Be your own barista: How to make a perfect cup every time
Ever wish you could make a cup of java as well as the pros? We've cracked the code on your local barista's coffee-making ninjutsu — and we're sharing the secrets with you. (You didn't get this from us.)
Pick the right beans
Buy quality whole beans, preferably from a local roaster. There's no one bean for the perfect cup. Just ask the roaster to explain the qualities of the beans or research common types online. And don't be afraid to mix them to find the perfect flavor for you.
The beans have to be whole because unless the roaster uses special air-tight packaging, the ground coffee will start to become stale within minutes of grinding.
Get the right grinder
You can buy a blade grinder for about $20, but they aren't optimal. They grind unevenly and if they're too high-powered (or you get hypnotized by the whir sound and go too long), the resulting grind can have a burned flavor.
A burr grinder, which uses two rough revolving surfaces to crush the beans, is best. High-end electrics are expensive, but you can get a quality hand-cranking one for $40 or so.
Get the right brewer
You've probably got a drip coffeemaker on your countertop already. And that's fine, but a French press picks up flavors other brewers surrender. It's also easy to use and affordable.
Brewing the perfect cup
Water straight out of the tap is fine, so long as the water tastes good to you on its own. If you don't like it, invest in a faucet or pitcher filtration system.
Bring your water to a boil on the stovetop in a kettle that's made of anything but stainless steel, which can affect the flavor of coffee because of the (perfectly safe levels of) metals that leach out. A kettle is better than a pot because it's specially designed to heat water evenly until it comes to a rolling boil. Whatever you do, don't microwave it. Without getting into the science-y stuff, what looks like boiling in a microwave may not really be an even 212 degrees F. And temperature is important to coffee.
The minute it comes to a boil, pull it off the stove and let it cool for about 30 seconds, during which time it will get to the optimum temperature of 192 to 205 degrees F. If it is any cooler, it will be bland; if it is any hotter, it will result in a bitter brew.
Pour the water into your press and let it steep for three to five minutes. Remember: Longer equals stronger! Using a steady pressure, press the filter down and remove the coffee from the press immediate (or it will keep brewing).
If desired, add sugar and stir. Then add your dairy. If you don't have a steamer, you can still have foam. Just fill a jar halfway with very cold milk, put the lid on and shake it vigorously for 30 seconds until it froths up and doubles in size. Remove the lid and microwave it for 30 seconds. Holding the foam back with a spoon, pour the milk into the coffee directly down the center (not on the sides or in a swirl) to ensure the coffee to milk ratio stays even as you sip. As a bonus, it will also make a pretty pattern in your mug.
Sound too complicated?
We understand if that's way too much work as you rush around getting ready in the morning. If that's the case, we recommend investing in a coffeemaker that takes those handy little K-Cups so you can brew a cup at a time of everyone's favorite flavors.
Savor the aroma of medium-roasted beans with a touch of caramel. Or indulge in a cup of easy drinking lighter-roasted beans with a generous kick of silky smooth vanilla. The right roast with the right flavor makes all the difference. Look for these and other Starbucks® K-Cup® packs where you buy groceries.