Want a sublime cup of coffee? I know the secret. I’m not one of those people who refuses to share recipes and tricks, either! (We all know someone like that…)
First, we need to talk about science. Don’t groan, it’s true. Everything is about science! STEM is king.
As far as coffee, there are factors which affect the taste and quality of a cup of joe.
What does ‘Cup of Joe’ mean, anyway? The term originated during WWI. (1914-1918) During that time period, a secretary of the navy, Joseph Daniels, was tasked with eliminating prostitution and alcohol on naval bases. With what people considered strict policies, they needed to substitute what they had. Coffee caught on!
I’m sorry to report that the guy was a jerk in an R-rated way, but this is the most commonly accepted explanation for the slang term.
You’ll be happy to know that coffee is good for you, or rather, some of the chemicals in a coffee bean are good for you. There are over 1,000 chemicals packed into one little coffee bean.
The number one fantastic chemical –in my opinion– is CAFFEINE!
This is a caffeine molecule.
(I couldn’t resist…this is a science blog, after all!)
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so it helps people stay more awake. Evidence varies by study but caffeine can help:
Caffeine sharpens your mental acuity. Who doesn’t need that?
Elevates your mood via neurotransmitter release…and it’s legal!
Helps improve memory and learning.
Improves exercise performance! Ever read the package ingredients in pre-work out powders? You guessed it. Caffeine!
Sadly, coffee is a perfect example of how too much of a good thing can go bad.
Current guidelines for adults suggest 400 milligrams/day.
That’s 3-5 cups per day.
More than that can cause side effects such as restlessness, irritability, stomach problems, irregular heart beat and muscle tremors.
Before we move on, you can click on any of these pics for a close up view. I’m excited about this feature. (Thanks, Steve!)
You wanted to know how to make the perfect cup of coffee.
VARIABLE NUMBER ONE : THE GRIND
Beans. Chemistry is cool but we can’t make coffee without beans in your scoop. And they come roasted so let’s forget about that step. (YAY)
The single most important piece of gear in the coffee-making chain is the grinder.
Researching this post, I learned that there are two kinds of grinders.
Blade Coffee grinders don’t grind – they chop. If you put a handful of coffee beans through a blade grinder you’ll have grounds in different shapes and sizes. They are inconsistent.
That’s fine for chopping garlic or onions but it won’t make you delicious coffee.
Blade grinders don’t have settings to choose a grind size. Want to brew coffee in a French press one day and a drip pot the next? The blade grinder can’t do that for you.
It just chops away.
Burr grinders are the way to go.
Burr grinders funnel beans down a narrow pathway and grind them consistently.
You can change the settings for different types of brewing!
Burr grinder = Good!
I admit it. I used a blade grinder for years.
We all make mistakes.
With grinding, there is always some dialing in to do.
On the first try, if your coffee is too weak, then grind a bit finer. If it’s too bitter and strong, and a bit muddy, let the grind go a bit coarser on your next round.
One last aspect of grinding. Freshness.
Ground coffee gets stale, just like all other foods.
Getting maximum flavor from the beans is called extraction.
To do this, the ideal water temperature should be 195-205 degrees F. This is just under the boiling temperature for water of 212 degrees F. It’s easy to tell when water starts to boil!
A purist may get a thermometer. If you don’t fall into that category, you can boil your water and wait until the bubbles in the container stop bubbling before your pour over.
I won’t come to your house and bop you on the head if you guesstimate. We have ten degrees of wiggle room.
Quick yes or no question below. What do you think? you have a 50/50 chance to get it right…or a 100 % chance if you say you did!
VARIABLE NUMBER THREE
I wish this guy was at my house brewing my coffee. (He's not) If he's not at your house either, let's continue...
You’re now thinking, geez, Sue, I own a Mr. Coffee.
I’m not boiling water.
I say; PERFECT!
The truth is that most commercial coffee makers hit that sweet spot of 195-205 F .
Which means there’s no need to go out and spend mega bucks on a fancy drip coffee maker!
Many companies are squirming right now, but it’s true. Think about what they claim. Water temperature is their biggest selling point.
My pour-over contraption (slide show below) is ideal for travel. And I do love the ritual of the press pot. But I also own a Mr. Coffee, for those stumble- around-in-the mornings moments.
Okay, that’s every morning.
The big take away here is that there’s only one critical step to make a perfect cup of coffee!
***Use a burr grinder.
***Grind a weeks’ worth at a time so the beans stay fresh.
The directions will tell you how to grind your beans for your particular brewer.
The rule of thumb is that the less time the water is in contact with the coffee grind, the finer the grind should be.
Some delicious options above for pairing with your coffee!