Start with good-quality coffee in whole bean form, if possible. Store the coffee in an airtight container (glass is best) in a cool, dry place. Grind only enough for the pot you are making, and keep your brewing equipment clean.
Since 98% of a cup of coffee is water, the quality of water used alters the taste. Use spring or filtered water, not distilled water which lacks the minerals necessary to bind to the flavor components of the coffee bean. The aeration of freshly drawn cold water gives it a refreshing taste. The optimum temperature to brew coffee is 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit.
The most commonly used brewing method is the drip maker requiring a medium grind. This grind, similar to table sugar, allows the flavor components of the bean to be picked up by the constant stream of water passing over the beans. A thumbprint in a handful of drip-ground coffee will leave an impression that crumbles slightly.
Another excellent method of brewing coffee is the French press or plunger method. The coarse ground coffee is placed in the bottom of a glass cylinder and very hot water is added. After steeping for three to five minutes, a plunger with a filter pushes the grind to the bottom and allows the hot coffee to separate, resulting in a smooth pot of delicious coffee.
Gaining in popularity is the toddy method, a cold water brewing process. Coarse ground coffee is put into the brewing container and filled with fresh, cold water. After steeping overnight, the coffee drains through a filter, resulting in a smooth coffee concentrate. This method is great for flavored coffees and makes the best iced lattes.
The water in a percolator is repeatedly poured over the ground coffee, picking up more flavor each time. Because the coffee is repeatedly exposed to the liquid, a coarser grind is required, exposing less surface area of the beans. This reduces the bitterness associated with percolated coffee. Coffee ground for a percolator barely holds an impression and feels gritty in the hand. It leaves little or no residue when brushed away.
Using the correct ratio of coffee to water is essential for a good cup. Start with one ounce of freshly ground dry coffee for every 24 ounces of water. If you prefer your coffee lighter, adding hot water to the completed brew will give you a better cup than using less coffee for the batch.
A typical brewer should take five to seven minutes to finish the brewing cycle. Don’t cheat by pulling a cup before it’s done. You will rob the entire pot of flavor since the beginning of the cycle is stronger than the last few minutes. The grounds in your filter should be completely wet within the first 20 to 30 seconds after the cycle starts.