Having fresh roasted good quality beans is only half of the equation for making the smoothest cup of coffee in the world. The other half of the equation is perfecting your brewing techniques.
Start With Smooth Coffee Beans
I hate burnt and bitter industrial coffee, like anything from Charbuks, Yuban, Folgers, or Costco. If you’re going to drink that crap then save some money and just buy a 30 pound bag of Kingsford Charcoal.
When I say, that I love smooth coffee, what I mean is that I don’t want my coffee to be bitter or burnt. Instead it should taste like milk chocolate. “Milk Chocolate”? Yep, good coffee does not have to be bitter.
In my opinion, Central American coffee beans are generally smoother than beans from anywhere else in the world. Nicaraguan beans are perhaps the smoothest, but they lack any real taste.
My preference is Costa Rican coffee beans, specifically from the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica; even more specific, the co-op beans from Don Roberto.
These beans are naturally sweet and when gently roasted tastes like milk chocolate with a hint of nut. These are the only beans that we source.
Fresh Roasted Whole Bean Coffee
Nothing on God’s green earth tastes better than fresh roasted coffee. By fresh, I mean freshness that’s measured in hours not weeks. That’s why we at Lake City Coffee guarantee, “From our roaster to your table in 48 hours”. You can really taste the difference. On the other hand, most coffee sold in America has been sitting warehouses or on store shelves for months if not years. That’s one reason it tastes so bitter.
If the beans are black, then don’t buy them. Black beans are black because they’re burnt, i.e., charcoal. If coffee upsets your stomach, it isn’t because of the acid. The cause of upset stomachs from drinking coffee is always the result of old stale burnt coffee beans. That’s why even our dark roast is “barely” dark, i.e. dark brown in color, thus keeping the natural coffee oils inside the beans.
Whole Bean Grinding Techniques
First of all, never ever buy pre-ground coffee. The primary ingredient in coffee beans, the part that tastes so good, is the bean’s oil. The minute you grind those beans those oils begin to evaporate. Therefore, always grind your coffee right before brewing it.
Different grinds produce different tastes. It all depends on what you like. If you’re looking for the smoothest cup of coffee, then experiment, trying a fine grind, then a medium grind, then a course grind. Each has its own flavor.
Make sure you use a burr grinder. Burr grinders describe the type of mechanism in the grinder. Burr is not a brand. If you can see the blades, then that’s not a burr.
Blade grinders are very inconsistent; producing powder, fine grind, medium grind, and course grind all at the same time. See my Brewing Equipment page for my favorite grinders.
Coffee aficionados will usually tell you the water should be 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Me, I just like it hot; like real hot, so boiling water works for me, i.e. 212 degrees.
For years I used a teapot on the stove, or a cup on the oven, or a hot water dispense near the sink. But the best and fastest way to heat your water is to use a gooseneck electric teapot. It’s fast as a jackrabbit, cheap, and easy. See my Brewing Equipment page for my favorite grinders.
Brewing The Smoothest Cup of Coffee
There are a ton of brewing techniques and devices. I’ve tired just about all of them. In my opinion, the key to a good brewing system is the amount of time that the water gets to interact with the coffee grounds (steeping time); too little time and you miss the subtle flavors of the coffee, too much time and you pick up a bitter flavor.
Below is my personal opinion on the merits of the most popular brewing methods.
Let’s go from my most favorite method all the way down to the bottom, which is reserved for those folks that don’t care what they drink. IMHO
- Cold Brew – This is the smoothest, least bitter and most flavorful coffee that you’ll ever experience. Why? Hell if I know. I just know that it works. But here’s my guess. The water has had time to steep in the grounds. Sometimes, the next morning, I’ll even heat it up in the microwave. For specific directions, check out my video on my “Brewing Equipment” page.
- AeroPress – For hot coffee, this is my all time favorite way to brew the smoothest cup of coffee. The coffee is hot, it’s smooth as silk, and you can taste all the subtle flavors that God put into that coffee bean. With my Costa Rican Tarrazu Don Roberto beans, black coffee actually tastes smooth. The AeroPress is fast, easy, and cheap. For precise instructions see my video on my “Brewing Equipment” page.
- French Press – The French Press is about the most natural and raw form of brewing coffee. If you really want to know what real coffee tastes like, then this it. This method does tend to produce stronger and bitterer coffee. For smooth coffee, i.e., not bitter, what I’ve discovered is that the steeping time should be between 1-2 minutes. Longer than two minutes of steeping, then the coffee is too bitter for my taste.
- Drip Machine – The most popular in the US is by far is a drip machine. The problem is that the hot water only gets a few seconds to interacting with the grounds, thus leaving most of the flavor behind. In my opinion, drip machines make mediocre coffee at best. Even the expensive drip machines still produce a cup of coffee that just doesn’t measure up.
- Slow Pour Over – Same as a drip machine except poured by hand. This method may produce a slightly better cup than the machine.
- Chemex – Really not a whole lot different than a drip machine or slow pour over. All three methods taste the same to me.
- Moka Pot – This is a weird device that sits on the stove and is kind of a cross between a percolator and an espresso machine. The end result is strong, similar to drinking a raw espresso with nothing in it. In some bizarre way, I kind of liked it. It seems to me that Moka Pot coffee is strong coffee for sure, but not near as bitter as an espresso machine.
- Espresso – Yes I know this is a hot topic, since many people spend hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, on top-of-the-line espresso machines. Espresso machines were designed to make coffee fast (espresso = Italian for the word “fast”). The end result is coffee that’s thick and very bitter. Maybe that’s why the latte was invented, to make espresso palatable by adding milk, chocolate, caramel, whip cream, cinnamon, and sprinkles. This is not my cup of tea. BUT if you love it, then great. Drink what you like.
- Percolator – This isn’t the worst coffee in the world, but it’s got to be close. Once again, the percolator was invented for convenience not quality. The problem is that the same coffee gets circulated through the same grounds over and over again. The result is a bitter cup of coffee.
Therefore, as I said earlier, good quality beans and proper roasting are only half of the good-smooth-cup-of-coffee equation. You need to experiment with your brewing technique. Trust me, with just a little bit of experimentation; you can produce the best home brewed coffee experience of your life.