Compliments of  the National Coffee Association Guide to Brewing Essentials

Coffee is personal – the right way to make it is how you like it best.

That being said, mastering a few fundamentals will help you perfect your technique. From here, we encourage you to experiment with different roasts, origins, or preparation methods.

Here are our tips to brew a classic cup of coffee.

Make sure that your tools — from bean grinders and filters to coffee makers— are thoroughly cleaned after each use.

Rinse with clear, hot water (or wipe down thoroughly), and dry with an absorbent towel. It’s important to check that no grounds have been left to collect and that there’s no build-up of coffee oil (caffeol), which can make future cups of coffee taste bitter and rancid.

Great coffee starts with great beans. The quality and flavor of your coffee is not only determined by your favorite brewing process, but also by the type of coffee you select. There can be a world of difference between roasts.

Some of the flavor factors include:

  • The country and region of origin
  • The type of bean – arabica, robusta – or a blend
  • The roast type
  • The texture of your grind.

While there are a lot of choices, remember that there’s no right or wrong — for instance, you can choose a dark, flavorful espresso roast coffee and still have it ground to be brewed in a drip system. Have fun trying and enjoying different combinations.


Purchase coffee as soon as possible after it’s roasted. Fresh-roasted coffee is essential to a quality cup, so buy your coffee in small amounts (ideally every one to two weeks).

And please, never reuse your coffee grounds to make coffee. Once brewed, the desirable coffee flavors have been extracted and only the bitter ones are left.

If you buy whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible for maximum freshness. A burr or mill grinder is best because the coffee is ground to a consistent size.

A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest. If you normally grind your coffee at home with a blade grinder, try having it ground at the store with a burr grinder. You’ll be surprised at the difference!

The size of the grind is hugely important to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be over-extracted, or ground too fine.  On the other hand, if your coffee tastes flat, it may be under-extracted, meaning your grind is too coarse.

If you’re having the coffee ground to order, tell the professionals where you purchase your coffee exactly how you will be brewing it. Will you be using a French Press?  A flat or cone drip filter? A gold mesh filter? They will grind it specifically for your preparation method.

The water you use is very important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or has a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine.

If you’re using tap water, let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot, and be sure to use cold water. Avoid distilled or softened water.

A general guideline is called the “Golden Ratio” – one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.

Check the cup lines or indicators on your specific brewer to see how they actually measure. And remember that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods.

Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, under-extracted coffee, while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee. (However, cold brew does not need any heat.)

If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not over boil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.

Always allow your coffee – or any hot beverage – to reach a comfortable temperature before enjoying (specifically below 140 degrees Fahrenheit).

The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important flavor factor.

In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a French Press, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso has an especially brief brew time — the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. Cold brew, on the other hand, should steep overnight (about 12 hours).

If you’re not happy with the taste of the final product, you’re likely either:

  • Over-extracting – the brew time is too long
  • Under-extracting – the brew time is too short

Experiment with the contact time until you get the right balance for your taste.

Prepared coffee begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing, so only make as much coffee as you’ll drink. Otherwise, coffee can be poured into a warmed, insulated thermos to be consumed within an hour.

(Don’t worry – old coffee probably isn’t dangerous, just not very appealing. Always use your best judgement before ingesting anything, no matter what you read on the Internet.)

Try to enjoy your coffee as thoughtfully as it was prepared – take in the aroma, and notice the flavors in each sip. Many people have been instrumental in bringing it to your cup.

 Selecting the Correct Grind Type:

French Press (Extra Coarse) Ground Coffee:  A French press works best with coffee of a coarser grind than does a drip brewed coffee with a filter.   Finer grounds, when immersed in water, have lower permeability, requiring an excessive amount of force to be applied by hand to lower the plunger and are more likely to seep through or around the perimeter of the French Press filter and into the coffee.  Additionally, finer grounds will tend to over-extract and cause the coffee to taste bitter. French Press coffee is then brewed by placing the ground coffee in the empty beaker and adding hot water to the  grounds, more or less to taste.

Percolator (Coarse) Ground Coffee:   A percolator is a type of pot used for complex brewing of coffee by continually cycling the boiling water through the grounds using gravity until the required strength is reached.  Percolators often expose the grounds to higher temperatures than other brewing methods, and may recirculate already brewed coffee through the beans, so a coarse ground bean is preferred.

Auto-Drip (Medium) Ground Coffee:  In most homes an auto-drip coffee maker is the standard most widely used method for brewing coffee.  It is brewed by flowing hot water onto ground coffee beans which reside in a filter, then allowing it to brew.  Water seeps through the ground coffee, absorbing its oils and essences, solely under gravity, then passes through the bottom of the filter. The used grounds are retained in the filter with the liquid dripping into a pot or carafe.

Espresso (Fine) Ground Coffee:   Espresso is brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground beans.  Espresso is generally thicker than coffee brewed by other methods, has a higher concentration of suspended and dissolved solids, and has crema on top (a foam with a creamy consistency).  As a result of the pressurized brewing process, the flavors and chemicals in a typical cup of espresso are very concentrated.

Turkish (Extra Fine) Ground Coffee:  Turkish coffee is a method of preparing unfiltered coffee.  The roasted beans are finely ground and simmered (not boiled) in a pot. It is then served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle.

