Guide to Coffee

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How to Brew the Good Stuff

Just a few simple steps are all you need to brew the perfect cup of joe:

  • Buy: Buy coffee in whole bean form when you can and keep it in an airtight container. Buying a one-week supply is ideal. Contrary to popular belief, coffee beans and grounds should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature to maintain their best flavor. (Go ahead and rescue those beans from the freezer; we won’t look.)
  • Prepare: To brew coffee, use fresh water free of any odd tastes or odors. It’s 98% of every cup of coffee, you know!
  • Grind: Ideally, grind your coffee beans just before brewing. (If you’re using pre-ground, that’s okay, too. We know what it’s like to be busy!) The faster your brew cycle, the finer you should grind the beans. A good rule of thumb is to use a fine grind (20–25 seconds in a blade grinder) for vacuum pots and one-cup cones, a drip grind (15 seconds) for most drip brewers and a coarse grind (10 seconds) for plunger pots and cold water extractors.
  • Brew: Use about 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each ¾ cup of water that will be poured through them, no matter how much you’re brewing.
  • Serve: For the best flavor, drink coffee within about 30 minutes of brewing.

Blending Over Backwards

Unblended single origin coffees have strong, individual characteristics and exciting flavors. But did you know that they’re also the building blocks from which coffee blends are made? Appreciating the unique flavors of single origins is key to picking a blend to suit your taste.

Keep in mind that coffee comes from three basic regions:

  • The Americas — flavors are clean, bright and mild
  • African and Arabian — flavors are fruity, winey and exotic
  • The Pacific — flavors are earthy, smooth and savory

If you’re just getting to know coffee, try this 2-step exercise on for size:

  1. Pick out a handful of pure, unblended “single origin” coffees and try them over, say, a week. Make note of the unique flavors that you taste in each one.
  2. Tell one of our Team Members which single origin coffees you like best, then let them help you pick blends that complement the flavors you’re most fond of. Not a bad way to customize your morning cup, huh?

Roasting Done Right

Unfortunately, the terminology for roasting coffee can be confusing. Don’t blame us, though—there just aren’t standardized terms within the trade. In other words, one company's French roast can be another's espresso.

Here’s a quick list to give you the basics, usually the terminology you can always count on seeing in our stores. Think of this as your pocket dictionary for coffee:

  • Full City (light): If you think this has something to do with taxis and skyscrapers, think again. This term marks coffee that’s deep chestnut brown and has maximum varietal flavor and aroma.
  • Vienna (medium): This coffee is deep brown and has a lively acidity. Sadly, it doesn’t mean that it’s served with apple strudel.
  • Espresso (medium-dark): This stuff is serious. Coffee with this name is deep but not dark. Essentially, it’s to full city what a fine vintage port is to a glass of red wine. Look for just a trace of acidity and subtle varietal nuances.
  • French Roast (dark): This well-loved coffee’s varietal flavors have burned off and been replaced with the smoky power of the roasting process. The results are intense and spicy, but still light.
  • Extra Dark French (dark): This is the big daddy of dark roasts. Powerful and smoky with an almost ebony appearance, this is one step away from incineration! Although this coffee pushes the limits of carbonization, some people really love its peat-like character.

Coffee Talk: How to Sound Like a Pro

Just like wine, coffee has its own distinct lingo. The next time you’re sipping the java, keep these gems in mind:

  • Acidity: Also called “brightness”, this is actually a positive term that refers to the lively, sparkling, palate-cleansing quality in coffees grown at high altitudes.
  • Body: This term is used to describe the weight of coffee on your tongue. For the record, Latin American coffees are generally light-to-medium bodied, while Indonesians are typically fullest in body.
  • Flavor: Use this to describe the total impression of aroma, acidity and body in coffee. Just like wine, flavors can be everything from spice and fruit to nut and chocolate.
  • Aroma: This is the easy one; it’s the fragrance of brewed coffee. Often distinctive and complex, you might hear coffee pros use terms like caramel, carbon (for dark roasts), floral, malt (like cereal), rich or round to describe aromas.