The Perfect Cup of Coffee

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Americans drink over three cups of coffee per day.

However, most of of that coffee is subpar. There are countless opinions about what constitutes the perfect cup of coffee, but everyone agrees that time and heat are the sworn enemies of coffee.

Rule 1: Fresh is best

By the time you’ve bought ground coffee, it has already lost most of its mojo. The flavor compounds that best survive industrial grinding and long-term storage are those responsible for the bitter taste that irks so many coffee drinkers. By grinding whole beans at the grocery store or (better yet) as you use them, you keep the tiny aromatic molecules locked inside the beans until you are ready to brew. Even inexpensive coffee beans yield richer, more flavorful brews when you grind them yourself.

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Freshness is also paramount after brewing. As hot coffee sits around, those precious flavor molecules literally evaporate into thin air. This leaves behinds all the water, caffeine, and “roastiness” but not the subtleties that make fresh coffee pop.Rule 2: Don’t (re)heat coffeeThe second common way to degrade your coffee’s flavor is by reheating it—or for that matter, continually heating it. Everyone knows that microwave-reheated coffee just won’t be the same as it was fresh, but most folks don’t think about the hot plate in the office coffee maker.Automatic drip coffee makers produce the majority of coffee consumed in the United States. Unfortunately, these continually cook brewed coffee, breaking down those pleasant aromatic molecules and hastening their evaporation until your brew eventually tastes like an ashtray. When a pot of coffee is finished brewing, it is best to pour that coffee into an insulated container or at least turn off the coffee maker.

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What makes the perfect cup of coffee?Avoiding coffee mistakes is easy, but following tips to brew the perfect cup is trickier. There are several ways to make delicious coffee, and all of them are perfect in their own way.The pour-over method, in which hot water is poured over a filter filled with ground coffee, is simply a low-tech version of drip coffee. This method provides the ultimate in control. Through trial and error, you can fine tune the factors that go into the flavor of your morning beverage: water temperature, amount and fineness of ground coffee, and the speed at which you pour. Subtle tweaks to these variables can yield the coffee of your dreams.Another great way to make “perfect” coffee uses a simple device known as a French press. These contraptions are filled with coarsely ground coffee and topped off with hot water. After steeping for a few minutes, a fine metal filter pushes down the grounds, and the steaming hot coffee is poured off the top. Fans of French press coffee describe the product as rich and smooth, while detractors dismiss it as a muddy sludge

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Of course, if you want something even more robust, there is always espresso. An espresso machine forces hot water through finely ground coffee. Potent espresso shots are what give the sweet and creamy coffee drinks their might. An ounce of roasty, caffeine-rich goodness is worth the effort to some, but undrinkable to many.While espresso machines are prohibitively expensive for most coffee drinkers, the price tag of a high-end espresso machine is thousands of dollars lower than that of Clover coffee machines. To achieve coffee perfection, Clover machines precisely control every aspect of the brewing process in a way that is customized to specific varieties of bean. Despite all the fancy bells and whistles, Clover machines are essentially vacuum-powered French presses that remove the fine grit typically associated with French press coffee. By the way and perhaps unfortunately, Clover machine coffee is now only available at Starbucks, which acquired the company that makes these gizmos in 2008.A decent cup of coffee for the lazyIf achieving the perfect cup of coffee sounds like too much trouble, here is a very simple tip. Keurig machines are everywhere, but the coffee produced by many K-cups can often resemble dishwater. Next time you’re stocking up on these pricey pods, check out the amount coffee they actually contain. The K-cups containing 0.40 ounces of coffee or more tend to produce pretty okay coffee.Let us know below how you brew your perfect cup of coffee.