Science Up Your Coffee For The Perfect Cup

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!

Joseph Daniels
Library of Congress

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. 


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:

Wikipedia Commons

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!

Coffee beans have anti-oxidants!  (one such example of an anti-oxidant in coffee beans on the right.)

What good are they? I’m glad you asked. These little miracle workers…

Chlorogenic Acid
Chlorogenic Acid : National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database.

By removing free radicals and unstable molecules.

Increase blood flow to the brain

Type II Diabetes

Parkinson’s Disease

Some liver disease



Anti inflammatory

Anti bacterial


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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.



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)

Coffee Beans


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.

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.


Click on this pic and check out my manicure! I get them once a year so I need to document the event.


One last aspect of grinding. Freshness.

Ground coffee gets stale, just like all other foods.


Switzerland stream with Ian


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! 


Yes or no?


Hard water makes better coffee. Seems counterintuitive but it's true! The magnesium, sodium, and calcium and ions in hard water bind with the flavor components in the beans. This enhances the deliciousness! 
Click here for an article here if you care to read
Water Boiling
Microwave...I'm in the dark ages here!
Electric kettle
Instapot...I don't own one but I wish I did!


Handsome man preparing coffee


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. 


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.



I wouldn’t recommend doing this…hands free pour overs (above) are a solid option but there is no way the water in the pic on the right stayed at 195-205 degrees F, not holding the filter like that!

That’s one determined person right there. 


The big take away here is that there’s only one critical step to make a perfect cup of coffee in one step!

***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!

Takeaway? It's all about THE GRIND

If you want the recipe for the chocolate mousse in the slide show above, say the word!

Ready to science up your coffee?


How do you make your coffee? Now you’re ready to science up your coffee for the perfect cup!

Drop me a comment below! Unless you want to talk about tea…? For a post all about tea, click here!

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Amy Laundrie
May 1, 2020 1:03 pm

Hi Sue,
I had to look up burr grinders on Amazon. I didn’t know anything about them. As a coffee lover, I’ll keep your tips in mind. While in Costa Rica we got to tour a coffee plantation and have freshly ground coffee afterward. I still remember the deliciousness.

Retirestyle Travel
Retirestyle Travel
May 1, 2020 3:08 pm

I enjoy coffee in the morning, but not so much that I grind it myself. I have a few coffee grinders, so I’ll have to see if I can make a great cup of coffee using your tips.

T. B. C...
Reply to  Retirestyle Travel
May 4, 2020 3:52 pm

Aha…I never knew coffee goes stale after a week. So the more ground coffee that we get in the shops…is stale? And no good??

Great article by the way x

T. B. C...
Reply to  Susan Berk Koch
May 5, 2020 5:39 am

Ah right. Well we better go buy some coffee beans and a burrr blender. Any beans you would highly recommend? X

T. B. C...
Reply to  Susan Berk Koch
May 5, 2020 6:51 am

Fabulous insight! We shall experiment – we do like it smoky. Thank you x

T. B. C...
Reply to  Susan Berk Koch
May 5, 2020 5:44 am

Ah right! Well we shall head our and buy our own coffee beans and a burr grinder. Any recommendations on coffee beans? X

Diffusing the Tension
Diffusing the Tension
May 1, 2020 4:18 pm

Interesting history! I always wondering why people said cup of joe, but never thought to look it up for some reason. Thanks for the new knowledge!

Eva Apelqvist
Eva Apelqvist
May 1, 2020 4:24 pm

Excellent article and just my kind of topic!!! Thank you for the grinder suggestion. I will have to get a burr grinder – I do have the baaad chopping one. Have to argue about grinding up a whole week’s worth of coffee beans though… I only grind ONE cup’s worth. If I want another cup, I’ll grind that more. Another tip for the serious coffee drinker is to use a thin-lipped cup to drink out of. Though everybody has their own preference, I suppose.
Thank you, thank you. I wish it wasn’t too late for a cup now!

May 1, 2020 4:50 pm

I’m a coffee lover so I loved this post and it was so informative! Thanks for sharing and teaching me something new!

Reply to  Susan Berk Koch
May 1, 2020 10:39 pm


Carolyn Holton
Carolyn Holton
May 1, 2020 8:23 pm

Very interesting, I love coffee, and now I want to start grinding but, darn, I just bought a big bag of already – ground coffee at Costco……….I will try when this bag is gone! 🙂

May 1, 2020 8:32 pm

Very informative and great post. I will try to make a delicious cup of coffee using your tips. Thank for the good suggestions and sharing this post!

May 1, 2020 10:00 pm

I learned a lot, as always! Thanks for the post!

May 2, 2020 11:35 am

I’ve just got a new coffee machine and I told myself I’d learn a bit more about coffee. This is a great starting point 🙂 x

May 2, 2020 11:49 am

It’s a great post! Coffee is an essential part of my life. I love the information you have provided.❤️

Jupiter Hadley
May 2, 2020 12:00 pm

Wow! I feel like I learned a lot about coffee. We are attempting to make our own cold brew – so it’s great to learn about the grind!!!

