How to Brew the Best Tasting Cup
If you’re on a quest to brew a great tasting cup of coffee, you’ll need to make sure you’re buying the right coffee, using the right equipment, and brewing properly. When looking for a bag of coffee to purchase, you’ll notice you have the option to buy ground coffee or whole bean coffee. Ground coffee is widely available and of high demand due its convenience, but coffee enthusiasts stand by buying whole bean coffee for a quality cup. Since whole bean coffee and ground coffee both have pros, what’s the big deal?
Buying whole bean coffee is the only way to go for three reasons:
Once you grind coffee beans, they will begin to lose their freshness and become stale. Grounds expose more surface area to oxygen and humidity, causing them to lose flavor and become bitter (2). If you buy pre-ground coffee, it’s best to use them right away and store the bag in a cool, dark place (3). However, since the average bag of coffee takes 1.5 weeks to consume, buying whole beans is the only way to keep your coffee fresh, and you should grind only what you need at the time of use. Furthermore, there is a myth that you need your beans to be roasted within 14 days of consumption. In fact, coffee that is too fresh will bloom over and even miss key flavor notes. The optimal period between roast and brew is between 10 days and 6 weeks after roasting (4). Waiting just over a week to consume beans post-roast allows for some more CO2 to escape through the one-way degassing valve on the bag, and finishing within 6 weeks ensures the freshest tasting cup of coffee, though other sources say whole beans may stay fresh up to a year (4).
Pre-ground coffee is ground exclusively for an automatic drip machine. Different brewing methods require different grind sizes, which can only be done with whole bean coffee. For example, you need finely ground coffee for espresso, but the proper grind size for french press is a coarse grind. Having the wrong grind size impacts the resulting flavor of the coffee, and is a common mistake of home-brewers. Additionally, you need to find the right grinder for your coffee beans. Blade grinders result in uneven grind sizes, resulting in poorly brewed cups of coffee. Burr grinders, on the other hand, create much more uniform grind sizes and typically have great flexibility in what sizes they can produce (1). They can definitely run at a higher price tag, but it’s worth the investment for a quality cup of coffee.
Grind sizes for common brewing methods include:
Extra Fine: Turkish Coffee
Medium-Fine: Cone-Shaped Pour-Over
Medium: Drip Coffee Machines
Coarse: French Press, Percolator
Extra Coarse: Cold Brew
The last major advantage of whole beans is your ability to optimize their extraction. Do you find that your coffee tastes bitter? Great. Make an adjustment. Grinds that are too fine for your brewing method produce a bitter taste due to over extraction. Does your coffee taste sour or soapy? Grinds that are too coarse produce a sour taste due to under extraction (1,2). Finer ground coffee requires a shorter extraction time and thus doesn't take as long to brew (2). Buying whole beans allows you to alter your grind size and experiment until you find the optimal extraction for each brewing method you try. When you buy ground coffee, you’re stuck with a medium-fine grind size, and you should never put ground coffee back into a grinder.
Do you now understand why whole bean is the only way to go? We hope this blog was helpful in furthering your journey to brew the best cup of coffee at home.