The path to a per­fect cup of cof­fee

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - To learn more, visit Con­sumerRe­ports.org.

Know­ing how to choose the right beans and the proper way to pre­pare them can make all the dif­fer­ence be­tween a steamy, dreamy cup of cof­fee and one that’s weak, wa­tery or bit­ter. Here’s an over­view from Con­sumer Re­ports.

• Har­vest­ing. The cof­fee bean is ac­tu­ally a small seed in­side a fruit, the cof­fee cherry. The cherry can be washed off the seed (wet pro­cess­ing) or left whole to dry (nat­u­ral or dry pro­cess­ing).

• Roast­ing. Dur­ing roast­ing, any re­main­ing mois­ture in the beans evap­o­rates, the su­gars caramelize, the beans be­gin to brown and swell and their aro­mas and fla­vor are de­vel­oped. Terms such as “medium roast” and “dark roast” can vary by brand.

• Buy­ing. Freshly ground whole beans usu­ally make the best-tast­ing cof­fee. Buy­ing loose whole beans, as op­posed to bagged ones, lets you buy smaller quan­ti­ties, so you can sam­ple new va­ri­eties with­out hav­ing to buy a whole bag. But Con­sumer Re­ports warns that loose beans may not be as fresh as bagged beans, which are of­ten vac­uum-sealed.

• Stor­ing. Keep beans in an air­tight con­tainer – stain­less steel, ce­ramic or opaque glass – out of di­rect sun­light. Heat and light ox­i­dize the oils in the beans, di­min­ish­ing fresh­ness. Don’t store beans in the re­frig­er­a­tor or freezer, where they can ab­sorb the fla­vors of other foods. Leav­ing them in a kitchen cab­i­net is fine.

• Grind­ing. Avoid us­ing the grind­ing ma­chine at the mar­ket: Your cof­fee can pick up fla­vors of other beans that have been ground in it that day. Burr grinders are more ex­pen­sive than blade grinders but are a good in­vest­ment be­cause they grind beans more evenly, al­low­ing more even ex­trac­tion of fla­vors from the cof­fee. For the best taste, brew grounds right af­ter grind­ing.

• Select­ing the grind. Match the grind size to the type of cof­feemaker. If the grind is too fine, too much cof­fee will be ex­tracted, giv­ing you a bit­ter brew. If the grind is too coarse, your cof­fee will be wa­tery­tast­ing. Gen­er­ally, use medium grind for drip cof­feemak­ers, slightly coarser grind for French press and fine grind for an espresso ma­chine.

• Water fil­ter­ing. Most tap water is chlo­ri­nated, which kills bac­te­ria but also af­fects the taste of the cof­fee. Fil­ter­ing tap water with a sim­ple car­bon fil­ter

may re­duce chlo­rine taste and im­prove the fla­vor of your cof­fee, no mat­ter how it’s brewed.

• Water heat­ing. If the water’s not hot enough – 195 de­grees Fahren­heit to 205 de­grees Fahren­heit – it won’t ex­tract all of the fla­vors from your cof­fee and can make a weaker brew. If the water’s too hot, it will ex­tract un­de­sir­able fla­vors such as bit­ter­ness.

• Mea­sur­ing. The ra­tio of cof­fee to water is im­por­tant. Con­sumer Re­ports

sug­gests start­ing with 15 grams – about a heap­ing ta­ble­spoon – of cof­fee for ev­ery 8 ounces of water, and ex­per­i­ment. (Mea­sure both so that once you’ve found a ra­tio you like, you’ll be able to do it again.) An in­ex­pen­sive kitchen scale helps. Drink cof­fee right away or pour it into an in­su­lated carafe. Cof­fee will de­velop harsh, acid fla­vors if you leave it on a hot­plate.

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