A Definitive Guide to Making Coffee

A+Definitive+Guide+to+Making+Coffee

By Luxe Palmer, Co-Editor-In-Chief

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are first introduced to the seemingly magical drink called coffee. I remember my first time was when I was seven or eight, and I stole a sip of the forbidden substance from my mother’s mug. She had treated hers with milk and honey, a common combination. I tasted it, swilled it around my palate like the connoisseur I was, before making my final judgement. I was unimpressed. It was, in a word, disgusting. Downfallen at my newest discovery, I tiptoed to my father’s mug of coffee to try to see if his take on it would renew my high expectations. He hadn’t put anything in the drink, choosing to leave it black. I tentatively took a sip… It was still bad. This time, it was just dark, bitter water. I decided that coffee was, in general, not all that it was hyped up to be. Black coffee was better than milked- or sugared- coffee, but it was still decidedly sickening.

My judgement on coffee has not changed in the seven years since, instead preferring tea or simply water when asked. Alas, I know a good many people that praise the dark liquid, professing its mind-enhancing and energy-boosting properties. Therefore, to my credit, I have made a fair few pots of coffee for others, so I would say I am fairly well-versed in the ways of the bean. As we are all entering another unknown realm, that of Online Schooling, many people may be tempted to reach for the bag of coffee beans and test its strengths for themselves. The majority of high school students, however, already are devout disciples of java, but have no access to their usual source (Starbucks, Serrano’s, Dutch Bros, etc) due to quarantine. But don’t fret, dear under-caffeinated students. I have come forth out of my kitchen with a definitive guide on HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE.

You’re welcome.

Methods to the Madness

There are many ways and machines used to make coffee, some professed to be better than others. Here is a list of the most common types:

Automatic Coffee Machine

The most common brands being Kitchen Aid, Cuisinart, or Breville, this is probably what you have tucked away in a corner of your kitchen. Once you’ve filled the water reservoir and inserted a coffee filter filled with coffee grounds (the more grounds, the stronger the coffee), you’re set to go. With a few clicks of a few buttons, the coffee is poured into a carafe for your convenience. The coffee produced could be range from “mediocre” to “pretty okay for early in the morning,” but the ease of making it far outweighs any tribulations of quality. (You see, it really all depends on the coffee beans you’re using.)

Cuisinart Automatic Coffee Maker

Moka Pot

While the automatics make a Gilmore Girls-size pot of coffee, the Italian-made stovetop Moka is more personal. Depending on the size, it typically makes enough coffee for two to three people with petite mugs, or one very tired individual. The Moka has three parts: the base (which holds the water), a filter basket (which holds the coffee grounds), and the upper chamber with a spout inside (which will pour out the brewed coffee). To make coffee in a Moka, one packs coffee grounds into the basket, fills the base with water, inserts the basket into the base, screws on the upper chamber, and places the reassembled pot onto the smallest burner of one’s stovetop. Turn the burner to medium heat, and observe carefully until the coffee stops spurting into the chamber. A Moka pot typically makes very good coffee. The less automated machinery involved, I’ve found, the better the coffee.

Bialetti Moka Pot

Chemex

Perhaps the most elegant of all coffee-making breeds, the Chemex (technically pronounced “kem-ex”, but I like to say it “shem-ay” because it sounds more French) came onto the scene in 1941 through the hands of Peter Schlumbohm. The simple glass carafe does not impart its own notes to the coffee- such as a metal coffee maker giving the coffee a metallic note- and can be considered the purest way to make coffee. Though it is one of the more time-consuming techniques, it will definitely impress any dinner guests that request a post-meal cup of joe. To make enough coffee for a small party of coffee aficionados, simply place a coffee filter on the top half of the hourglass-shaped Chemex and put about 42g of coffee inside (using a ratio of 15 grams of coffee to 1 cup of water- Chemex coffee is a precise art). Next comes the steps that one must be particularly finicky about: First, saturate the grinds by placing the Chemex with the filter and coffee on a scale and zeroing it out. Start a stopwatch (I told you this was incredibly exact). Take a kettle of just-boiled water (preferably with a narrow spout for even more precision) and pour the water in a circular motion onto the grounds until the scale reads about 150g. 45 seconds later, pour water in a circular motion until the scale reads about 600g. One minute later, pour water to the top of Chemex or until the scale reads 1100g. Let sit until the stopwatch reads 4 minutes. Remove the filter and swill the coffee in the carafe a few times before serving.

Chemex Coffee Carafe

French Press

The French press is probably one of the more common methods, second to the automatic maker, of course. In my opinion, this may be one of the best hand-made coffee methods for beginners. Hailing from France, of course, the pot comes in two parts- the main body chamber, and the top with the characteristic plunger attached. To make a pot of coffee that will serve quite a few happy campers, put a cup of coffee grounds in the base along with about 47oz of hot (but not quite boiling) water. Seal the lid on top with the plunger at water level- but not submerged! Depending on how strong you want your coffee, let sit for 3-5 minutes. Finally, filter the coffee grounds by slowly pressing the plunger down until all the grounds are trapped underneath. My family typically uses a French press for camping, since it is fairly quick and needs no electrical outlet, but the press is a great way to make pretty great coffee early in the morning, wherever you are.

REI Camping French Press

How To Treat Your Cup

Treat it with care. It is here to serve you your morning energy, so treat it gently and thank it for its efforts.

Just kidding! Here are the most common ways to “season” your coffee:

Sweeteners

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Splenda/ other artificial sweeteners
  • Stevia
  • The tears of newborn bunnies

Creamers

  • Milk (Cow’s)
  • Milk (Almond, Coconut, Oat, etc.)
  • Half-and-Half
  • Whole Cream
  • CoffeeMate Flavored Creamers (in my not-so-humble opinion, please don’t.)
  • Milk (Hippocampi)

Je Ne Sais Quoi

  • Cinnamon (Ground or Sticks)
  • Chocolate (Powdered or Melted- this is called a mocha, by the way)
  • Vanilla (Extract or Pods)
  • Whipped Cream (Cow’s, Coconut, etc.)
  • Ice Cream (this is called an affogato)
  • Concentrates (Lightning, Glitter, Harmony, etc.)

Or, you know, just drink it black.