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Making That Perfect Cup of Coffee

Over the last month or so I’ve been on a quest to create the perfect cup of coffee. I’m definitely not there yet, but I think I’m headed down the right path. As a Software Engineer, it’s absolutely critical that I have a good supply of tasty coffee (and, good coding music) in order to keep me wired and productive. I’ve been reading forums, blog posts, tweets, and talking with friends to find some of the key secrets. This post will cover what I’ve learned so far.

Starbucks Espresso Blend

A great cup of coffee starts with the beans. I’ve been learning a lot over the past few weeks about coffee roasting and the importance of freshly roasted beans. One of the best ways to ensure the beans are fresh is to purchase directly from a roaster. There are a few big name coffee roasters that are pretty popular around the web. Those would be Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia Coffee. I purchased a bag of Hairbender, Stumptown’s most popular blend,  earlier this month and it was quite delicious. The only downside is that the cost of the coffee adds up pretty quickly once you pay for shipping. But, I guess it’s a small price to pay for coffee that was roasted 2 days before it arrived at my door! In addition to these roasters, there are a few other local places that I’m hoping to check out very soon. I’ve heard excellent things about Counter Culture Coffee out of Durham, NC. Finally, I really enjoy some of the Starbucks beans. They might not be as freshly roasted but they are convenient and affordable!

Today I opened a new bag of Starbucks Espresso Blend. As you can see from the above photo, the beans are shiny and there is a lot of oil remaining on them. That’s typically a good sign that the beans are very fresh. In addition to the shiny look, they smell absolutely incredible! In order to keep them fresh, it’s best to use them within a week or two of opening and to store the beans in an air tight container. Never store the beans in the refrigerator, as they can absorb odors from other foods in the fridge.

Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder

The next step in the process is to grind the beans. Today I just received my new Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder! I did a lot of research and found it to be the best conical burr grinder available for under $100. You can easily pay over $400 for some fancy grinders! When shopping for a grinder, look for a conical burr grinder instead of a traditional blade grinder. The conical burr grinder can grind at a slower speed, reducing friction which can be harmful to the taste of the grinds. These grinders are also quieter and produce a much more consistent grind. This is very important if you are using a french press where a consistent, coarse grind is recommended. Make sure to grind immediately before you’re ready to use the grinds and only grind what you need.

The last step in the process is the french press. I’m using the Bodum Chambord French Press that I got as a Christmas gift. The french press is a very simple device that lets you brew rich and strong coffee in just 4 minutes! The ideal water temperature for brewing is right around 200 degrees F. Most regular drip coffee makers are unable to brew anywhere near the ideal temperature, which is one of the reasons the french press coffee tastes superior. Another reason is that the paper filters used in many drip coffee makers actually absorb a lot of the oils and flavor of the coffee and trap it from reaching the resulting coffee. The french press avoids this problem.

Bodum French Press. 4 more minutes!

Once you get the hang of it, making coffee with the french press requires only a little more work than the drip coffee maker. The first step is to bring some water to boil on the stove. Then measure and grind the beans. Once the water is boiling, take it off the stove and put a little water into the french press to heat up the glass. Now add the grounds and pour the rest of the water into the french press over the coffee grounds. I like to stir the top of the mixture quickly to prevent any clogging. Set a timer for 4 minutes and wait while the coffee brews. Once it’s done, slowly press the grinds to the bottom and pour. Make sure you don’t let the coffee brew past 4 minutes; that’s when it will begin to taste bitter.

Bodum Pavina Thermo Glasses - 9 ounces. (Need bigger ones!)

I’m still very new to all of this, so please feel free to correct me in the comments if anything is incorrect! Now it’s time to brew some more coffee!

P.S. I’m back!! (Maybe…)


Comment from Alexis
Time January 21, 2011 at 10:39 am

Pepsi is better :)

Comment from Implovator
Time January 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Nice work! The french press is definitely my favorite way to brew coffee. However, I’ve been using an AeroPress at work lately. Although its small paper filter does absorb some of the oils, I don’t think it weakens the flavor too much. BTW, you can get Counter Culture beans from They roast on Monday, so try to drop by on Tuesday. Have you considered home roasting. You can’t beat the freshness, and the price is really good too. I blogged about it here not too long ago:

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