Best Way to Make Coffee

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    ways to make coffee

    Coffee is the world's second most popular drink after water, and it also works as 'brain fuel' for millions of people around the world. I mean, how would our Monday mornings be (after partying over the weekend) without coffee to keep us awake and focused? Hell, a cup or two of this amazing brew after those notoriously hectic mid-morning meetings is, to many people, more than a craving; it is a necessity to keep them going for the rest of the day.

    As a long time coffee connoisseur, I decided to throw in my two cents into the eternal 'Coffee Wars' and let the world in on what I think - nay, KNOW - is the best way to make coffee. Of course, different methods work for different people, and I'll try to highlight them too so you can make a personal choice. Reader discretion, innit? 

    But before we get to that, let’s first go through the various types of coffee and how they are prepared in different parts of the world.

    Types of Coffee Beans

    There are 2 main types of coffee beans; Arabica and Robusta. The former is the most popular type, despite being more expensive - mainly due to its sweet and robust flavor. The latter, on the other hand, does not sell much despite being cheaper and full of caffeine (probably because of its bitter taste).  

    I'd personally recommend using Arabica beans when brewing your coffee using the methods below, especially if you're a fan of black coffee. But you can also go with Robusta if that's your thing. Whichever type you choose, below are some important quality control tips you may want to keep in mind when buying your coffee beans:

    • Only buy tightly packed beans that are not exposed to UV rays, or other shoppers' hands
    • Check the packaging for details on where the beans were grown and roasted. If these details are missing, return to the shelf as they're most likely poor quality. Ideally, go for popular brands or ones that you’ve tried before - this will help avoid trial and error
    • Avoid putting your coffee beans in the freezer as the sub-zero temperatures will mess up the oils and fibers, essentially killing the flavors. Just keep them on your kitchen counter or cupboard and shield them from direct sunlight.

    Brewing Methods 

    With all that said, we can now discuss the different brewing methods. Of course, we'll start with my favorite brewing method, and one that you can easily and conveniently do from anywhere:

    1

    Drip

    Now, if you've ever taken coffee in your life, whether at Starbucks, Dunkin', or your parents' house, you've definitely had a taste of drip coffee. Studies put it as the most popular coffee type in the U.S, consumed by a whopping 45% of all coffee drinkers.

    Basically, drip brewing involves the use of an automatic coffee maker, and produces a much "cleaner" end product than French pressing, percolating or espressos. This is because the coffee makers used have paper filters that filter out most of the insoluble mass and oils in the ground coffee. At the risk of being branded a simpleton (which is not that far from the truth), I will admit my love for drip coffee comes from the fact that I don't have to think or do anything much to make it.

    Here are the steps involved in drip brewing:

    1. Load a good amount of ground coffee into the machine's filter.

     

    2. Pour your desired amount of water into the water reservoir. 


    3. Switch on the power and let the machine do its work. If you're using an old Mr. Coffee or any old school maker that has a timer, set it to between 3-5 minutes, depending on the number of cups you desire. The more modern makers will automatically stop bubbling when the brewing finishes, which is a prompt to turn off the power.

    So, how does a drip machine work?
    As an electronic device, it contains a heating element that, when switched on, heats the water in the reservoir and forces it upwards and onto what I'd call a 'showerhead'. This showerhead then drips the hot water over the grounds in the filter and consequently produces brewed coffee, which you can drain into a cup or carafe.

    Best Machines for Drip Brewing

    Drip coffee makers are different from other types of brewers, and if you really want to enjoy the best drip brew, you need to invest in a specialized maker. They're actually quite cheap; with higher-end models retailing less than $100

    Irrespective of your preferences, always be on the lookout for the following essential features: 

    ◐  Large Mouth - Makes cleaning way lot easier.


    ◐  Adequate Capacity - It doesn't make sense to buy a $45 10-cup maker if you only take two cups a day while you can get a 5-cup soldier at $24.


    ◐  Temperature Controls - You want a machine that allows you to define the temperature of your coffee, whether you love it 'hot' or 'very hot'. You may have to fork out a few extra bucks for a programmable device, but it's undoubtedly worth it, trust me.


    2

    French Pressing 

    While I prefer to use the drip method mainly because it is convenient and fast, I sometimes find myself experimenting with other brewing techniques to try and find that perfect cup. And one of the methods I have come to like is the French Pressing or Immersion method. This basically involves immersing ground coffee in a carafe of hot water and then 'pressing' them with a plunger to separate the insoluble mass from the coffee and thereby produce a consistent brew. 


    Unlike the drip method, however, French pressing is an entirely manual process, meaning there's no filters or machines to assist you. As a consequence, it is a bit slower and outcomes fully depend on your skills and expertise. Further, the lack of a filter and the direct mixing of the grounds and water means that your first cup will most definitely be bitter and oily. 


