Yeah yeah, I know, coffee purists who read this article will be rolling their eyes big time. I know that a regular ol’ drip coffee maker is not the absolute primo way to make a cup of coffee, but for those of us that like to brew a full pot to sip on throughout the morning, it’s useful to know how to get the most out of your basic coffee machine so you know how to get the best flavor from your morning mug(s) of liquid life.
Clean Your Equipment
All kinds of yucky-yuck can hide in the inner workings of your coffee maker. We’re all familiar with the unsightly calcification that can build up, but the warm, moist environment of a coffee machine is the ideal breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Those microscopic nasties can not only make your coffee taste not-so-delicious, but in high enough numbers it can also eventually make you sick. To combat mold growth, make sure to wash the basket and carafe/reservoir every day using warm sudsy water. Once a month, fill the water chamber with half water and half vinegar and let the machine run through a cycle. After it’s done, repeat the cycle twice with plain water. The vinegar will kill bacteria and loosen and remove calcification
Use Whole Beans
I know the convenience of ground coffee is hard to resist, but if you are trying to make the tastiest pot of java with the most basic equipment, whole bean is the way to go. Of course if you use whole beans, you’ll need a grinder. I use this burr grinder and I love it. It’s a step up from the basic blade grinder and you’ll be able to tell the quality difference in the consistency of your grinds. Not only will you get a consistent grind for your drip coffee maker, you’ll be able to produce very coarse grinds all the way down to super fine espresso grinds.
Use Quality Beans
When making filter-brewed coffee, getting the best flavor in your coffee depends heavily on the quality of your beans. Beans that are ground and brewed closer to the roasting date – but no closer than about 48 hours – will taste the best. Have fun browsing around and locating local roasters and trying their beans – you’ll be supporting local business and you may discover some delicious new coffee!
Proper Storage Makes A Difference
For years I thought I was doing my coffee a favor by storing it in the freezer, but then I learned that I was actually making things worse. Just like anything else, frozen coffee beans will never taste as fresh as ones that were never frozen. And don’t even think about the refrigerator – the cold will cause the beans to condensate and push oils to the surface, aging the beans faster. Keep opened bags of beans in an opaque, air tight container. You can keep them in the bag you purchased them in and then put that bag into an airtight glass or plastic container. Keep the container in a cool, dark pantry.
Grind it Right
The size of the grind makes a big difference in the outcome of your drip coffee. If your coffee maker uses a flat bottom (basket) filter, use a medium or medium-fine grind. If your coffee maker uses a cone filter, use a finer grind. Experiment to find out what works best for your machine. If your coffee is too weak, try a finer grind. If it’s too bitter, try going more coarse.
Cold Filtered Water Is Your Friend
If the water from your tap tastes of minerals or has a metallic flavor, then those odd flavors will get transferred into your coffee. Using filtered water will ensure that nothing in the water will interfere with the flavor of your coffee. If you don’t have filtered water and your tap water doesn’t usually have any off-flavors, go ahead and use it, but only run the water from the cold tap. Heated water that’s been sitting in your hot water tank may pick up odd flavors from the metals in the tank and the pipes during transit.
Use The Right Amount of Coffee
Getting this right might take some experimentation, but in general, a 12-cup coffee maker requires 3/4 cup of ground coffee, or 12 tablespoons, to brew a full pot.
If there’s one thing I am a snob about when it comes to coffee, it’s the size of my mug. I prefer no larger than a standard 8-10 ounce mug so that I can drink the whole mug before the coffee gets too cool. My husband prefers drinking out of gigantic mugs, and I make sure to bug him about this weekly. It’s a tough marriage. But I maintain that using a mug that you love, that is the correct size, and that makes you happy, naturally makes the coffee just plain ol’ taste better.
Lose the Carafe
Some coffee makers (like this one) don’t use a carafe and instead keep copy warm in an interior reservoir. If yours has the classic glass carafe and a warming plate, though, avoid the old burnt tasting coffee at the bottom of the pot by transferring the coffee to a stainless steel carafe after it has brewed. Any of these will do!
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