How to Properly Store Coffee

Your beans’ greatest enemies are air, moisture, heat, and light.

To preserve your beans’ fresh roasted flavor as long as possible, store them in an opaque, air-tight container at room temperature. Coffee beans can be beautiful, but avoid clear canisters which will allow light to compromise the taste of your coffee.

Keep your beans in a dark and cool location. A cabinet near the oven is often too warm, and so is a spot on the kitchen counter that gets strong afternoon sun.

Coffee’s retail packaging is generally not ideal for long-term storage. If possible, invest in storage canisters with an airtight seal.

Coffee begins to lose freshness almost immediately after roasting. Try to buy smaller batches of freshly roasted coffee more frequently – enough for one or two weeks.

Exposure to air is bad for your beans. If you prefer to keep your beans in an accessible and/or attractive container, it may be a good idea to divide your coffee supply into several smaller portions, with the larger, unused portion in an air-tight container.

This is especially important when buying pre-ground coffee, because of the increased exposure to oxygen. If you buy whole beans, grind the amount you need immediately before brewing.

Freshness is critical to a quality cup of coffee. Experts agree that coffee should be consumed as quickly as possible after it is roasted, especially once the original packaging seal has been broken.

While there are different views on whether or not coffee should be frozen or refrigerated, the main consideration is that coffee absorbs moisture – and odors, and tastes – from the air around it, since it is hygroscopic  (bonus vocabulary word for all the coffee geeks out there).

Most home storage containers still let in small amounts of oxygen, which is why food stored a long time in the freezer can suffer freezer burn. Therefore, if you do refrigerate or freeze your beans, be sure to use a truly airtight container.

If you choose to freeze your coffee, quickly remove as much as you need for no more than a week at a time, and return the rest to the freezer before any condensation forms on the frozen coffee.

Freezing your beans does not not change the basic brewing process.

13 Fast Facts About Coffee

Courtesy of

1. Shepherds discovered coffee in Ethiopia around 800 A.D.

2. Coffee is the second most traded commodity on earth.

3. There are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta.

4. The majority (40% of the worlds supply) of coffee is produced in Brazil.

5. Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that commercially grows coffee.

6. Coffee is actually a fruit, it’s the pit or bean that is made into coffee.

7. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

8. Coffee stays warmer when you add cream, but when you add milk, it weakens the effects of caffeine.

9. George Washington invented instant coffee.

10. Dark roast coffees have less caffeine than lighter roasts.

11. In the United States, 80% of adults consume caffeine every day.

12. Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day.

13. The average person spends $20 a week on coffee.

10 Reasons Why Coffee is Good for You!

1. Coffee Increases Memory

Studies show that two cups of the caffeinated stuff can actually strengthen your long- and short-term memory. In a 2005 study presented at the Radiological Society of North America, researchers found that consuming 2 to 3 cups of coffee improved short-term memory as well as lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

2. Depression Prevention

Women who drank two to three cups of daily coffee were 15 percent less likely to develop depression, and those drinking four cups were 20 percent less likely, according to a 2011 report in the “Archives of Internal Medicine.”

3. Coffee Revs Up Metabolism

The “dreaded” caffeine in your morning Joe has also been linked to boosting the metabolism, which aids in weight loss. The chlorogenic acid present in coffee is also linked to lowering glucose absorption; ensuring sugar is flushed out of the body.

4. Lowers Diabetes Risk

If you have a history of type 2 diabetes in your family, drinking coffee can lower your risk by 50-percent according to several medical journals. The reduction is thanks to a type of a polypeptide within coffee that prevents abnormal protein fibers from developing—common to those with the disease.

5. Increases Endurance

It makes sense that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee would increase energy prior to a workout, but it also strengthens endurance as well, greatly aiding athletic performance.

6. Helps Prevent Parkinson’s Disease

The study reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that drinking up to 3 cups of the brewed stuff is linked to lowering the risk of Parkinson’s by 25-percent.

7. Thwarts Gout

Coffee has also been applauded for its’ anti-inflammatory benefits. In fact, drinking java is linked to reducing uric acid, which prevents gout in middle-aged men.

8. Anti-oxidant Booster

A Harvard study from 2005 found that coffee contains higher levels of antioxidants than the majority of fruits and vegetables present in the typical North American diet.

9. Averts Breast Cancer

Numerous studies around the globe have recommended women who have a family history of estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer to drink coffee in order to postpone the onset of breast cancer altogether.

10. Reduces Prostate Cancer Risk

Findings from a recent Harvard study recommend men drink both caffeinated and decaf java to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Cancer Patients and Coffee Intake can be Beneficial

For patients living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer, having a soothing, hot drink can be a great mood booster. Little things like a nice coffee or cup of tea can make all the difference in mitigating the stress of living with cancer. Now, according to researchers, there may be even more reasons for cancer patients to enjoy that cup of coffee regularly.

Several studies have found that coffee can confer some protection against different types of cancer, but it may also help with weight loss and preventing diabetes. Best of all for cancer patients, there is some evidence that coffee could improve survival rates. More research is needed to better understand how and in what ways coffee benefits cancer patients and others, but for now there is every reason to keep enjoying a nice, hot cup of coffee.

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