Science Up Your Coffee For A 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.

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. 

CAFFEINE : THE NUMBER ONE FANTASTIC CHEMICAL –in my opinion

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_molecule
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.

MAKING A 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)

Coffee Beans

THE GRIND

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. 

Blade grinder=Bad!Blade Grinder Blade Grinder blades

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!

 

Coffee grinder

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.

 

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

COFFEE BEAN FRESHNESS FACTOR

One last aspect of grinding. Freshness.

Ground coffee gets stale, just like all other foods.

VARIABLE NUMBER TWO : THE WATER

Switzerland stream with Ian

THE WATER

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! 

DOES SOFT WATER MAKE BETTER COFFEE?

Yes or no?

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!

VARIABLE NUMBER THREE : THE BREW

Handsome man preparing coffee

BREWING

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.

 

 

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!

***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.

COFFEE GRINDING CHART

Some delicious options above for pairing with your coffee!

Takeaway? It's all about

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

Ready to science up your coffee?

TRY A FRESH GRIND AT HOME!

How do you make your coffee?

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

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85 thoughts on “Science Up Your Coffee For A Perfect Cup”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
          • I think that’s a matter of taste, as in what types of flavors you like. Some people buy coffee beans because they come from a certain part of the world, ie Costa Rica or Brazil. Connoisseurs value coffee beans the same way as others cherish different types of wines! I prefer light roast coffee, which is less smoky. And light roast actually has more caffeine! (ha) My favorite brand is Peets. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of Peet’s blends, but if I can get it, I like Columbia Luminosa for light roast, Big Bang for their medium, Major Dickason’s for dark roast.

  2. 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!

    Reply
    • You’re right of course, but sometimes it’s daunting to grind first thing in the morning.If the beans are in an air-tight container, they do stay fresh for a week. I feel like a cup right now, too. We’ll toast tomorrow morning! And I’ll look for a thin-lipped cup.

      Reply
  3. 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! 🙂

    Reply
  4. 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!

    Reply
  5. 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 ❤️

    Reply
  6. 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

    Sophie

    Reply
  7. 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

    Reply
  8. 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 ♥ exquisitely.me

    Reply
    • HA! That is the truth! Recently, a friend’s grandma wouldn’t share her biscotti recipe. I took that as a challenge. My kids and I worked on our own recipe. Many batches later, we have one. Baking is science!

      Reply
  9. 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!

    Reply
  10. 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

    Reply
    • I love coffee cake! Homemade gifts are the best! You’re a great daughter. (I’d love the recipe if you’re willing to share?) It’s funny how we take phrases for granted, like cup of joe. I find it satisfying to learn the stories behind them!

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

    Reply
  12. 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!

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

    Reply

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