The Perfect Cup of Coffee

When Kate graciously accepted my proposal to get married, my mind immediately jumped to the next obvious place… the gift registry… more specifically a gift registry at William Sonoma that would allow me to request those odd kitchen gadgets that I had long coveted but never had the reason to actually purchase.  While we had a perfectly reasonable Cuisinart Coffee Maker already, I had been suspiciously eyeing our machine each morning as to whether it was actually heating our coffee enough.  I grew up in a household where coffee was not quite done until it could actually cause a third degree burn.  With this in mind, our first request on our registry was a new, sexier, 100% stainless steel Cuisinart with a large steel thermal carafe.  I figured how you go wrong with all that shiny steel…

Single Origin Coffee Beans

Little did I know that the average coffee machine only heats water to about 160 degrees, 40 degree below the proper extraction temperature for coffee of 200 degrees.  When our new upgraded Cuisinart Coffee Machine arrived, I found that my coffee was even colder than the previous machine.  How could this be??? And thus began my search for the perfect cup of coffee.

In my extensive research of home coffee brewing, I found that I am not the only coffee obsessed person out there, as my wife had claimed, and that there were a number of websites dedicated to this very topic.  The majority of home machines while convenient and loaded with interesting buttons and features simply are incapable to achieving the ideal brew temperature of 195-205 degrees.  These machines utilize an aluminum heating element that does not achieve this level of heat in the 6 minutes it takes to properly brew a cup of coffee.  According to the tests conducted by America’s Test Kitchen, the only machine on the market to successfully achieve this brew temperature is the Technivorm Moccamaster which utilizes a copper heating element.  So off we went to William Sonoma, with our week old upgraded Cuisinart in hand fully prepared to trade it in for the $300 Technivorm.  Needless to say, my wife, who is not really a coffee enthusiast, was not too pleased with yet another trip to William Sonoma for yet another coffee machine.  Once in the store, we were impressed with temperature of coffee that the Technivorm produced but startled by the amount of plastic used to construct the machine.  Suddenly, thoughts of BPA and other dangerous chemicals leaching into our coffee as hot water rested in its plastic reservoir started racing through our minds.  Unfortunately, we left the store without any coffee machine in hand.

So what to do…  Should I spend money at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts every morning?  Or could there be another option?  Fortunately for me, I shared my story with a barrista at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago who understood my concerns and had the perfect solution… The Pourover Method.

The Pour Over Method: Hario Ceramic Dripper

It’s really quite simple.  First you buy a $30 Hario ceramic funnel, a few paper coffee filters, and a temperature controlled electric kettle.  You prepare your mis-en-place of sorts…  the coffee filter is placed inside the ceramic funnel which is then placed atop your favorite mug or travel mug in our case and our freshly ground coffee sits nearby.  Next you heat your water to 200 degress and pour 2-3 ounces of water over the paper lined funnel to prewash the filter and provide some heat to the ceramic filter and your mug.  The next integral step, which I have been known to forget at times, is to remove the water from your prewash from your mug.  You then load your funnel with coffee grounds (the general rule is 3 tablespoons per 9 ounces of water), place it over your mug of choice and slowly pour the remainder of the water over your coffee.  The whole process takes about 5-6 minutes. (Intelligentsia actually has an iPhone app to take you through the process.)   The result:  The perfect cup of coffee that is both hot and delicious!



7 responses to “The Perfect Cup of Coffee

  1. One of my absolute favorite coffee places in London does this. So gorgeous. Monmouth Coffee in Borough Market or Covent Garden if you ever go!
    Found some pics on Flickr

  2. We’ll definitely have to try it the next time we are in London! Intelligentsia switched over to this method too in the last six months.

  3. Ahhh, I say go for the PLUNGER! While vacationing in New Zealand, I was asked to make coffee. Imagine my awkward confusion when I did not see a standard American coffee maker. “Ahw, ye don’t kneow how t’ use th’ PLUNGAH?” My Kiwi friend asked. Alas, I did not.

    Also known as a french Press, you can heat your water in a kettle to the desired temp (factoring in brewing time), and pour that water into your plunger. Let it sit for the desired amount of time for strength, and then, PLUNGE! A perfect cup every time, I say!
    Still, I am content with my substandard American coffee maker-made cup. Like wine, the only hard and fast rule is: If you love it, it’s good.

  4. I strongly considered the french press but knew that I would make a big mess each morning. The pour over method gives you a cleaner cup of coffee and really brings out all the subtleties of the coffee bean. With all that said, I do miss just pushing a button in the morning every now and then.

  5. Yeah, I was going to mention Monmouth, but Krista beat me to it (with my own picture, no less!). Do check out Monmouth, the beans quality is really good and they make a good cup of filter coffee

    However, my absolute favorite way of doing my own coffee is vacuum brewing, although it is pretty temperamental to grind quality (if I use a cheap grinder with not-too-uniform grind size, my filter gets clogged). Smoother yet bolder flavor than a press. Pics here:

  6. Wow, that look pretty impressive!!! Sounds like a great cup of coffee. We use a hario hand burr grinder. It produces a nice uniform grind with adjustable settings and is pretty reasonably priced.

  7. Hey There George,
    Thanks you for your post, Do you often throw away coffee in the morning because it had already gone sour? As a coffee lover, it pains me to think that coffee is always wasted by using traditional coffee makers. But thanks to the technology we have today, one cup coffee makers have been getting quite a buzz and for good reasons too.
    Great Job!
    Webmaster of Grind and Brew Coffee Pot

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