The Best Cup of Coffee

2013 August 11

In our house, quality of food reigns supreme. We buy the best ingredients we can find. The goal is maximizing health, environmental friendliness and our enjoyment of food. With better ingredients we discovered we can make better food than most restaurants. We're not exceptional cooks (well, I'm not). The secret to excellent food: start with excellent ingredients. Use the right tools and a little care, and those excellent ingredients yield restaurant-quality meals night after night.

In that spirit, I've decided to learn to make better coffee. The coffee in my house has always been passable at best. I took to relying on my Nespresso for my daily cup(s). It makes a decent cup of coffee, but it doesn't come close to the amazing cups of coffee from local Austin coffee shops Juan Pelota and Houndstooth. Like with restaurants, I attributed the quality of their coffees to the skill of baristas and equipment. But I began to wonder if applying the same principles we apply to our food would translate to coffee? I can get the same ingredients as these shops. What basic tools and processes are missing?

With a little internet help, I found the wonderful Dear Coffee, I Love You (DCILY) and spent an hour or so reading articles on brew methods and following links to videos and recipes. The missing tool in my arsenal was a scale. It's a no brainer for a Lean Startup guy like me to measure, and without accurate measurements, I can't hope to produce a consistent cup anyway.

Coffee on a scale. The scale made all the difference in my brew.

Convinced that using a scale is a positive first step for brewing any coffee, I wanted a good starting point for French Press brewing. Eventually I found a method for French Press brewing by a favorite roaster of mine: Stumptown.

The Method

My coffee to water ration right now is 7g of coffee to 4oz of water (measured on a scale). Grind the coffee using the coarsest setting. Brewing time is 4 minutes. To brew: add enough water to soak the grounds, stir (this is the bloom phase). 2 minutes into it, add the rest of the water & stir. Add some hot water to your coffee cup to warm it up. Throw it out just before the coffee is ready. When the alarm goes off, serve immediately. I like my coffee black: no milk, no sugar.

The Results

The first attempt was mind-glowingly different than anything else I've brewed. It was an explosion of flavor in my mouth: bright and acidic. It's amazing that such a tiny change makes that much difference. It's not exactly good yet. This coffee (BulletProof Upgraded Coffee) really shines in Bulletproof Coffee when combined with pastured butter and MCT oil instead of milk.

My last attempt was different. I reduced the amount of coffee to 6.25g of coffee per 4oz of water and it was a more well-rounded cup. I'll keep experimenting. My bet is the sweetspot is somewhere in between 7 and 7.25g of coffee.

I now have a clear path to improving my coffee-making. I'm looking forward to buying some of my favorite coffees from Stumptown and Cuvee. I'll use that same method, see if the taste of my coffee improves and then start playing with ratios, brew times and grinds. Life is better with good coffee and good food.

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Anthony designed and developed web sites and web applications for other people. He'd been doin' it (and doin' it well) since the late 1900's.

But he stopped making stuff for other people. Now he's doing this.

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