By April 29, 2006

Be Prepared — Making Drip Coffee the Gibberish Way

I love coffee. LOOOOVE coffee. If I could, I’d drink coffee all day. Unfortunately my trainer and body think it’s better for me to drink a lot of water, and not as much Blood of Life™.

I thought I’d put together a short guide on how I like to make coffee, along with some “optional” steps if you are trying to be extra fancy. My preferred method does involve some equipment that you may not have already, but trust me, it will be worth it. I have been spending time at Starbuck’s lately while I’m out on my bike. That shiz is expensive! If you just save your money you’d otherwise spend on a regular coffee or Americano-type drink then you should be able to afford most of this in short order.

Part One: The Coffee Maker
Coffee makers are fucking complicated these days. Internal water filters, different basket types, different heating elements, built-in grinder, built-in thermal carafes, timers, digital clocks, GPS, space-based laser guiding, holy shit. The best coffee maker I own was $39 from Target. The next best coffee maker I’ve ever owned was a $10 generic blue-box special I bought … also at Target. Hrm. Maybe someone at Target also likes coffee.

Regardless if you like your coffee machine plain white, stainless steel, robotic, demonic, hypnotic, whatever, your coffee machine must have a cone-shaped filter. This is an absolute must, as cone-shaped filters result in a more even brewing process. Basket-shaped filters will not fully and equally distribute enough water through the grounds, resulting in an inconsistent taste.

Another nice feature to have is a stainless steel heating element. My current coffee machine has this, and it brews the coffee at a higher temperature than conventional copper heating elements found in most coffee makers. The ideal brewing temperature of coffee is between 190 – 205 degrees F.

Part Two: Garbage In, Garbage Out
The water you put into your coffee machine is very important. Brewed coffee is 90% water, so if you are pulling water straight from your tap you’re going to get inconsistent-tasting coffee. Even if your tap water tastes “good,” it will have impurities that may influence each pot you throw. Well water is a great example of this — even though it tastes much better on average than tap water, it has all sorts of minerals in it. We use a conventional Brita filter here at the house, an idea system would be an in-counter ceramic reverse osmosis purifier. Regardless of the source, use cold water.

I always, always, always brew 10 cups of coffee. Don’t brew 4. Don’t brew 12. Brew 10. I measure out four level coffee scoops (that’s 8 tablespoons) per 10 cups of water, as indicated by the carafe. The worst thing you can do is fuck with your ratio of water to coffee. You may want to adjust the amount of coffee you put in the filter basket, based on if you like strong or weak coffee, or if you are brewing a dark or light roast, or depending on the bean variety. Stick with 10 cups of water always, at least one thing will be constant. Consistency is the key to good tasting coffee.

Part Three: Grind Like a Teenage Girl in Aruba
Grind your beans as close as you can before brewing. If you have leftover ground coffee, store it in an air-tight container out of direct sunlight. DO NOT store your coffee, in bean or ground form, in the freezer. The moisture in the coffee will freeze and your coffee will suffer. This is a common mistake.

Here’s where things can get expensive. Don’t use a traditional $10 – 20 “chopper” style coffee blender to grind your coffee. As explained in my Solis Maestro Plus coffee mill review, you need to own a conical burr grinder coffee mill to get a consistent grind. My Solis was about $150, however you can find lesser quality (but still serviceable) grinders from places like … Target. Hrm.

Part Four: Filters
This isn’t such a big deal, but I figured it was worth mentioning. I use the Earth-unfriendly bleached white paper filters. I have used unbleached filters in the past, and I have used filters made out of recycled baby diapers or whatever in the past also. I have also tried the metal-foil reusable filters. The metal filters suck, and I couldn’t tell the difference between the three types of paper filters, except for the slight taste of baby powder while using the recycled ones. Just kidding. We buy our filters in bulk from Costco. It’s like $5 for a hojillion. If you want to be a real coffee snob, pre-moisten your filter before adding the grounds. This way your machine doesn’t have to use water to wet the filter that would otherwise go towards brewing the coffee.

Part Five: Heat is the Enemy
The heat from the hot plate on your coffee maker begins to break down your lovingly-crafted brew immediately. As soon as possible, move your coffee to a glass-lined thermal carafe. The stainless steel versions suck. They won’t keep your coffee for hot nearly as long, and I swear I can taste the metal when coffee is stored inside a stainless steel carafe. The absolute worst vessel is plastic lined. Yuck.

Make sure you pre-heat your glass-lined carafe with hot water while your coffee is brewing. Otherwise you will cool your coffee as it heats up the inside of the carafe. Your coffee will also stay hotter longer if you pre-heat the carafe. The ideal temperature at which to drink coffee is between 170 and 180 degrees F. Lady Jaye likes her coffee cooler, but for me, the hotter the better.

The glass-lined coffee pot I own was a $10 Thermos brand job I bought at Target (holy shit, are they a cult?). I have permanently benched my two stainless steel restaurant-style carafes. I would only use those if company couldn’t be trusted to not break the glass inside the Thermos.

Whew, I guess that’s it. To summarize:

  • Use a coffee machine with a cone-shaped filter.
  • Always use cold, filtered/bottled water. Always use 10 cups of water.
  • Mill your coffee from room-temperature beans using a conical burr mill as closely as you can to when you brew your coffee.
  • Transfer the finished pot of coffee to a glass-lined thermal container as soon as possible.
  • Try not to spill that shit on your crotch. It hurts. Trust me.

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6 Comments on "Be Prepared — Making Drip Coffee the Gibberish Way"

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  1. Diesel says:

    I like your site. Just started reading the old posts. Followed the link from somewhere on the net showing how you opened the old masterlock with a beer can shim. Nice.

    Anyway, I’m from Canada, Tim Hortons coffee is our god up here. Go to any drive thru at any time of day or night in any decent sized city, and there will always be a line up. I noticed starbucks is your thing down there but you can’t beat a tim’s cup. Why, the water is pre-heated BEFORE it goes through the grounds. I agree with filtered water but try this shit out. Heat it in the kettle first then put it in the coffee maker. You’ll notice the difference. It’s like there’s a party in your mouth and everyone’s…..invited—not coming!

  2. drfaulken says:

    Hey, thanks for posting your comments! Welcome to Gibberish. 🙂

    How hot do you preheat the water in the kettle? I would be hesitant to let the water boil, apparently boiling water has less oxygen in it and can leave coffee and tea tasting “flat.”

    I can see why preheated water would make the coffee taste better. The heating element in the machine probably gives it a temperature boost before it filters through the coffee. Great idea!

  3. Wouldn’t nuking the water be easier? Then you could get the timing down precisely.

  4. Diesel says:

    I heat it up just short of boiling in the kettle before I add it. Or, if I am lazy, or in a hurry, I will just use hot tap water although I am not a big fan of tap water (even though we got pretty good quality water up here). Still, I only drink bottled water from my water cooler. Nuking would probably be just as easy but I would use a glass container. I don’t nuke anything in plastic containers. With the high temperature of the microwave toxic shit can leach out of the plastic into whatever you are cooking.

  5. Agreed, I nuke in glass or on paper as much as possible. I have ceramic bowls I nuke in sometimes, but I don’t trust ceramic as much; sometimes when I’ve nuked things in mugs, the liquid tastes like clay or mineral. Scary!

  6. Damn good coffee advice!! I agree with every point you make, particularly the “cone shaped filters”.
    I was hoping in your vast wealth of coffee knowledge if you have located a basket to cone converter insert? I have a great coffee maker – perfect every time, but it’s a darn basket type and I HATE to waste my precious coffee grounds!
    Let me know if you’ve found one – perhaps at Target???