This weekend on Facebook, my friend Molly wrote that she was “constitutionally incapable of making a decent cup of coffee.”
I related to this because, for the past few years, I had the same problem. The lowest moment came when, upon grinding my own beans, I overdid it, clogged my coffee maker and a black sand volcano erupted all over my countertop, ruining the machine and my self-confidence too. But now I make a great cup of coffee and my secret has more to do with ignoring, not following, the Good Coffee-Making Rules.
Good-Coffee Making Rules dictate that you should grind your own beans right before making your coffee. My issue with that is, unless you have a great grinder or know exactly what you’re doing, there’s a lot of room for error. But if you buy your coffee fresh on a regular basis from a coffee shop that you like, and you have them grind the beans for you (often they’ll ask about your coffee maker), as long as you use them over the next few weeks, your coffee won’t just be fine: it will be excellent.
You may recall that I was once sent a one-cup coffee maker, but I gave that away pretty soon after posting that post. My parents, who actually love their one-cup coffee maker, gave me their more traditional coffee maker when they came over for dinner a few months ago:
It’s a standard, Cuisinart coffee maker. It doesn’t do anything fancy, but I like it because it has a mesh filter that you can use again and again (it doesn’t require paper.)
Using this as my primary tool, here’s how I make an excellent cup of coffee:
1. Use cold, filtered water.
If I’m making coffee for one, I’ll fill it up to 4 cups (that sounds like a lot, but it goes fast.) If I’m making it for two, I’ll fill it up to 7 cups. (Standard practice on the weekends.)
Then I pour it into the machine.
2. Buy really good coffee.
Lately, when I’m in Park Slope, I pick up a bag of Blendimitosis from Gorilla Coffee. If you have an independent coffee shop near you, it’s always best to buy your beans from them. (I did a Taste Test once where I compared Folger’s, Starbucks and Gorilla, and there was absolutely no competition. Gorilla was far and away the best.)
3. Have them grind it for your machine.
At Gorilla, I ask them to grind it for a cone-shaped filter. (That’s what my machine has.) Now, many of you will probably comment that it makes a WORLD of difference to grind it yourself and that grinding it yourself isn’t that hard. That’s probably true, but for the average person who enjoys a good cup of coffee but doesn’t obsess about it, the key I think is just buying good coffee in the first place and using it relatively quickly after they grind it.
4. Use one tablespoon of coffee for every cup, plus one more.
This is a formula for very strong coffee, but that’s what we like here. I keep a tablespoon measure in the coffee bag and when I measure it out, I usually keep it level, though occasionally my tablespoons are heaping. The key is that extra tablespoon at the end: it makes your coffee that much stronger.
5. Turn your machine on, watch the coffee brew, enjoy the smell and drink!
That’s pretty much it for my coffee advice. You may be thinking: “So wait, you just make coffee like a normal person except you use filtered water, you buy nicer coffee, you have them grind it and use an extra tablespoon?”
And Craig, who’s an absolute coffee snob (being from Seattle and all) loves the coffee I make. I love it too.
So: ignore the rules, buy the right stuff and start your day right. A good cup of coffee couldn’t be easier.
One of my favorite barristas at my favorite coffee shop, Joe, has some strong words for me about this post in this follow-up video.