    There are lots of ways to French press your coffee, but we will start with the easiest one, for obvious lessons. But before we get there, you will need to get a good French press for the job. A typical French press contains a carafe (which stores the water and coffee), and a plunger, which further contains a filter. Here are some key features to consider when in the market for one:

    ◐  Type of Carafe - Most carafes are made from plastic or tempered glass, but you may also find some made from stainless steel. Each of the materials has its pros and cons, which we'll not get into, but I would strongly recommend a clear plastic carafe as they look as beautiful as the tempered glass models without the risk of breakage.


    ◐  Filter Type - Generally, filters with plastic edges degrade faster than those with metal edges, not to mention their high susceptibility to cracking and breakage.


    ◐  Plunger Top - You ideally want your plunger to be tight enough to prevent heat from leaving the carafe. Accordingly, you should steer clear of the cheaper presses and instead invest in an upper-end device that comes with a guard.


    For this method, you will also use a simple kitchen timer, in the absence of which, you can use your phone's stopwatch.


    4-point procedure for preparing French pressed coffee:

    1. Get your water and coffee beans ready for action. Bring the water to a boil and grind your coffee beans to a medium-coarse texture (too fine and you get a very bitter brew). Use some of the water to rinse the carafe and plunger then pat them dry.


    2. Add your grounds to the empty container then pour in the hot water to the level you desire. Ideally, you should use 25 g of coffee grounds for every 400 ml of water. However, if you fancy strong coffee, you can try adding an additional 5-10g  and reduce the water. 


    3. Now, add your hot water into the carafe, cover it with the plunger lid to keep the heat inside, and immediately start the timer. At the one minute mark, stop the timer and thoroughly but gently stir the mixture with the aim of dissolving as many grounds as you can. Thereafter, cover it and give it another 3 minutes to finish brewing.


    4. Slowly but firmly press the plunger down the carafe until it is sitting above the ground coffee particles at the bottom of the container. And that's about it, your coffee is now ready to drink.

    3

    Pour Over

    Many people, me included, believe that making a manual coffee requires a level of skill that can only be achieved by some drowsy, mustachioed barista at Caribou. However, like many things in life, it is only complicated in your mind. 


    After the French press, the pour over method is the most commonly used manual brewing method in midrange coffee houses. Having avoided doing it due to fear of failure, I couldn't believe how easy and fast the process turned out to be when I finally attempted it sometime last year. For that reason, I had to include it in the list and hopefully recruit more people into the ‘Pour Over band.’ 


    So, here's the lowdown; to make Pour Over coffee, you don't need any fancy equipment or machines. You only need a simple plastic filter cone, and of course, your usual coffee holding vessel. Just like with the French press, you will also need some medium-coarse ground coffee beans. The procedure is as follows:

    1.  Bring a jug full of water to a boil. 


    2.  Place a coffee filter inside your plastic filter cone then place the cone directly above a clean container, whether a cup or carafe. If your cone is small, you may want to use a small kitchen stand for extra stability. 


    3.  Pour a bit of the boiling water on the filter and let it drip into the vessel below. This helps to wash most of the papery flavor in the filter, so your end product tastes like real coffee, and not like filter paper juice. After all the water drains from the filter, discard it - or better yet, recycle it.


    4.  Add your grounds on the filter and shake to ensure even distribution. Ideally, you should aim for a water to coffee ratio of 16:1, but then again, maybe you like your coffee stronger than I do. 


    5.  Now pour your boiling water over the grounds in the cone. Don't pour it all at once, though. Just drip enough to fully envelop your grounds without rising too high above them. You will notice some sort of gaseous bubble where the coffee meets the hot water. This is called a 'bloom' and it is recommended to allow your coffee to bloom for at least 30 seconds before adding more water if you want an enhanced flavor. 


    6.  After blooming is complete, keep adding the hot water to the grounds. Try to do so in a stop-start cycle to prevent flooding the cone. Also, use circular motions to ensure the water reaches all the grounds in the cone. Repeat until you've poured out all your preferred water volume. And now you have your hot, delicious cup of pour over coffee. 


    It's as simple as that!

    Best Machines for Drip Brewing

    Drip coffee makers are different from other types of brewers, and if you really want to enjoy the best drip brew, you need to invest in a specialized maker. They're actually quite cheap; with higher-end models retailing less than $100

    Irrespective of your preferences, always be on the lookout for the following essential features: 

    • Large Mouth - Makes cleaning way lot easier.
    • Adequate Capacity - It doesn't make sense to buy a $45 10-cup maker if you only take two cups a day while you can get a 5-cup soldier at $24.
    • Temperature Controls - You want a machine that allows you to define the temperature of your coffee, whether you love it 'hot' or 'very hot'. You may have to fork out a few extra bucks for a programmable device, but it's undoubtedly worth it, trust me.



    In Summary

    Starting out your day with a hot, perfectly brewed cup of coffee will have you walking on air all day long. 

    It doesn't really matter what method you choose - all of them work perfectly if done right. However, here are the key considerations to make: 

    • If you're looking for a low-risk and exceptionally convenient brew, go for the Drip. 
    • If you want a rich, robust flavor, try the French press. 
    • And if you're a bit down on the dough and can't afford to go to Starbucks, you can bring Starbucks to your home by doing a classic pour over. 

    Try any of the methods and let us know how it goes!