The very first thing I think about once I get myself out of bed is that morning cup of coffee. I admit it, I'm a fiend. A coffee junkie. That first sip of dark, steamy goodness is like a taste of heaven being poured down my throat. My days of pounding down cups for their caffeine content are long past; I now savor the flavor with every sip. (Ok, I may also be addicted to the caffeine, but that just comes with the territory.) There is absolutely no doubt that the higher quality of bean you use, the better the taste (I don't understand how my mother can still drink Folgers — for shame!). There are, however, some tricks and tips to make that delicious cup of coffee even better. Whether you like your coffee black, light, sweet, bitter, etc., here are 15 secrets to making a better cup of coffee.
15 Use Whole Bean
For all of you newbies out there that claim that buying ground coffee is the same as buying whole bean, get back in your diapers; you are far from being a true coffee aficionado. There is no denying that grinding your coffee fresh at home results in a more flavorful cup. The fresher the beans, the better the coffee. Yes it's an extra step, but trust me, it's worth it.
And another note; if you are going to do things right and buy whole bean, store your beans properly. What's the point of spending that extra money on those precious little nubs of sublime perfection if you are just going to leave them out on your counter by the window for all the freshness to be sucked away? Store them in an airtight container away from any light.
14 Throw Away Your K-cups
That's right, you heard me; toss those suckers out. Even the ones in your office; get rid of them all. They are the bane of every coffee connoisseur's existence. Yes, I know, I know, they are extremely convenient; you only want one small cup, you are in a rush, everyone wants a different kind, blah, blah, blah. But when it comes to coffee, flavor should take precedence over convenience, should it not? Those prepackaged pods just don't measure up. If you make too much, don't be a wimp, just drink it all. If your coworker has a problem with the type you're brewing, tell them to wait and make their own damn coffee. If you don't have the time to wait for it to brew, well, then you don't deserve to drink it.
For those of you who are way to attached to your Keurig, then for goodness sake, at least invest in some of those reusable pods in which you can put in some fresh grounds. It still doesn't taste the same, but it's a step up.
13 How You Grind Matters
Ok, so you've purchased whole beans. The next step is your grinder, and yes, the type you use does make a difference. Your best bet is to invest in a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder. One key reason is the burr's ability to adjust to the type of coffee you are brewing. A true coffee connoisseur likes to enjoy a variety of coffee, from espresso to cappuccino. Different types of coffee require different types of grinds, ranging from coarse to fine. A blade grinder can't be adjusted and you are thus robbed of your desire for variety. Plus, they can be unpredictable. Burr grinders are consistent; you know what you are getting every time.
Now, for you real snobs out there; burr grinders come in two types: conical or flat. If you like your coffee heavy on the aromatics and on the acidic side, opt for the conical. If you like your flavors blended with more body, go the flat route.
12 Watch What Water You Pour In
Water makes up most of what your cup of coffee is composed of; it would make sense to be mindful of what type of water you use, would it not? A lot of tap water has chlorine in it, which destroys your coffee's flavor. If you haven't thought of putting a filter on your tap for your regular drinking water (yuck!), then at least do it for your coffee! To really go that extra mile, use a activated-charcoal/carbon filter. You seriously will notice the taste. If you have extra money to spare and are just too lazy to install a filter, spring water is the next best option. Just don't use distilled water; it kills all the minerals which add that necessary flavor to your cup of joe.
11 Try A Cold Brew
Yes, I'm still talking about coffee, not beer. And yes, I am referring to the brewing technique all those pretentious hipsters drink so they don't harm their delicate little bellies. But honestly, there is something to cold brewed coffee. Studies show it is 67% less acidic, so if you are a daily coffee drinker, that is saving your stomach and esophagus lining, as well as your teeth, a lot damage in the long run (unfortunately, like just about everything else fun in this world, coffee can do some damage to your body). Aside from that, it's more concentrated and has a very distinct, deeper flavor profile that is, well, quite tasty. And if you just don't like the taste of cold coffee, warm it up! The microwave is fast but burns the heck out of your coffee, so do it on the stove top or play around to figure out the right ratio of boiling water to add to the brew. Hey, I never claimed it was easy to make.
10 A Pinch Of Salt
This secret is not necessary when you have brewed your own delectable beans, but rather when your only choice is a subpar cup of coffee, or no coffee. The trick is you add a very small pinch of salt to the grounds or into the brewed pot, and voila, your crappy coffee is much less bitter.
Now, if you are handed a cup on its own, this trick probably won't work, as you will most likely end up adding way too much salt and destroy the flavor all together. If you are really dedicated, you could of course try picking out a few grains of salt and adding them one by one until you get the right flavor.
9 A Dash Of Cinnamon
Adding a dash of cinnamon to your coffee, even a teaspoon, gives it a unique and tasty flavor, without adding any calories. And if you are someone who drinks more cups of coffee a day than you can count on one hand, this is definitely a plus. It can appeal to those who like their coffee both sweet and bitter (It does have a very distinct taste, so it may not be for everyone). Scoop the cinnamon right into your cup, or mix it into the grounds before you brew. Another plus: cinnamon has tons of health benefits too. Soon, you can make believe that you are drinking that third, fourth an fifth cup for your health!
