“Now, that’s one good cup of coffee!”
For coffee lovers, you bet, we know what that means: warm, rich, eye-opening satisfaction that touches, invigorates, and soothes all of our senses all at once. Yah, that’s powerful stuff!
And whether we take that cup straight black or with your choice of cream, sugar, spice, or egg nog (YAH!), what really matters most is what first comes out of the pot. And, wow, I’ve known lots of perfectly capable people in the kitchen who’ve expressed their frustration: “I can’t make a decent cup of coffee.”
Here are a few quick tips (with pictures) followed by a complete step-by-step picture book recipe intended to guide you toward saying with feeling—“Yah, that’s one good cup of coffee!”
- The secret to making a good cup of coffee is using the right ratio between ground coffee and cold water: usually 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to every 6 ounces of cold water as shown in these written directions.
The only problem is that coffee makers tend to measure water not in ounces, but in “cups”—and those cups are neither the traditional (1 cup = 8 fluid ounces) nor the standard between coffee makers.
My advice? Fill a measuring cup with 12 ounces of water and…
…pour the water either into the coffee maker carafe or water reservoir, whichever has graduated cup markers as shown in the picture on the right. I found that 12 ounces of water equates to 3 “cups” in my coffee maker, which, at 2 tablespoons per 6 ounces of water, means I need 4 tablespoons of ground coffee to make 3 “cups” (12 ounces) of brewed coffee using my coffee maker.
- Taste the coffee, and don’t worry if it didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped the first time around. If it’s too weak, measure out more ground coffee for the same amount of water next time you make coffee. If it’s too strong, use less ground coffee.
- Equipment counts. I highly recommend using a decent coffee maker. Yes, they can be more expensive up front, but they’re inexpensive in the long run and make a big difference regarding reliability. If you like buying whole coffee beans (I sure do!), I also highly recommend a good coffee grinder. They make all the difference in the world when it comes to making fresh coffee, and they last a long time.
Preparation Time: About 2-3 minutes
Brewing Time: 5 minutes or more, depending on the coffee maker
Coffee Grinder (if you’re using whole coffee beans)
Paper Coffee Filters (I recommend using them even if your coffee maker comes with a fine mesh reusable filter as shown in step 2.)
1. If you’re using coffee that’s already ground, skip to step 2. Otherwise, add fresh coffee beans to a coffee grinder, making sure not to overfill the grinder to ensure an even grinding consistency.
Grind the coffee beans for 10-12 seconds. Most coffee grinders have a spring loaded switch on top of the grinder. Instead of just pushing the switch as shown in the picture on the left, I put my hand over the grinder and push the switch with my palm as shown on the right. That way…
…I can shake the grinder for an even grind and then turn the grinder upside down to loosen any grounds inside with a gentle hand tap, which also ensures all the coffee grounds end up in the inverted grinder top as shown…
…below. Freshly ground coffee should have the consistency of coarse sand as shown in the picture on the left. If your coffee grounds look like those in the picture on the right, keep grinding the beans for another few seconds until the coffee grounds look as shown in picture on the left.
2. Although some coffee makers come with fine mesh filters that the coffee maker instructions say don’t require the use of a paper filter,…
…I highly recommend using a paper filter anyway for easier cleanup and to ensure the coffee grounds stay in the filter when the coffee brews (coffee grounds and most paper filters are also biodegradable). As shown in the two pictures below, paper coffee filters primarily come in two shapes, basket shaped (left) and cone shaped (right).
Basket shaped filters can be used right out of their packaging. For cone shaped paper filters, fold the crimped side and bottom of the filter as shown below to help the filter fit snuggly in the coffee maker filter basket.
3. Place the filter in the filter basket, and add 2 full, well rounded tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 ounces of cold tap water – just beware that coffee maker “cups” usually do not correspond to the standard 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces. Each “cup” for coffee maker shown in these pictures measures 4 ounces – I therefore use about 4 rounded tablespoons of ground coffee per 3 “cups” (or 12 ounces) of water.
4. Cover the carafe with its top – some coffee makers will not operate without the carafe top in place properly. Put the carafe in place and start the coffee maker.
5. After finishing the freshly brewed coffee, remove and discard the used paper coffee filter, and leave the water tank top open to allow the coffee maker to air dry. Then…
…rinse out the carafe with tap water and let the carafe drip dry upside down.
Images courtesy of Bruce Tretter