Coffee Tips as Prices Rise

May 03, 2011

As coffee prices rise, make every brew worth the extra buck. SupermarketGurus’s freshest coffee tips

Baristas and coffee aficionados worldwide bring style, ceremony, and coffee-making theories to each cup they make, but all agree on one thing: the freshest bean makes the best grind which begets the freshest-tasting coffee. Sounds easy enough, but what are the guidelines for the freshest cup, especially at a time when coffee prices are at the highest they have been in years? Here’s the SupermarketGuru’s Freshness 101, making each cup really worth it.

Buy Small and Buy Often
In an ideal world, you might roast the beans at home for the ultimate in freshness but that’s a difficult and often time-consuming process. The easier route is to buy coffee in small quantities and use promptly. Even though the flavor of coffee begins to fade after roasting, beans will certainly stay fresh for several weeks, especially if kept in a can or canister with a tight-fitting lid, away from heat, light, and dampness.

Grind the Beans Yourself 
Grinding beans only when you need them avoids staleness, contributes to a more flavorful cup, and of course, offers you the indelible fragrance that whets the appetite of even the most blasé coffee drinker.

Use the Right Grinder for the Brew
Use a burr grinder, which is better for grinding the beans evenly in size and texture. This is a key to releasing the volatile flavor oils into the cup. Blade grinders are best for coffees that can benefit from their “smashing” technique, namely Turkish coffees or some Chemex pots.

Choose the Brewer that YOU Like Best
It’s your palate, your satisfaction, and your enjoyment that count (and by the way your money!), so if you like that ‘50s percolator taste, go for it. If it’s a French press, automatic drip pot, or the battered metal moka you’ve had since college, stick by it. Nobody knows what type of coffee brew tastes best to you more than you!

Use the Right Filter
Using filters? Buy the best if you like paper ones to avoid clogging, or opt out of paper (and its waste) and go for the gold, a Swiss gold filter that has very fine holes that do not clog, rinse easily, and can be used for years.

Use Good Water
The choices for water are wide and wonderful these days: purifiers that fit on your kitchen sink faucet, bottled spring water delivered right to your door, and “gourmet” spring waters available at your local grocer. Waters to avoid are soft waters, regular tap water in most communities, and distilled waters. Remember, the freshest-tasting cup relies on the water as well as the bean.

Temperature Matters
Boiling-hot coffee burns the tongue and the fingers holding a cup, so imagine what it does to the bean. Forget about boiling (212°F) water, which cooks the grinds. Instead, use slightly cooler water from (195 to 200°F). If the water boils, take it off the heat, let it cool down about five minutes to the recommended temperatures, then brew as usual.

Timing Is Essential
The one criterion important to all brewing methods is to make only the amount that you will drink now, and re-brew as desired. Believe us, the extra effort to brew more often is worth it and respectful to the bean! Keeping that pot on the burner for more than 18 minutes only means one thing: instead of warming the brew it burns it. In fact, most coffee tastes freshest when consumed within 10 minutes of its brewing.

Use Enough Coffee!
Although this isn't technically about freshness, using the right amount of coffee gives you the best, deepest, most flavorful cup. Don't be stingy. You're worth the best. Two level tablespoons to a six-ounce cup or four level tablespoons to a twelve-ounce mug will be perfect for most palates. Adjust to your taste.

Keep Your Tools Clean
Nothing can contaminate all your best efforts better than a dirty pot or cup. Residue from the oils and the grinds builds up in mugs, filters, and brewers, so take the time to clean your tools regularly. Your coffee will definitely taste better, richer and fresher!