8 Choose The Right Filter
The difference in flavor various filters makes is subtle, but it makes a huge impact on what sneaks into your coffee cup. Reusable mesh filters are more convenient and save you money in the long run, but a lots slips through them, like oil. The reason that coffee can lead to high cholesterol (yup, it does that) is because of these oils. They also let little granules of coffee (micro-fines) into your pot, which makes it darker, richer and more bold, which many people desire. If so, then these filters are great for you. If you prefer your coffee lighter and sweeter, then paper filters are the better route because they are finer. Plus, they have other oddball uses, like polishing leather.
If you really want to get fancy, buy a gold plated filter, which is supposed to provide the best taste. Yup, there are filters plated with 23-karat gold. Sounds nutty, but doesn't coffee deserve the very best?
So I mentioned that coffee can cause some harm to our bodies if consumed too much, but on a much brighter note, it has health benefits as well! It's actually packed with antioxidants! Want to hear something crazy? The qualities in ginger, which itself has a plethora of health benefits, actually improves the quality of antioxidants, and the anti-inflammatory properties, in coffee! And surprisingly, the two taste great together. Your best way to get ginger in there is to use powdered ginger. Aside from it being easier to mix in, powdered ginger helps digestion better than its fresh counterpart.
There are some unique coffee recipes out there that incorporate ginger, so happy hunting!
6 Not Too Hot!
Most of us turn on the coffee maker and never think twice about regulating the heat. After all, it has one job: to make coffee. It should be able to do it right. However, if you got your coffee maker in the bargain bin, there is a chance it isn't regulating the temperature properly. If the water is too hot, then your coffee will taste more bitter. Here's where I throw some science at you: the correct brewing temp is 200°F, or around 45 seconds off a full boil. Also, the flavor tends to go down the drain rather quickly after it has been brewed. Hence why nothing tastes quite as good as that first cup. And reheating, well, that's just slaughtering the flavor.
5 Butter It Up
Ok, I know it sounds gross at first, but hear me out. Drinking it each morning actually triggers your body to be in fat burn mode all day. Sounds like the Twilight Zone, I know. You must use a very specific type of butter in order for this to happen: unsalted, grass-fed butter, as only this butter has fat loss properties. It also helps regulate cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. Who knew!? And honestly, so many of us are in a rush in the morning these days; by adding a few tablespoons of butter to our coffee, we pretty much have a meal. It's filling, and we don't have to feel guilty if we skipped breakfast. Just to note: it pretty much tastes exactly how it sounds, like butter in your coffee.
4 Heat Your Mug
You are going to smack yourself for not thinking of this sooner. I don't know about you, but I love my coffee steaming hot. Nothing is worse than reaching for that cup and finding it's become lukewarm, or worse, room temperature. And as previously mentioned, reheating it kills much of the flavor. A great way to keep your java hotter for longer is to heat your cup before you pour your coffee in it. Don't nuke it! That will get it way too hot, for both your coffee and for you to handle. Instead, pour hot water into your mug first, dump, then add the coffee. Now, this won't keep your coffee steaming hot for that long, but it will definitely keep it a bit warmer for at least ten minutes after pouring.
3 Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a great substitute for sugar in your coffee. Now, I am talking about real maple syrup, not that processed Aunt Jemima crap. One teaspoon of syrup will get your coffee just as sweet as a teaspoon of sugar, if not a little more, plus it has that yummy maple flavor (I suggest to start out a teaspoon at a time to make sure you like the taste). And aside from tasting super yummy, maple syrup has a ton of health benefits! Its antioxidants have properties that are believed to fight off diabetes, bacteria, and even cancer! Finally, you don't have to feel guilty about liking your coffee sweet!
2 French Press
Many coffee addicts believe that coffee from a French press is far superior to that from an automatic drip machine. This is especially true if you prefer your coffee darker and bolder. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the coffee grounds steep for a few minutes before being filtered out, drawing out more flavor. Secondly, and more importantly, remember those oils in the coffee beans that I spoke of earlier? Well, while many are caught by the filter, a lot also sticks to the inside of the machine itself. Through time, these oils create a residue that affects the flavor of your coffee. They don't get a chance to build up in a French press.
Another bonus is that you can keep your coffee warmer for longer without burning away the flavor. There are a lot of French presses available that have nifty thermal insulators.
1 Clean Your Machine
If you are way too hooked on your drip machine to go the French press route, then just be sure to keep it clean. All of that residue affects the flavor of the coffee, but it also affects your health. Studies have indicated that 50% of drip machines are filled with yeast, mold, and tons of bacteria. In fact, the average drip machine has a higher germ count than bathroom door handles, and even toilet seats. And to think, your coffee passes through that and into your cup for you to suck down. Yuck!
Wash out your pot and basket daily with warm water and soap, then once a month run white vinegar through the machine. Run your machine as if you were brewing, minus the grounds. Just be sure to run it a few times with only hot water, or your next cup will taste like a salad.