Food & Drink

5 Tips for Making a Better Cup of Coffee

We cut through the chill of a fall Monday morning to chat with Tony Auger of Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company about how to brew the perfect cup.

1. Use Freshly Roasted Coffee

“I like to treat coffee like any other agricultural product,” says Auger, an award-winning coffee roaster and quality assurance technician with Kaldi’s. “Whole bean and ground coffee can stay good for years without actually making you sick; however, it tastes its absolute best 2-14 days after being roasted. After two weeks off roast, a coffee can start to become stale and lose its delicate nuances and individuality.

“The best way to combat stale coffee is by purchasing smaller amounts and by buying from local roasters who roast coffee in your state. Most local roasters will offer 8-ounce and 12-ounce options, which are much easier to go through in two weeks. When buying from a local roaster or cafe directly, look for a ‘roasted on’ date rather than a ‘best by’ date to ensure the coffee was roasted recently.”

2. Store Your Coffee in the Best Environment

“The enemies of roasted coffee are light and oxygen,” Auger explains. “Storing your coffee in an airtight and opaque container will keep your coffee fresh for the optimal amount of time.

“A common myth is that you should store coffee in the freezer. However, for multiple reasons, a freezer may be one of the worst places you can actually store coffee. First, freezing and unfreezing coffee actually breaks up the cellular structure of it. Each crack now gives another area that oxygen can reach the coffee to help deteriorate it. Secondly, by putting coffee in the freezer and then bringing it to room temperature, you actually cause condensation to form on the coffee particles.”

3. Grind Your Coffee Right Before Brewing

Auger says it’s important to reiterate just how much freshly ground coffee can influence your coffee’s taste.

“As soon as coffee is ground, it immediately starts the staling process,” he says. “Another thing to note is that within five minutes of coffee being ground, it will start to lose its fragrance. I mention this because 75-80 percent of what we can taste is actually determined by our ability to evaluate fragrance and aroma.”

4. Use the Right Water

“Water is the main ingredient in brewed coffee,” Auger says. “In fact, properly extracted coffee is over 98 percent water. This means that in order to optimize our coffee’s taste, you should only use filtered water. Let me stress though, filtered but not distilled or softened water, since these types of water have their minerals altered or removed. The presence of organic minerals in water helps to give coffee its flavor by giving the extracted compounds something to stick to.”

He also recommends brewing coffee at between 195-205 degrees to get the best flavor.

5. Master Consistency

“I don’t think you need exotic, fancy and highly priced equipment to brew great coffee. Finding what equipment and methods that work for you and then being ritualistically consistent is far more important,” the Kaldi’s Coffee expert says.

“Create a list and make sure your coffee is freshly roasted; note how it’s stored, monitor the size and timeliness of your grinding, make sure your coffee-to-water ratio is correct (the U.S. standard is 16 grams water to 1 gram coffee), monitor the extraction time and make sure your water is clean and at the proper temperature to make the perfect cup.”