May 2, 2020 12:04 pm

Just my kind of topic… the science behind it. Thank you for easy understanding, I’ve actually never heard of burr grinder before. Thank you for sharing ❤️

Anika May
Anika May
May 2, 2020 2:20 pm

I’m not a coffee drinker but this is so interesting to read! I don’t know much about it so this was a fun post to scroll through. Thanks for sharing!

Anika |

Anika May
Anika May
May 2, 2020 2:21 pm

I’m not a coffee drinker but this was such an interesting post to read! I don’t know much about the history so it was fun scrolling through this post. Thanks for sharing!

Anika |

Bekka - Feelings of a Fake Adult
Bekka - Feelings of a Fake Adult
May 2, 2020 5:05 pm

Interesting post! I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, but my girlfriend loves the stuff so will pass on your tips to her!

May 2, 2020 7:01 pm

Very interesting! I’m a huge coffee drinker and I’m so fussy about my beans but I skip over the details of the grind sometimes. I need to pay closer attention to what I’m doing! x


Megbeth Travels
May 3, 2020 5:35 am

I love the passion you have! Unfortunately, I’m a tea person 😬 but I definitely respect the art of coffee

May 3, 2020 6:53 am

This is such an interesting post! I never have looked at coffee like this before. I love coffee so much but I didn’t realise how many factors go into it! Thanks for sharing 🙂

Em x

May 3, 2020 7:04 am

I really love coffee. I can’t leave without it ahah.

xoxo from France.


Margarida Vasconcelos (@daisyandthyme)
May 3, 2020 7:24 am

I am a coffee lover and found this post fascinating. Thanks for sharing all this info.

May 3, 2020 8:43 am

This is such an interesting post, I always enjoy learning more of the science behind things! It seems like caffeine has tons of health benefits. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! <3 xx

Bexa |

May 3, 2020 12:16 pm

It is interesting to learn about the chemical reactions that coffee does for our bodies. Portion control is so important so it’s probably not wise to drink 1 gallon of anything per day, unless it is water haha. Thanks for sharing all of these fun facts about coffee!

Nancy ♥

Amie.🌼 (@acurvyvegan)
May 3, 2020 1:13 pm

Definitely going to look into a coffee grinder!

Love, Amie ❤️

The Curvaceous Vegan

Kelly Diane
May 3, 2020 4:57 pm

Such an interesting post, I really learnt a lot. Thank you for sharing

Bella Vita Blog
May 3, 2020 6:24 pm

Such an informative post! Will look into a coffee grinder. Thanks for sharing!

Sophie Lou
May 4, 2020 1:26 am

As both a coffee lover and a science lover this post was super interesting to read! I will definitely use some of these tips from now on!

Jenny in Neverland
May 4, 2020 6:07 am

Very informative for those that love that cup of coffee! But you’re so right… We all know someone who doesn’t give away any tips!

I'm All Booked Up YA
I'm All Booked Up YA
May 4, 2020 2:24 pm

Never thought about the science behind coffee! This is really cool!

Casey Anne
Casey Anne
May 4, 2020 2:59 pm

I love the semll of coffee, but I’ll be honest – I hate the taste! The only thing coffee related that I actually like is coffee ice cream which I don’t think counts, haha. I never really thought of the sciecne and coffee though – defintiely a unique and interesting post!

May 4, 2020 3:55 pm

I love coffee need to get myself a coffee grinder soon

May 5, 2020 6:46 am

I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, but I did just recently make a coffee cake for my mum’s birthday and that was absolutely amazing. My mum is a huge coffee drinker though so I’ll make sure to pass this post on to her, as it seems really useful! I mean it was great learning about the cup of joe thing though, I’ve always wondered where that has come from! Thanks for sharing x

Sarah M.
Sarah M.
May 5, 2020 8:30 am

What a fun and interesting read!! I love your style of writing 🤗 I look forward to hearing more about tea for sure! Sarah –

a Life on a Dime
a Life on a Dime
May 5, 2020 11:15 am

Science and a history lesson in one!

May 6, 2020 6:36 pm

I love this post! I am a huge coffee fan. I even have a coffee bar in my home. And I am always looking for ways to make the perfect cup. Thanks for sharing this!

Lisa Alioto
Lisa Alioto
May 7, 2020 7:29 am

I”m actually not a coffee drinker but oh how I love the smell of a good cup of coffee. Nothing beats it!

Sam | Violet Hollow
May 10, 2020 5:40 am

I am a huge coffee fan, I really favour grinding my own beans! Thanks for sharing xx

May 16, 2020 10:48 am

Wow! The science behind everyday’s drink 🙂 Great stuff!

Tina Martin
May 18, 2020 9:56 pm

Did not know that there was a difference between coffee grinders.

May 27, 2020 12:59 am

Great post and fun facts too. Now I know what makes the “coffee”. I start the day with a nice cup of coffee. 😉

A Sustainably Simple Life
August 25, 2020 5:49 pm

Wow! So much goes into a cup of good coffee! I’m one of those that spoils the good cup of coffee with lots of cream haha. But it’s so good!

March 1, 2022 7:57 am

I had no idea about the difference between grinders. I usually buy my coffee already ground, but I am going to try beans! Thanks.

March 17, 2022 6:15 am

All these coffee pictures are making me crave a cup! Thanks for the great info.

Susan Berk Koch author

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