The perfect cup of coffee. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up. It’s the one food item I’ll never ever give up, no matter which eating plan I’m on. I may not head to the grocery store at 10:00 pm if there’s no bread for lunches the next day (isn’t that what hot lunch is for?) but if I have no beans or half & half? Well, I’ll be sure to find a store that’s open.
Coffee is quite personal and everyone takes it their own way (I like mine strong with a splash of half & half). Even the coffee connoisseurs disagree about criteria like beans and brewing methods. Despite many delicious cups enjoyed at various shops, I’ve been on a pursuit to find a recipe for the perfect cup of coffee to make at home. Is it the beans, brewing method, or both? It took me years and a lot of cupboard space, but I think I’ve discovered it!
If you’re not sure what I mean by cupboard space, that refers to the ridiculous number of coffee-brewing gadgets I own…
- the basic drip coffee pot
- the espresso machine
- the Keurig
- the french press
- the pour-over
- the Nespresso
- The coffee bean roaster
Despite having found “the one,” they all still serve a purpose. Here’s how I use them:
The Basic Drip (for the company that comes over)
Everyone has to have one of these, right? Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, it’s a good thing to have on hand. They’re great for when you have company. It makes an acceptable cup of coffee if you have decent beans, but is it the perfect cup of coffee? No.
The Espresso Machine (for the fancy days)
I was very excited to buy this with my 20% off Bed Bath and Beyond coupon many years ago. This gadget is fun to have around the house and it makes a great cappuccino or latte. However, the process is long and messy and hence reserved for special occasions.
The Keurig (for the lazy days)
I’m not sure why I still have this. I don’t feel good about using those plastic pods. The coffee isn’t really that great, but sometimes I just want a quick cup of coffee and somehow, always, I still have a few of those pods laying around.
The French Press (because an ‘expert’ deemed it as best)
After watching the coffee episode of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, I just knew I had found a brewing method to make the perfect cup of coffee! The CEO from Starbucks mentioned this was his favorite way to drink coffee, and I was positive he had to be right. So I chose one with good reviews, put in my Amazon cart and patiently waited. I was sorely disappointed to taste a bitter, acidic cup. The press has sat in my cupboard ever since.
The Pour-Over (because the local shop said it was best)
I was at a local coffee joint when the barista suggested a ‘pour-over’. It was more expensive, but he assured me it was worth it. It was! I asked him some questions and then again opened up my Amazon cart. A couple of days later my $22 Hario arrived.
This is a pretty simple device that is popular in Japan. It’s just a cone-shaped ceramic vessel that sits over a coffee cup. You put a paper filter in it (you have to order special pour-over filters), add the grounds and then hot water. But it’s a little more involved than that. The Japanese make their coffee like they do their tea– ceremoniously.
So, to make the coffee, after you add your filter and grounds, you add the water in a very specific way. The water must be heated to 200. You then wet the grounds with the hot water and allow them to ‘bloom’ for 30 seconds. Finally, you pour in a swirling motion the rest of the hot water over the grounds until your cup is filled. It is a delicious cup of coffee. But– it takes just a bit too much effort and time for daily use.
The Nespresso (because it has a natural crema!)
What’s a natural crema? It’s this creamy hazelnut-colored foam that appears when the Nespresso is done brewing. You guys, I’m a sucker for this fancy coffee talk lingo. The Nespresso is just a fancier Keurig machine. The coffee pods are more expensive and you can’t even get it at a store! You have to order online. The only thing I love about the Nespresso is that it came with a milk steamer. I love that and use it with my other gadgets.
The coffee bean roaster (no one should own this)
My husband, although not a coffee drinker himself, is in full support of my addiction to the beverage and the brewing process. Actually, now that I think of it, it may not be support that he’s offering; it may be that he knows I’ll be happy if I receive a coffee-related gift every holiday/birthday and it’s just easier on him. Anyway, I do appreciate the gifts and am excited to try them all out. I suppose he thought he had run out of coffeemakers, so he did some research and decided I should try roasting my own beans. It was a sweet thought, but it was disgusting. The beans always tasted burnt. Coffee is like popcorn– when it’s made right, it smells delicious, and when it’s burned it’s just awful.
The perfect cup of coffee (I found it!)
Up until last year, I was pretty content using the pour-over sometimes, the Keurig sometimes and the basic coffee pot sometimes. I enjoyed my morning cup of Joe. But then last Christmas, my husband Joe (is it a coincidence that that’s the name of my favorite guy and my favorite drink?) did the unthinkable. He found the holy grail of coffee-making vessels. Are you ready for it?
It’s the Kitchen Aid Cold Brew Coffee Maker (model # KCM4212SX to be exact). It may seem wrong to those of us who prefer our coffee hot but stay with me. It brews cold, but you can drink it hot. It turns out that brewing coffee hot (like 99% of us do), pulls a lot of the flavor out. That leaves a slightly acidic and bitter taste. But brewing beans cold leaves a smooth, rich, beautiful flavor.
When you cold-brew, the grounds steep in cold water in the fridge for about 12-24 hours. What you’re left with is a cold concentrate that makes about 15 cups of coffee (perfect for making a batch once a week!) You take as much as you want and add very hot water and your coffee is ready. We have a hot water dispenser at the sink, so when I cold-brew coffee and the concentrate is ready, I am able to make a cup in about 20 seconds.
Recipe for the Perfect Cup of Coffee
The recipe for hot coffee or iced coffee starts out the same:
- 250g coarsely ground beans (this is 2 heaping cups of beans or 2 cups of grounds)
- 48 oz. cold water
- KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Measure the ground coffee and add it to the cold-brew steeper (filter). Pour in the cold water and put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours. (we sometimes let it go for 36 hours for a nice deep flavor!)
When the coffee is done brewing, remove the steeper and throw out the grounds. The concentrate is ready to be used for hot coffee or iced coffee. I keep the concentrate in a convenient spot in the fridge since it has a spout on it.
Add 2 oz. of concentrate to 7 oz. of very hot water. This makes a perfect cup of black coffee. Add cream and/or sweetener to taste.
Combine 3 oz. of concentrate, 3 oz. of water and 3 oz. of 2% milk to a glass with ice. This makes a perfect iced coffee. Add sweetener to taste.
Coffee is personal, I know. This is MY perfect cup of coffee, for now. Am I missing out on another method? How do you brew your morning cup? I must know. I’m confident I could make a little more cupboard space.