One of the most common questions we hear among newer coffee drinkers is, “What’s the best way to make coffee?”
This is a fantastic question but not one that’s easily answered. The truth is there are multiple ways to make really good coffee, and which is “best” depends on a variety of factors, such as personal preference, convenience, and setting.
For example, pour-over coffee may offer a more flavorful coffee experience, but it wouldn’t make sense to serve pour-over coffee at a family gathering with 30+ people. You’d be much better off serving drip or another method meant for serving a larger audience.
So, instead of arbitrarily choosing the “best” method for brewing coffee (each of which can be “best” in their own light), we’ll focus on the core principles - shared between all brewing methods - of how to make the best-tasting coffee you possibly can.
The best way to make coffee…
...involves these key factors:
- High quality beans
- Freshly roasted
- Whole bean, ground on-demand
- High quality water (filtered to some extent)
- Following recommended guidance for brewing (no matter which method you choose)
In the rest of this article, we’ll go over each key factor as well as a few other tips to consistently brew the best-tasting coffee.
Let’s start at the top.
Great Coffee Starts with High Quality Beans
Without question, the most important aspect of a great cup of coffee is the quality of the beans that you use. Mass-marketed commercial brands, such as Folgers and Eight O’Clock, are high volume coffee brands that thrive on cheap, mass-produced coffee.
You might think “coffee is coffee” but nothing could be further from the truth. Coffee grown in different climates and regions produce wildly different flavors. And these flavors, when blended together, create some amazing tastes.
As a general rule, you want to know where your coffee is coming from. Which is why the best coffee tends to come from specialty coffee brands, like Dreamweaver Coffee, that openly share the coffee’s origin.
When possible, you want to ensure your beans are ethically sourced and not produced by businesses abusing child labor laws.
Also, if you’re familiar with the terms Arabica and Robusta, those are the two main types of coffee beans. Of the two, Arabic is more widely-produced and has a broader range of flavors. Robusta is the “cheaper” of the two and more known for its high caffeine content and intense flavor. Arabica for sure produces the better tasting coffee, but if high caffeine is your thing, who are we to say Robusta beans aren’t the “best” for you.
Whatever you choose, opt away from store-brand mass-produced coffee and instead aim for “craft” coffee suppliers who ethically import fresh coffee from various regions and farmers across the globe.
Freshly Roasted Beans
Having established that where your coffee comes from is important, it’s also key to know when it’s been roasted. If you aren’t familiar with the farm-to-cup process, first coffee beans are grown and harvested, then the raw or “green” beans are roasted. After roasting, the beans are delivered to you - the consumer - either as whole beans or ground. If whole bean, the last steps are to grind the coffee and brew it. If ground, you can skip straight to the brewing!
There’s an entire science around coffee roasting depending on the type of bean and what level of roast you’re going for (light, medium, dark, etc.). Each roast type produces different flavors. We won’t get into all the nerdy science in this article, so all you need to know is that coffee is best-tasting and maintains maximum freshness for roughly 2 to 3 weeks after roasting.
This is precisely the window you want to make your coffee in for the best tasting cup. That means you want to know when your coffee was roasted so that you know whether or not to expect the freshest coffee possible.
Store-bought coffee brands rarely tell you this, and it’s a key reason why the taste is far inferior to freshly roasted “craft” coffee. Buying local or from a brand that roasts locally is the best way to get the freshest beans, hands down.
Whole Beans or Pre-Ground Coffee?
If you want the “best” tasting coffee, then buying your coffee as whole beans is the only way to go. However, whole bean coffee requires grinding prior to brewing, which means this is only an option if you own or have easy-access to a coffee grinder.
Similar to what happens to coffee after roasting, coffee loses even more freshness after grinding, the main factor here being exposure to the environment. Pre-ground coffee typically spends more time in the open air than whole beans due to manufacturing processes. The secondary factor is regarding surface area - the more surface area the coffee has (i.e. the finer the grind), the faster it loses freshness.
The ideal scenario for making the best possible coffee is to buy whole beans then grind them immediately before brewing. This is what both Justin and I do when making coffee at home.
Water Quality Matters
For those who don’t know, coffee has only two ingredients to it - coffee beans and water. The quality of your beans will make the most difference when it comes to a good-tasting cup of coffee, however, high quality water is a close second, and it’s a factor that often goes overlooked.
Trust me when I say that nothing ruins a cup of coffee more than nasty tap water loaded with chlorine or other impurities. The best way to brew your coffee is with some form of filtered or fresh spring water. Since we don’t advocate much for the use of plastic water bottles, filters are definitely the way to go.
It’s also worth noting that distilled water, which lacks the minerals of regular water, makes for an awful cup of coffee and is not recommended.
Follow the Recommended Guidelines for Brewing
We already covered how each brewing method can be the “best” depending on the situation, however, no matter which brewing method you choose, you need to make sure you follow the recommended guidelines for brewing.
Each brewing method has its own special nuances, and failing to adhere to recommended ratios will make or break your coffee.
Being honest, it takes some experimenting to find out precisely the correct ratios to use for each brewing tool that you use. Plus, you’ll want to increase or decrease those ratios based on your preferences (e.g. higher coffee to water ratios yield stronger flavors, and the opposite yields weaker, more watery flavors).
At any rate, you’ll want to follow a good guide for brewing your coffee, and always measure your quantities to ensure you nail it.
Also, dialing in the water temperature makes a noticeable difference too. You don’t want your water to be boiling hot, and certainly lukewarm water will produce a less than desirable cup of coffee too. You want it right in the sweet spot, or as close as possible. So again, follow a good brewing guide and you should be fine.
Other Tips for High-Quality Coffee
Last but not least, let’s cover a few more tips that could affect the quality of your brewed coffee.
Storing your beans
We mentioned it earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again - coffee beans, similar to other organic compounds, lose freshness the longer they’re exposed to the environment. As such, you’ll want to store your beans in an airtight container (glass mason jars are perfect for this). You’ll also want to make sure they’re stored in a dark location, at room temperature, away from sunlight.
There’s no reason to ever refrigerate your beans. Coffee beans are actually porous and openly accept moisture and other weird food odors.
Though some experts advise against freezing coffee, it can be a good way to keep whole bean coffee fresh.
Remember that coffee starts losing its freshness immediately after roasting, and even moreso the longer it’s been exposed to the environment. Expect a bag of coffee to be most fresh for 2 to 3 weeks after roasting, and about 7 to 10 days after opening the bag.
Adding flavor and cream
Many coffee enthusiasts balk at the idea of adding flavoring, but for sure it has its place among a great-tasting cup of coffee. Always make sure to use fresh cream and sugar when possible. Also, if trying to be health-conscious, cinnamon adds some amazing flavor without extra calories.
My favorite way to “splurge” on a cup of coffee is to add low-fat whipped cream, which pairs wonderfully with both coffee and espresso.
The Best Way to Make Coffee...
...is whatever method works best for you. But as we just learned, there are a few key principles to keep in mind while striving for the best possible cup of coffee. Follow these tips when buying, brewing, and storing your coffee, and you’ll absolutely notice a difference in taste and freshness. And your friends will too.