The Case for Better Coffee – how to make a better cup

French Press Starter KitPictured: French Press Starter Kit – via La Colombe

A good number of years ago, I had the pleasure of watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats on the subject of coffee.  It explained many things and helped me understand why I was struggling to produce something that I would call a good cup of coffee.  Since I have had the pleasure of traveling to Central America many times and have furthered my love and appreciation of a good cup of coffee.  I’ve gone from drip to french press to pour-overs to roasting my own green coffee beans to making espresso in my home that rivals or often time exceeds the brew that’s coming out of many coffee shops at a fraction of the price.  Here are some tips to take your cup to the next level no matter where you are in the spectrum.

  1. For the pre-ground drip coffee maker crowd – Use the right amount of coffee.  Generally speaking, you’re looking for 2 tablespoons per 6 ounces of water.  If you like your coffee weaker than that… dandy.  Make it using 2 tablespoons for 6 ounces and dilute it to taste with hot water.  Using too little coffee draws unwanted and bitter compounds from the coffee.  Use the right amount of coffee.
  2. Start with good water.  If your water is overly hard or otherwise unpleasant pick up a filter or consider using bottled water.
  3. Grind your own.  The biggest bang for the buck improvement in my opinion is grinding your own beans.  Green coffee beans have a shelf life of years, in fact some think that green coffee beans get better as they age.  Roasted coffee beans have an optimal shelf life of 2 weeks or under.  Ground coffee has a shelf life of… minutes.  Ground coffee has a lot more surface area (compared with whole unground coffee) to interact with oxygen and stale/oxidize.  Also fresh beans release CO2.  That CO2 helps to drive important oils and flavors out during the brewing process.  Ground coffee left to sit, releases all its CO2.  Leaving no CO2 left to help drive the flavor extraction process.  All pre-ground coffee is stale. Amazon Best Sellers in Coffee Grinders
  4. Get the grind right.  Each brewing method calls for a specific grind size.  That grind corresponds with the speed of the method and helps extract the right flavors and compounds.  Choose the right setting for your equipment.
  5. Get fresh beans.  Look for a busy coffee roaster that includes roast dates on the bag.  Busy means beans aren’t sitting around too long.  In my opinion… I suggest running away from bins of coffee beans.  These are open the air and are most likely stail.  Who knows how long they’ve been sitting there.  Run from the bins!
  6. Skip the drip coffee maker.  Most drip coffee makers do not get hot enough for optimal brewing.  A pour over brewer is generally inexpensive and gives you control over your water at a reasonable price.  You can be certain your water is hot enough by heating it yourself in a tea kettle.  In my opinion a freshly ground pour-over coffee is an economical way to get a great cup of coffee that outclasses most drip machines.
  7. If you want to make the jump to espresso… plan on saving up.  A quality setup is pricey.  Expect to spend $400+ for just the grinder.  I started with a cheap espresso maker (real cheap) and had terrible results, I moved on to a Rancilio Silvia and a Rocky Grinder and have since moved on to a Rocket Espresso Appartemento.  A great cup of coffee can be made relatively inexpensively with fresh beans that have been recently ground using a method that allows you to heat up the water to the right temperature – french press, pour-over, chemex and more.  Inexpensive and quality espresso setup are mutually exclusive terms in my opinion.

If you’re happy with your cup of Joe, that’s what counts.  If you’re not and looking to improve consider some of these ideas.

toppost:coffee

Stanley Cook + Brew Set + The Case for Better Coffee

stanley cook and brewStanley Cook + Brew Set

  • Multifunctional set brews, boils, and cooks. Pack less gear and do fewer dishes
  • Nesting design saves space when packing and storing
  • Vented, melt-resistant nylon lid fits on pot and press for thermal efficiency
  • Handle folds flat for easy packing, extends to pour
  • Dishwasher safe

Stanley Cook + Brew Set


Related: The Case for Better Coffee – how to make a better cup

Also: Amazon Best Sellers in Coffee Grinders

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee SystemStanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System

  • Vacuum insulated bottle keeps drinks hot 15 hours, cold 13 hours or iced 50 hours
  • 18/8 Stainless Steel won’t rust; naturally BPA-free
  • Integrated pot + press brews a bottle’s worth of coffee then nests to save space
  • Lid separates into two cups for sharing
  • Dry storage in stopper holds a bottle’s worth of coffee grounds

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System


Related: The Case for Better Coffee – how to make a better cup

Also: Amazon Best Sellers in Coffee Grinders

Contigo Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Contigo SnapSeal Byron Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20oz by Contigo

  • Seal It In – Leak proof lid (when closed) for on-the-go activities
  • For the Long Haul – Drinks stay hot up to 7 hours and cold up to 18 with THERMALOCK Vacuum Insulation
  • Lend a Hand – Easy one-handed drinking from this travel coffee mug
  • Clean Up – Top rack dishwasher lid, hand wash body
  • Perfect Fit – Fits most car cup holders

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Contigo SnapSeal Byron Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20oz – multiple colors and sizes available

64 Ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Growler/Water Bottle – $7.88 at Wal-Mart

Ozark Trail 64oz Double Wall Stainless Steel Water BottleOzark Trail 64oz Double Wall Stainless Steel Water Bottle

  • 64 oz water bottle
  • High-grade 18/8 stainless steel
  • Double wall vacuum insulated
  • Easy twist-off top and wide mouth allows for easy ice insertion
  • Keeps drink hot or cold for hours

As if this posting, Wal-Mart has this down to just $7.88.  That’s an extreme bargain.  Shipping is free with a $35 order or select free in store pickup.  Check the listing for up to the minute price, description and availability.

