For many people across the globe, coffee is as much a morning ritual as it is a way of life. As Americans, we tend to think of coffee more as a tool to help keep us awake than a crafted catalyst for social settings. But for cultures in many other countries, spanning many centuries, coffee drinking is an artform—from the way it is brewed to the way it is consumed. Somewhere along the way, this artform was lost to many American coffee drinkers as sugar became a main ingredient to make our brews drinkable. After the “coffee enlightenment” of the 90’s, we’ve become a bit more disciplined in our coffee making techniques, but there’s still room for improvement. Here are a few simple tips to help you enjoy your morning cup of joe a bit more each day.
- Start with the bean. To get the best flavor from your coffee, it all starts with the bean. Beans harvested more recently will have better flavor in general. Depending on your tastes, you may prefer a light roast, which will be more acidic and flavorful, or a dark roast, which will be more bitter and less acidic.
- Grind it just right. To fully enjoy your coffee, you will want to grind the beans just before brewing, as coffee beans are highly perishable when exposed to air. Ground coffee tends to go stale much more quickly than whole beans do. When grinding, make sure that the grind is of proper coarseness for the brewing method. French Press brews will require a different grind than a Pour Over, for example.
- Store it properly. Again, coffee exposed to oxygen will quickly turn stale. When storing leftover beans, make sure they are in an air-tight container. You will want to use your beans within two weeks to get the most out of them, otherwise you may not enjoy the full flavor after they have gone stale.
- Use the right technique. Although there is much debate over which brew method is the best, there is a factor that most brew masters agree on—the water to coffee ratio. You don’t want your coffee to taste watered down, but you also don’t want it too strong and undrinkable. To achieve the perfect taste, you will want to mix 1 unit of coffee with 17.5 units of water, and adjust slightly according to taste. You should also consider water temperature of the brew for proper extraction of the caffeine and flavor. The best brews are created at or around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, unless you are created a cold brew.
- Enjoy with all your senses. Remember that drinking coffee is more than just the taste of it, although it does constitute a large portion of the experience. Once you’ve mastered the proper brewing techniques, taste will come naturally. Smell adds much to the taste, so try drinking from an open cup every once and awhile—something we’ve forgotten to do in our fast-paced American lifestyle. If you want to drink from an extravagant gold halo lid on top of your temperature controlled travel mug to make your experience all that much more fulfilling, be my guest. Another benefit to open cups is that some brew masters add latte art to the foam, adding a visual component to your drink as well. Next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, try experiencing it will all your senses.
Next time you go to brew a cup of this age-old tradition, use the above techniques to fully enjoy the experience. Coffee doesn’t have to be a taste we eventually acclimate to, but rather a rich and tasty daily indulgence.