Top 5 Coffee Hacks

Categories: Caffeine

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Photo by Josh Liba
As a kid, I could never understand the appeal of coffee. But that might have been because my grandparents were always brewing up tar-thick pots of Folgers, the plastic tub of "coffee crystals" stored in the freezer where they absorbed other scents and smells. Or because my father, God bless him, was happy to drink gas station coffee from pots and machines that had likely never been cleaned. Coffee was something disgusting, bitter and smelling of dank spaces and grime.

And then I grew up and figured out how to make good coffee. And I was hooked.

These are my personal tips for making a great cup of coffee even better, but you may have your own. If so, I want to hear them in the comments section. We can all benefit from constructive tips on how to increase our caffeine intake, after all.

1. Start with good beans.

This is simple. Don't buy Folgers. You may think it's easier just to buy coffee by the tub, but it's just as simple to buy a pound of beans at the farmers' market, local coffee shops or even your grocery store and grind the beans yourself. The coffee grinder I use cost all of $15 and has lasted for more than 10 years. And don't grind the whole bag at once; just grind enough to get you through the week and store the ground beans at room temperature in an airtight container. Use the ground beans every morning and grind another batch on your lazy Sunday. Easy.

2. Clean your machine.

This is so simple it should go without saying, but so many people (and businesses, ahem) end up with bitter coffee that can taste like chicken skin or any number of other distasteful things. The reason? Oils from the coffee build up over time, and old, dirty oil tastes disgusting. Just clean your coffeemaker on a regular basis by filling it nearly up with water and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Run it like you normally would, letting the hot water and vinegar filter all the way through, cleaning the mechanisms inside as well as your filter basket and carafe all at once. Run it once again with a batch of fresh water (no vinegar this time), and you're done.

3. Add a pinch of salt.

What? Yes. Salt. Just a pinch. And use kosher salt; the large crystals work better here. You can either add in a pinch on top of your coffee in the filter or in the bottom of your French press. The salt adds a whole other dimension of flavor and opens up the coffee in the same way that adding salt to desserts and other sweet items works wonders. You'll never drink unsalted coffee again, I promise.



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55 comments
Shirley
Shirley

Love these tips!  Except for the salt, I do all of these things + run my glass drip pot in DW every other day to get coffee oil off the inside and smudges off all over.  But hey, the salt makes sense.  I like Kosher ir Sea Salt on watermelon, too, ever tried that?  btw...if you haven't try the economical  Eight O'Clock brand beans at Kroger.  If you like flavored, opt for the subtle French Vanilla.  OK, I'll take beans from the freezer.  My pantry is 1960s small, but it is dark!

vance99
vance99

Thanks for the step wise info. I am sure its an great tip for people who know about their coffee. Having the right beans is very necessary for the taste of coffee you are looking for.http://allcoffeesite.com/23/co...

Ted
Ted

Um, so these aren't "hacks." They're "tips" for better coffee. Nice use of a current buzz word.

MCA_2
MCA_2

This blog is going to be impressive resource. Thanks a lot for a collection of good tips. I look forward to reading more in the future. Keep up the excellent work! merchant cash advance

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

Pop over to Spec's Midtown and buy a Vacu-Vin coffee storage cannister. It works on the same principal as the Vacu-Vin wine stoppers and will pull a vacuum, thus keeping oxygen out of your coffee. Excellent product.

Carlos Jimenez
Carlos Jimenez

Ah Coffee!! Coffee! you have come a long way. At least 700 years as a food, a juice, a wine, a cold drink, and another 700 years as we know it. And growing! Coffee discovered man or better yet, woman some 1400 years ago. And here we are trying to figure out how to make a better cup. I hate to limit myself to one method or one bean when there is so much out there and a new thing comes out faster than you can keep up: Brewers... Filters, Press, LaPavoni Manual Espresso, One touch Espresso, Turkish Ibrik, Vaccum, Moka Brewer, Toddy brewer (cold extraction), single cup and many more. They are all fantastic inventions. Grinders: preferably burr, hand or electric, ceramic, metal or stone. Grind only what you are going to brew and enjoy those overwhelming delicious aromas while grinding. Beans: Costco, is a good buy, Starbucks is not good value for your money. Worth trying are the fresh roasted Allegro beans from Whole Foods and a couple from Hubble and Hudson's. So... just as all the excellent choices in coffee preparation do not, by all means, stick to one bean selection. It is high time we approach coffee as we approach fine wines. There are blends, varieties, single origin, regions, altitudes, dry or wet process, shade grown, organic, From Blue Mountain to Kopi Luwak (cat´s poop), etc, etc. Coffee has several hundred more sensory characteristics than wine and unlike wine we play a part in the finished product, adding our touch before drinking. We even get away with adding some flavor (sugar, salt, creamer, Torani,,,). With all the choices available to me I barely have time to worry about how to store it. We should buy coffee as we buy bread. My grandmother bought bread three times every day and each time from a different baker. If you stick to one brand, one roast, one grind, one brew method, one cup size, one coffee shop, one coffee mate (company wise), one... one... one, you are missing a world of pleasures and you are not doing your part to aid in the noble quest of the great coffee plant to rule the world.

swag
swag

If you have to "hack" anything you stick in your mouth, you're doing it all wrong.

CoffeeHound
CoffeeHound

The Best French Press on the Planet is the Double Shot From a small company called Planetary design - planetarydesign.com - The Mug and Press in 1 - perfect to take to work or clip to your pack and take hiking- Stainless Steel construction so it doesn't break.... oh - and they also just came out with a great canister to store coffee beans in -

Kaiser442
Kaiser442

If your grandparents got their Folgers in plastic tubs you are very young. It comes in plastic now - but it used to come in cans.

We'd make ice cream by putting a small coffee can inside a big one. The cream, sugar etc goes in the small can (well sealed with the plastic lid and duct tape), the space between the cans was filled with ice and salt. Seal the big can and roll that sucker back and forth on the floor for a half hour and voilà!

Lol
Lol

This is nothing.

I grow my own coffee from seeds, harvest the beans, roast them using only the heat of the sun, grind them between two pieces of authentic Ethiopian stone that I excavated from an ancient site myself, then add hot water that has been blessed by priests and shamans from at least twelve different religions, before drinking the finished product out of a golden chalice.

Anything else just tastes nasty.

zorbo
zorbo

I have to weigh in on his recommendation to use a French press. There's an oil, or a component of the oil in coffee beans that's been shown to significantly raise the bad type of cholesterol in many drinkers. However, using a paper filter, which one does not do when using a French press, prevents almost all of this oil from reaching the finished product, thus those using paper filters have significantly less cholesterol elevation than those coffee drinkers that use no paper filters. That's my understanding, and I'm not motivated to re-research it.

Brandon W Hale
Brandon W Hale

I got me a single cup filter cone. Add piping hot water from a tea kettle to freshly ground beans, and enjoy !

I was never a huge fan of the French press......

John E. Quantum
John E. