties of coffee and most of them have specific flavors depending on where they are grown and how they are processed. We have more on that near the end of the article.
COFFEE GRINDING TIPS
It should be noted that a burr coffee grinder works better than other types of grinders since the coffee is ground to a consistent size. It is more difficult to get blade grinders to be consistent in their grind but many of them are more economical. Consistency is important because if you have both coarse and fine grounds in the same batch then the coffee will not be as good.
It is also very important that the grind matches the requirements of your coffee maker. A medium to fine grind is usually better for a drip coffee maker and a coarse grind is better for something like a French Press. The finer the grind the shorter the amount of time the grounds should be exposed to the water.
If you have a coffee maker that takes a longer time to brew then you may want to grind the beans a little coarser. If it brews fairly fast you want the beans to be ground a little finer. That is why medium to fine is better for auto drip coffee makers. most of the pre-ground coffee in the supermarkets are medium to fine grind.
The longer the water has contact with the coffee grounds, the more extraction you will get. If it is over extracted, then you will get bitter coffee. There are many flavor compounds in the coffee beans. The first ones to dissolve as the water passes over the grounds are flavorful and delicious. But you don’t want all of the flavor compounds extracted. The last ones to dissolve are bitter. Unless you like bitter coffee, you do not want that. If however, your coffee maker brews fast and you use coarse grounds… It will be under extracted and the coffee will be flat and flavorless. Fine grounds are best used in something like an espresso machine that pushes the water through really fast. The very finest grinds are reserved for Greek and Turkish style coffees. It may sound complicated but it isn’t. A little experimenting with your coffee maker and grinder will enable you to brew a delicious balanced up of coffee.
For those of us who may not be a coffee Barista and have some knowledge about the perfect coffee brewing processes, we may not be familiar with the “Golden Ratio” of coffee making…
It is simply the application of one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.
Please note that some water may evaporate in some brewing methods. Also that your personal coffee-to-water ration may differ from the rule above. It is recommended to start with this ratio and then adjust according to your taste preferences.
THE PROPER WATER TEMPERATURE TO MAKE PERFECT DRIP COFFEE
Another important requirement for brewing that perfect cup of coffee, is the reaching and maintaining the proper water temperature during the brewing process. The water temperature should be between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit for best extraction results. “Extraction” is the process we referred to above. It is when the hot water flows over the coffee grounds to let out (extract) the flavor and the taste of the coffee from the ground beans.
Therefore, for the optimal brewing results, the water temperature must stay in the 195-205 degree Fahrenheit range. Otherwise, with hot water at a lower temperature, the coffee will be “under-extracted” and taste flat. On the other hand, if the water is hotter than 205 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be “over-extracted” with too many of the flavor compounds that can bring a burned or bitter taste in your brewed coffee.
For manual brewing, if you used a kettle that included a thermometer then it is ready when it gets to 205 degrees. If you use a regular kettle then bring your water to the boiling point, then turn off the heat to let your water cool for about 30 seconds. Your water is now ready to be poured over your ground coffee. Never use boiling temperature water or it will burn the beans. Before you do anything else there is one more step.
This is the process of allowing just enough hot water to be initially poured over the coffee grounds to just saturate them. Precise water delivery at the right volume and temperature is quite essential in this stage of brewing. Let all the coffee ground particles absorb the hot water during a brief rest period of 30 to 60 seconds to fully bloom.
This process will enable each bloomed ground coffee particle to be extracted at the same rate when water infusion resumes. As a result, control is established in the extraction process and the clarity of your brewed coffee.
Over the next 5 minutes, slowly pour the rest of the water over the grounds. Having a kettle with the thermometer enables you to be sure that the water remains between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit for this brewing process.
FLAVOR RICHNESS LEVEL
Yet another essential brewing factor is the length of time that the hot water makes contact with the ground coffee – called the Flavor Richness Level. This time varies depending on what brewing method you are using. What we just described above is the pour over method used with various drip appliances. There can be a great deal of difference in the flavor of your brewed coffee based on the variations of this time factor.
Here are a few examples of the varying contact times for different brewing methods:
Drip Method… 5 minutes
French Press… 2 to 4 minutes
Espresso… 20 to 30 seconds
Aeropress… 30 seconds
Cold Brew… 12 to 24 hours
As you can see above, each brewing method requires a specific contact time for the hot water with the ground coffee. Of course, there is only cold water for the Cold Brew method.
Now then, you have your filtered water, some freshly ground coffee… and some information on the best process to make great tasting coffee. How are you going to brew it?
HOW THE COFFEE MASTERS MAKE PERFECT DRIP COFFEE
It seems that there are many ways of brewing coffee. There are the standard auto drip coffee makers that we are all used to. But let us first consider what type of equipment the coffee masters would be likely to choose for brewing a perfect cup of coffee. Even though there are some fancy commercial machines that will do everything but tie your shoes for you (slight exaggeration), that isn’t the end of the story.
Coffee masters would usually choose the manual type equipment. That includes a good coffee grinder and a manual coffee brewing method such as a dripper. One of the best loved manual dripping methods of brewing is with a Chemex coffee maker. We loved what this reviewer had to say after 6 years of use.
They would also prefer a dependable pour over water kettle with a thermometer to be sure that the temperature of the water is just right. We liked the electric one with the digital base.
You may wonder why the masters prefer to use the manual methods. We can explain that simply. It is because they have complete control over the whole technique:
Remember we said:
- To make great coffee the temperature of the water needs to be between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is just off boil and they can either use a thermometer to take the kettle off at just before the boil or they can wait for it to boil and then remove from heat and wait a few seconds.
- There needs to be a pre-infusion stage where the grounds are completely saturated for a 30 to 60 seconds before the rest of the water is slowly poured over.
- The amount of time that the grounds are exposed to the water is important and should be just right to avoid over or under extraction. The timing depends on the method of brewing.
All these things can be controlled easily when you do the job manually.
MAKE PERFECT DRIP COFFEE THE EASY WAY
Now, for the rest of us, without a coffee master title, we would settle for a great, rather than perfect, cup of coffee. The good news is that you would not have to do everything by hand to make your great coffee. This will save a lot of time and effort when you are in a hurry for your coffee.
We have found three electric drip coffee makers on the market that have been built to such quality standards that they produce coffee very close to the very best manual methods without your having to stand over them.
Our top choice electric drip coffee maker is the hand-made Dutch Technivorm Moccamaster KGB 741. Second is the far less expensive Bonavita 8-Cup drip coffee machine. And third, is the Ninja Coffee Bar. All three of these drip coffeemakers have the pre- infusion which allows the coffee grounds to bloom and release carbon dioxide before the rest of the water flows over the grounds.
This is not found in most automatic coffeemakers. That is one of the manual techniques that the coffee masters use. We have learned in our own testing that this pre-infusion really does make a difference in the flavor. It makes enough difference in the quality of the brewed coffee that Glenda has decided to take the extra time to manually pre-infuse when using a coffee maker that does not do it for her. You can do that too with your own coffee maker simply by heating a small amount of water to just under boiling and manually pouring that over the grounds before turning the coffee maker on. Of course, if your coffee maker has the pre-infusion built in like these specialty coffeemakers then it is not needed.
KEEP YOUR EQUIPMENT CLEAN
It is essential to ensure that all your coffee brewing equipment is cleaned thoroughly after each use or brew, regardless of your brewing method. This applies to all the accessories and coffee machines. You should rinse everything with hot water and wipe with a clean towel.
Ensure that there are no coffee grounds left from your last use in your equipment. Leftover coffee grounds can accumulate and lead to the presence of coffee oil that, in turn, makes your coffee taste bitter.
It is also highly recommended that you “descale” your automatic brewer every three to six months. Descaling is the process to sterilize and wash out the natural build up of some deposits that occur over time. If not removed, these deposits, in your coffee brewer or machine, can cause an unpleasant taste in your coffee. Such deposits are specially plentiful when hard water is being used. The filter does remove some of them, but not all of them.