Ozark Trail 64oz Double Wall Stainless Steel Water Bottle

This promo has expired.  See Recent Finds

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RTIC Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Tumbler

RTIC Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Tumbler, 30 oz, Stainless Steel

RTIC Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Tumbler, 30 oz, Stainless Steel

  • Double wall vacuum insulation – maximum temperature retention & insulates Hands from the cold
  • Keeps ice Longer – holds ice for up to 24 hours
  • Keeps it hot – works great for hot beverages
  • 18/8 Stainless Steel – strong Stainless Steel construction

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

RTIC Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Tumbler, 30 oz, Stainless Steel

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Melitta Single Cup Pour-Over Coffeemaker and Ceramic Coffee Mug

Melitta Single Cup Pour-Over Coffeemaker with Red Brewing Cone and Ceramic Coffee Mug (Pack of 4)Melitta Single Cup Pour-Over Coffeemaker with Red Brewing Cone and Ceramic Coffee Mug

You get the brewing cone along with a ceramic mug.

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Melitta Single Cup Pour-Over Coffeemaker with Red Brewing Cone and Ceramic Coffee Mug

Related: The Case for Better Coffee – how to make a better cup

Also: Amazon Best Sellers in Coffee Grinders

Zojirushi SM-KHE36AG Stainless Steel Mug + Tips for a Better Cup of Coffee

Zojirushi SM-KHE36AG Stainless Steel MugZojirushi SM-KHE36AG Stainless Steel Mug

  • Stainless steel vacuum insulation keeps beverages hot or cold for hours
  • Durable and sanitary 18/8 stainless steel interior
  • Slicksteel™ finish
  • Wide mouth accommodates full size ice cubes
  • Compact design takes up minimal space while maximizing capacity

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Zojirushi SM-KHE36AG Stainless Steel Mug

Related: Tips for a Better Cup of Coffee

Contigo Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug in Gunmetal

Contigo SnapSeal Byron Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20oz, GunmetalContigo SnapSeal Byron Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20oz by Contigo

  • Seal It In – Leak proof lid (when closed) for on-the-go activities
  • For the Long Haul – Drinks stay hot up to 7 hours and cold up to 18 with THERMALOCK Vacuum Insulation
  • Lend a Hand – Easy one-handed drinking from this travel coffee mug
  • Clean Up – Top rack dishwasher lid, hand wash body
  • Perfect Fit – Fits most car cup holders
  • Lifetime Warranty

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Contigo SnapSeal Byron Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20oz, Gunmetal

Bonavita 5-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Brewer – $59.99 + Tips for Better Coffee

Bonavita 5-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee BrewerBonavita 5-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Brewer

from Massdrop: “Designed for those who like to brew in smaller batches (great for trying new blends), this 5-cup stainless steel brewer from Bonavita gives you tasty drip coffee with just one touch. As any coffee lover knows, temperature is key when brewing the perfect cup of joe. That’s why this one heats up to the optimal temperature between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit each and every time. The 1100-watt heater maintains the temperature throughout the brewing process, and the optional pre-infusion mode saturates the grounds beforehand to allow degassing. Pair that with a specially designed showerhead and you’ve got a brewer that evenly soaks, heats, and extracts coffee from start to finish. Plus, it takes standard #4 filters and is made up of dishwasher-safe and BPA-free materials.”

This lists for $109.99 As of this posting, deals site Massdrop has this for $59.99.  Because of Massdrops agreements with retailers, a free account is required to see or buy this.  Check Massdrop for current price and availability.

Bonavita 5-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Brewer

This promo has expired.  See Recent Finds

Related: The Case for Better Coffee – how to make a better cup – Note: in this post I criticize many drip coffee makers as not getting water hot enough.  This Bonavita is an exception to that.

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Coffee Mug with Café Cap 2.0

Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Stainless Steel Coffee Mug with Café Cap 2.0Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Stainless Steel Coffee Mug with Café Cap 2.0 by Klean Kanteen

  • Double Wall Vacuum Insulation, Keeps Hot up to 10 Hours, Keeps Iced up to 30 Hours
  • Food Grade 18/8 Stainless Steel, BPA-free Polypropylene #5, Food Grade Silicone Construction
  • Comes with Leak Proof Café Cap 2.0 with Easy Clean Construction
  • Large 2.125 inch (54 millimeter) opening fits ice, easy to fill and pour; Compatible with all Klean Kanteen Wide caps
  • Backed by the Klean Kanteen Strong as Steel Guarantee

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Stainless Steel Coffee Mug with Café Cap 2.0

Related: The Case for Better Coffee – how to make a better cup

Alpha Armur 20 Oz Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Tumbler

Alpha Armur 20 Oz Vacuum Insulated Tumbler Stainless Steel Hydro Water Bottle Travel Mug Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Mug Stainless Steel Tumbler with Clear Lid, Silver

Alpha Armur 20 Oz Vacuum Insulated Tumbler Stainless Steel Hydro Water Bottle Travel Mug Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Mug Stainless Steel Tumbler with Clear Lid, Silver

Update: Since this post was published the price, availability or promotion has changed.  Check the product page for up to the minute description, price and availability.  Also: Today’s Deals on Amazon

Alpha Armur 20 Oz Vacuum Insulated Tumbler Stainless Steel Hydro Water Bottle Travel Mug Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Mug Stainless Steel Tumbler with Clear Lid, Silver

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