In the Kitchen
I didn't start drinking coffee until after college if you can believe that! I started working full-time for a gourmet grocery store, and they had fabulous coffee. When it was brewing in the morning, the seductive smell (at least for me) drew me in. I was hooked.
Later in my career, I worked for Starbucks and learned to embrace the coffee culture. Sitting down for a meeting or just a conversation with another team member, coffee was typically celebrated before we started talking. That point of connection was something special, and we all looked forward to it.
It was also at this time I realized how artisan the growing process is with coffee. Like any farmed product, you can lose the connection between the work it took to grow something when it comes pre-packaged in the store. This goes for the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish we see in abundance to each of the products produced from these ingredients.
I had the privilege to meet and talk with farmers from all over the world. I learned how important it is that the beans don't crack in the process of picking and drying them - it creates a bitter taste in the coffee and that many of the parts of the process are done by hand.
How to Brew Really Good Coffee
There are so many different ways to brew coffee, from your regular drip coffee maker to espresso or pressure coffee makers and even your K-cup machines each must follow some basics to make a good cup of coffee.
Proportion: The recommendation is 2 tablespoons per 6 oz. of water. This may seem like a lot, but it is better to use this ratio, and if you like it less strong, add hot water after it is brewed rather than adjust the proportion because changing the ratio will affect the extraction of the coffee.
Grind: You may have noticed that espresso is much finer than drip coffee if you've bought both. The reason depends on how long the water is in contact with the coffee. For expresso, the coffee isn't in contact with the water long, whereas, with drip coffee, they sit together for a while. If you are using an old-fashion percolator or even a French press, the coffee is even more coarse because the coffee and water are together for a while. If you purchase pods or K-cups, the grind and proportion are all calculated for you.
Water: It makes sense that this is one of the 4 since coffee is mostly water. You want to consider fresh water that is heated between 195º-205ºF or 90º-96ºC for the best extraction. When purchasing a coffee maker, make sure it will heat the water to the correct temperature. If you've had your coffee maker for a while, and you find the coffee isn't what it used to be, it may be that the heating element is not heating the water to the correct temperature.
Freshness: Coffee is best when it is freshly ground, but we may not always want to grind your coffee each time you make it. If you use pre-ground coffee, it will be freshest within 2 weeks of being ground. I like to get my coffee freshly ground when I buy it, and then I begin using it right away. Keep your beans or ground coffee in an airtight container at room temperature. If you get fresh beans and you aren't going to use them, you can store them in the freezer, again in an airtight container, so the freezer doesn't pull out the moisture of the coffee.
So the next time you have a cup of coffee, whether you make it yourself, or purchase it pre-made, remember all that goes into that delicious cup of coffee, sip and enjoy.