We found this great descaling solution which is compatible with all coffee and espresso machine brands. It might be a good idea to keep one handy for easy descaling.
GREAT COFFEE BEANS = GREAT COFFEE
Even with the best and the most expensive coffee brewing equipment and machines, you will not get a great tasting cup of coffee… Unless you start with your choice of great whole coffee beans. Did you know that coffee beans differ a lot in flavor depending on the country and region in which they are grown? We will bet that you already have a certain type of coffee that you have a preference for. But if you would like to try some other varieties to increase your enjoyment, here is some info to help you choose…
The National Coffee Association USA, states: “The ideal conditions for coffee trees to thrive are found around the world along the Equatorial zone called ‘The Bean Belt.’” Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries around the world, including these below and their type of coffee. We are including links to where you can find them online should you wish to try some of these exotic coffees for yourself:
Guatemala… Medium-to-full bodied coffee with a distinctive taste quality and rich flavor that has a depth and complexity of taste that is almost spicy or chocolaty. Try it in Whole Coffee Beans or in Ground Coffee.
Costa Rica… Coffee with medium body and sharp acidity that is often described as having perfect balance has given Costa Rica a reputation for fine coffee. Available in Whole Coffee Beans and Ground Coffee.
Colombia… World’s 2nd biggest and best known coffee producer, provides us with the “Colombian Supremo” coffee – the highest grade of coffee. It has a delicate, aromatic sweetness while the “Excelso Grade” is softer and slightly more acidic. Colombian coffee is sold as Whole Coffee Beans or as Ground Coffee Beans.
Indonesia… A country with thousands of islands – Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi – are known throughout the world for fine quality coffee, as well as its aged coffee. This gently aged coffee, in Indonesia’s warm and damp climate is prized for even deeper body and less acidity Indonesia’s aging process cannot be matched – even with today’s technology. Indonesian coffee is available in Whole Coffee Beans and Ground Coffee Beans for your pleasure.
While there are a lot of choices, remember that there’s no right or wrong. For instance, you can choose a dark, flavorful espresso roast coffee and still have it ground to be brewed in a drip system. Have fun trying and enjoying different combinations.”
KEEP THE COFFEE FRESH
Now that your great coffee has been brewed, according to all the correct brewing processes. There is one more recommendation that we would like to make. We are sure that you have had more than one cup of coffee that was left on the warming plate too long. It didn’t taste very good, did it?
Based on the opinion of coffee masters and our personal experience, a glass pot of freshly brewed coffee should never be left on a heating element! That is because the coffee can burn and become bitter in taste.
Any coffee that you don’t plan to drink immediately, should be poured into a quality thermal carafe to keep warm. A good quality thermal carafe will keep your coffee nice and hot, as well as retaining its fresh taste and the flavor for hours. After all, you went to the trouble of getting that amazing perfectly brewed pot of coffee. Why not keep it fresh tasting until it is served?
IN SUMMARY – BEST PROCESS TO MAKE PERFECT DRIP COFFEE
Making great coffee at home does not have to be hard. But it does help to know the factors that influence the quality of that coffee. If your coffee is not tasting as good as you would like, remember the essential points in this article. Then, make one change at a time until you find that you can sit back and really enjoy that great cup of coffee. Remember, it is your own taste buds that matter. Now that you know what can make coffee bitter, flat, or just not the best, you can avoid those pitfalls and make perfect drip coffee at home just like the Baristas do.
Make sure that:
- Your water tastes good
- Coffee beans are fresh
- The grind is right for your method of brewing
- Coffee to water ratio is to your preference
- The water temperature is right
- You pre-infuse to allow the grounds to bloom
- Contact time with the water is right for your brewing method
- You keep your equipment clean
We, Jay and Glenda, seem to be always sipping on a cup of our favorite brew as well. The research we have done for this article has heightened the quality of our own coffee as we learned a few tips in the process. Thank you for allowing us to share with you one of our favorite pastimes… Enjoying the aroma, the flavor, and the taste of a great cup of coffee made at home.