How would you rate your cup of Joe this morning? Was it good? Great? Could you call it the “perfect cup of coffee”?
Because we’re always in pursuit of the best java possible (oh, coffee, we worship thee!), we chatted up the three founders — Alex Lowe, Elvis Lieban and James Gutierrez — of Artís Coffee in Berkeley, Calif. Artís Coffee is all about live roasting (more on that in a bit) and getting you the perfect cup of coffee — every time, no matter what your coffee tastes are. And these boys know a thing or two about their coffee beans.
Read on for these coffee aficionados’ secrets, in their own java-loving words, for getting the perfect cup of coffee each and every morning!
9 Secrets for Getting the Perfect Cup of Coffee
1. Make sure your coffee beans are fresh. Age is by far the easiest way to tell if your beans are stale. Roasted coffee is at its peak flavor one to two days after roasting, and that peak lasts around 10 days. Most coffee on the shelf at a grocery store or cafe is much older than that. When we say stale, we’re really talking about the oils in the beans deteriorating and going rancid. Those rancid oils cause coffee to be bitter and unpleasant. This is the flavor that the U.S. consumer has become accustomed to drinking. Fresh coffee should never be bitter and should always be smooth and easy to drink.
2. Go for live roasting. At Artís you have access to the freshest coffee available, anywhere. We are the only shop in the U.S., that we know of, that roasts coffee one pound at a time to order and we call this “live roast.” And it only takes about six minutes. Anyone can come down to the shop, talk with one of our trained staff and find a new coffee that fits their taste. We also offer a huge variety of coffee brewers and accessories, so anyone can find a new way to brew their perfect cup of coffee at home. We welcome online orders, too.
3. Find your perfect roast. The easiest way to find your perfect roast is to begin with a coffee you already like from another roaster. We can use that information as a starting point to match you with one of our origins. We also have a coffee quiz online that asks a few easy questions that will give you a starting point. We’ve found these predictions to be really accurate. Most coffee shops offer coffee that matches the taste of their roaster or owner. We’ve found that lots of people either like or don’t like a shop because of how the coffee tastes. At Artis it isn’t so much about how we think the coffee should taste, it’s about how you want your coffee to taste.
4. Experiment. Because coffees vary so much in flavor from region to region, we encourage you to experiment and find what you like! Central American coffee tend to have an acidic, citrus taste to them. Indonesian coffees are typically roasted darker and have a nutty, rich taste. Ethiopian coffees are fruity and floral. Light roasts tend to be much more acidic, have a higher caffeine content and don’t hold up well to milk. If you like milk and sugar in your coffee, look for darker roasts that will shine through. (On the other hand, we have regular customers who love a lighter roast with milk and/or sugar, too!)
5. Store your coffee correctly. Conventional wisdom has been to keep coffee in the fridge or freezer to maintain freshness. We recommend you keep the coffee at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, in a sealed container. By keeping coffee in the fridge a couple things can happen — the coffee will start to taste like your fridge, and the cooling of the oils will change the flavor of the coffee. You should also store coffee as whole beans and grind immediately before brewing. The outer shell of the coffee bean is the best flavor protector. Ground coffee will go stale in 24 to 48 hours, no matter how you store it. So, only buy what you need — if you can, buy in smaller packages so that your coffee always stays fresh.
6. Consider if you’re drinking your coffee hot or cold. Any coffee you like hot is worth trying as an iced coffee! However, depending on how you brew your iced coffee, you will get better results with certain blends/roasts. Cold brew is a favorite in our cafe. For a cold brew coffee, lighter roasts can be overly acidic and lack a lot of the rich flavors people look for in coffee. For cold brew, a lot of cafes (us too!) use their espresso blend. The espresso blend adds complexity to cold brewed coffee because it has a mixture of different beans usually at different roasts. We find that darker roast coffees from Mexico and Guatemala make a particularly fine cold brew.
7. Get precise. The hardest part of making coffee at home is getting the same recipe day-to-day. Instead of eyeballing coffee and water doses, use a tablespoon and measuring cup or even better, a kitchen scale. This will ensure that every time you make a cup of coffee it will be perfect, and if your cup isn’t perfect, then you have the data to help you make it better next time!
8. Use the right water temperature. If your water is too hot or too cold you won’t get the perfect cup of coffee. When you’re making coffee be sure your water is between 195 to 205 degrees. The best way to do this is to boil water on the stove, and wait a minute before using it to brew your cup.
9. Invest in the basics. Invest in a high quality “burr” grinder with adjustable grind settings. Depending on your brew method — i.e. French press, auto-drip machine or pour over — you can adjust your grind for the perfect cup of coffee and repeat it every time. More on how to brew here.
What’s your perfect cup of coffee? —Jenn