Friday, November 5, 2010

Five Tips for Better Drip Coffee

With the possible exception of the ubiquitous press, most of the brewing methods I see and use on a daily basis would be exotic to most coffee drinkers in the United States.  I've never written about the humble and much-maligned drip percolator -- until now!

If you are an occasional gourmet coffee drinker who relies on a Mr. Coffee, this post is for you.

1. Clean your coffee pot and percolator.  Daily!  Especially with the auto-heat function most coffee makers use, a thin film of coffee solids will develop on the bottom of your carafe.  The plastic tray that you place your filter in will also develop a layer of grime (coffee makers are usually made of a dark colored plastic to hide this nasty stuff and keep your percolator looking nicer than it is).  Grime in the percolator or the pot can do nothing good for your brew.  Remember there's no such thing as a "seasoned" coffee maker, and battle the stuff daily.  A wipe down with a paper towel and a hot water rinse does wonders for a percolator tray.  Use dish soap and hot water in the coffee pot.

2. Grind your coffee fresh, even if that means getting a cheap blade grinder.  If you use a grinder, keep it clean too.  One rule of thumb is to wipe down the grinder every time you change your coffee bag.

3. Know your coffee maker's brew cycle, and pour that pot as soon as it's finished.  Coffee ages most gracefully as it cools, and coffee on a hot plate gets stale quickly.

4. Rinse your paper filter under hot water before placing it in the tray and adding coffee.  A gentle but thorough rinse will get rid of much of the papery taste in the filter without damaging the paper itself.

5. Buy fresh, whole bean coffee weekly.  Look for a roast date on the package within the last week, and keep in mind that the coffee will unpredictably go stale somewhere around 14 days after roasting.

These best practices will help, but to be honest, most coffee makers have one fatal flaw that will consistently cause acrid flavors in your coffee: (relatively) cold water.  Coffee fully extracts at temperatures above 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and most coffee makers use water far below this temperature.  The combination of cold water with relatively long brew times produces a burnt, coffee-forward flavor that misses the subtleties in many great coffees.

The four steps above address other problems, but I'm afraid the only way to address the temperature issue is to fork over $300 for a hand-made Dutch Technivorm drip coffee maker. :(

Of course, if you get gourmet enough to buy a Technivorm, why not save cash and use a French press instead?

No comments:

Post a Comment