So, you've been told by your coffee snob friends that drip coffee sucks.
If you've read Joachim's article about drip coffee versus pour over, you may have come to the conclusion that any cafe using a drip coffee maker will give you inconsistent weak coffee. While that may certainly be true most of the time, there's a way to fix that!
With coffee technology comes great coffee innovation. These days, specialty coffee shops are spending the extra money to get better drip coffee machines that maintain temperature and offer better water flow, amongst other improved variables. Additionally, countless kitchen equipment manufacturers are picking up on the fancy coffee trend to produce stellar home coffee makers. That being said, it's easier than ever to get a better drip coffee if you follow these steps.
Use Fresh Coffee
This truly can't be stressed enough in nearly every part of coffee brewing, storage, and roasting, but coffee is a fresh product. Similar to the way a freshly-cut lemon will taste better than pre-squeezed juice, fresh coffee will taste that much better while brewing with an automatic drip coffee maker.
Freshness in this case means two things:
- Freshly roasted coffee: Although coffee should be purchased fresh, there is a small window when it's a little TOO fresh. Try to opt for coffee beans that were roasted within the past 5 days to 4 weeks.
- Freshly ground coffee: Buying whole bean will preserve the freshness of beans because pre-ground causes oxidation of coffee much more quickly. When coffee oxidizes, it gives off aromas and flavors that are crucial in aromatic coffee. Therefore, wait until brewing to grind coffee. If you don't have a grinder, try to store your grounds in an airtight container and use as soon as possible.
Brew With Filtered Water
In this case, tap water will only take you so far when it comes to coffee brewing. When you get truly nerdy about coffee brewing, you will soon recognize that coffee is 98 percent water. Therefore, you should simply pay that much more attention to the quality of water when brewing.
Coffee loves certain soft minerals that enhance its natural flavors. So try to use a basic home water filter for your coffee water, or use distilled and add Third Wave Water packets. (Don't use distilled water alone, which has no minerals at all).
Run a Hot Water Cycle Alone Before Brewing
This tip also applies to you Keurig lovers! A common complaint of home drip coffee makers (and Keurigs) is that they don't maintain the ideal hot temperatures needed to brew coffee because of the cold machine itself, and simply its technological incapabilities of getting stable hot water through the entire brewing cycle.
One way you can combat this is by pre-heating your machine. Simply run a cycle without coffee grounds in them to heat up the machine with water. This will stabilize the temperature better. However, one noticeable factor that better kitchen brands are focusing on for automatic filter makers is water temperature. Check out brands like Breville and OXO for these.
Keep Your Machine Clean
A hard habit to break is running out the door in the morning without dumping your used coffee bed from the machine. Doing this repeatedly overtime will result in several things:
- Coffee oil buildup inside the machine.
- Old coffee smell
- Leftover grounds ending up in different parts of the machine
That being said, try to dump out your grounds as soon as your coffee is done brewing, and run a cycle of hot water with distilled vinegar every now and then to clean your machine. You can also buy certain coffee cleaning tablets specific to coffee makers. Urnex is a barista-approved brand that coffee shops have been using for years.
Buy Nicer Beans
This may seem obvious to many, but it goes even without saying that buying better quality coffee will result in better brews. The association between automatic drip machines and bad weak coffee stems from a long history of cheap diners and quick thoughtless gas stations.
However, today's coffee options are endless, amazing, and worth exploring. Try to buy something local from an independent shop. This way, you're supporting small business AND getting to talk with staff to have them pick out the best selection for you.
Use Enough Coffee
Another common complaint of automatic filter coffee is that it tastes too watery. Most of the time, this is because businesses are "cheating out" on coffee supply and using much more water than coffee grounds. Or, they aren't weighing their grounds. While the ratios may vary between coffee machines (especially depending on how many cups you're making) you're better off using more coffee than less.
If you're brewing at home, try to start with the golden ratio of 1:16, or 1-2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water.
Automatic filter coffee is a great way to have a bright, crisp cup of coffee OR a smooth darker blend. It's super customizable, versatile, and proving specialty coffee lovers wrong every year!