Getting the Best Tasting Coffee From Your Choice of Beans

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You've been a coffee drinker for years and years, and you've sampled dozens, maybe hundreds, of different types of beans, and you know what you like. You spend a lot to buy those favorites that you determined are the best for your tastes, but sometimes, that cup of coffee just doesn't taste as good as it should. Why?

There are a few reasons why your perfect beans are not resulting in the perfect cup of coffee. Here are the areas most likely to be where your process has failed and your results are not up to expectations or are inconsistent, and what you can do to fix the problem:

1. Storage:

The key point about storing coffee beans is to remember that they are actually seeds, or even more correctly, pits, that grow inside fruit, the fruit that grows as "cherries" on coffee plants. Thus, they are perishables, and need to be treated
with the same type of procedures and care as one treats other fruits and vegetables. Thus, they must be provided time to ripen in open air, and once they reach their optimal ripeness, refrigeration is used to keep them fresh and consumable for as long as possible, with the freezing alternative as a means to preserve them even longer.

Coffee beans left in the open are subject to the ravages of oxygen, moisture, air pollution, and heat, and just like to that beautiful avocado on the counter next to the coffee, the elements take their toll over time. Whole beans survive longer than ground beans, as once ground, there is much more surface area exposed to the elements to ripen and then spoil then even faster. Spoiled or stale coffee beans emit a sweet, chocolate-like odor, and if brewed, can have a bland or even an acrid taste.
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Coffee "Cherries" on a
Coffee Bush

There are two basic guidelines to follow in order to assure that your coffee will be brewed from the freshest beans possible:
  • A. Don't over-buy, but rather purchase enough beans for just a few days worth of coffee at a time, and don't stock up for weeks or months at a big box store and expect that last cup to be in the same league as the first; and
  • B. Buy whole beans and grind then just before brewing your coffee.
When you bring home your coffee beans, do not leave them in the paper or cellophane bag the come in, or even that cardboard or plastic can-like creation with the sort-of tight-fitting plastic lid. Instead, protect them as the deserve to be protected by transferring them to an air-tight canister.If your beans of choice have fully matured to your taste, then store
the canister in the refrigerator. If they have yet to reach their peak, then keep the canister on a counter or shelf at room temperature until they do so, then refrigerate. Take care not to refrigerate too soon, as beans refrigerated early will never mature to their full flavor potential.

If buying in large quantities is still your preference, then your coffee beans can be frozen. While freezing does slightly alter the flavor somewhat, such a slight aberration is preferable to letting the beans spoil. Make sure that the container in which coffee beans are frozen is air tight and moisture proof. Also, let frozen beans thaw for about ten minutes before grinding and brewing, or defrost a few days worth at a time.

2. Water:

The typical cup of coffee - one that does not have extraneous items added to it, such as chicory, nutmeg, vanilla, or Irish Whisky, is composed of two things, coffee
and water. For number one, coffee, see above. But, just about as important is the water you use, as "bad" or "old" water can cause otherwise great coffee beans to produce less than acceptable coffee. If the water you use has a bad taste, so will the coffee it makes. Hard water should also be avoided as it will more quickly build up mineral deposits in your brewer. But on the other hand, artificially softened water should be avoided as the chemical used in the softening process can leave a gelatinous residue in the coffee grounds, slowing down the brewing process and permitting absorption of the bitter elements of the coffee.

If your tap water is too hard, too chlorinated, or has other chemical odors or other taste impurities, you can filter your water first, using any of a number of popular walter filer devices, such as those reasonably-priced filtered container products from companies such as Pur and Brita, or you can install a filtering device directly onto your kitchen tap. When
using tap water, always use cold water, as hot water from the tap has stood for a length of time in your water heater, which can also alter its taste. And of course, you can purchase bottled water for your coffee brewing.

3. Grinding:

Your brewing system determines which of the available five types of grinds from which you can choose. The top three make up 95% of all ground coffee - regular ground (also called "perk"), drip, and fine. The other two types of grinds, corse or "open-pot" grind, used for "cowboy" coffee, and powder grind for Turkish coffee, are used perhaps 5% of the time. Make sure to check the specifications of your brewer to find the correct grind, as using a
perk grind in a drip brewer, for example, will result in a weak cup of coffee.

Look for our upcoming article on types of home coffee grinders with many more details on the grinding process.

Follow these simple guidelines, and you can expect consistent, flavorful coffee, every time.

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