Coffee Basics Tip #1

Coffee Brewing Basics

While I am off roasting up special batches of Sumatran and Costa Rican for next week, it dawned on me that the basics of coffee making are really simple.  There are a few easy steps that will nearly insure a good cup for anyone who wishes to follow them.  These steps don’t require hyper premium, single origin beans or three thousand dollar espresso machines.  These are basic things that you can do today to have a better cup tomorrow.  I will share them with you now.

Tip #1 – Something is in the water

The quality of the water is critical to how good a cup of coffee you can brew.  If you have hard, nasty tasting water, your cup will taste similar to yak poop, no other way around it.  Water in different areas come from underground sources like aquifers and wells, and that water soaks up a great deal of dissolved minerals.  I’ve you’ve ever tasted really irony or limey water, you know what I mean: it is just terrible.  These dissolved minerals don’t go away when you heat your water…. they taint you coffee cup’s flavor and aftertaste.

Buy some good stuff…

We’ve all seen the condemning news reports telling us how expensive bottled water is no better than ordinary city tap water.  That may indeed be the case, but what’s important is where that city tap comes from.  If you have water that is drawn mainly from rain-fed lakes and streams, you have water that is most likely soft, lacking dissolved solids we’re trying to avoid.  If you have water that comes from wet, swampy areas (Southern Florida comes to mind) that is even better:  this water has passed through a great deal of vegetation.  The water takes on a bit of tannin from the wood and vegetation, which has a positive effect on the resulting cup of coffee.  The water is slightly acid, which works magic on the coffee.  Don’t ask me for the scientific explanation, I don’t have one.  Just trust me, if you can get bottled “drinking water”  from areas with surface fed lakes and rivers, then you’re on your way.

Can I treat my city water?

What about a “Brita” filter or something similar?  It is possible to pull out the bad stuff that makes your water taste funny.  But I found these countertop/faucet mounted filters are limited in ability and capacity.   I found that I had to go all the way and buy a real, multistage filter to get all the stuff out.  Like this one:

This little set up makes chemically pure water
This little set up makes chemically pure water

The filter goes for under 100 dollars, will filter about 1300 gallons of tap water and give you absolutely pure water.  There will be no dissolved solids of any kind in the water…. much like perfectly done distilled water.  I don’t know if you’ve ever drank water like this, but it is weird:  It has no flavor at all, and you actually feel like you haven’t drunk any thing at all.  There’s no “quench” from this water.  Funny, but what it does do is yield a cup of coffee that is flavored purely by the bean.  Nothing to color the taste, it is a case of what you brew is what you get.  Is this preferred?  If you could make your coffee with South Florida water, I’d say no.  But if you have water with lots of dissoved solids in it and you don’t want to spring big money for special water, a little filter system like this is worth the trouble.  Click on the photo to be taken to the vendor who makes/sells these.  I’ve dealt with them for many years and they are straight shooters.

The relationship of water to your brew is very important.  Where you get it, or more importantly how it comes to you is critical for getting the most from your brews.  In upcoming tips, I’ll talk about making a great drip … with common coffee makers, and some no-s0-common coffee makers.

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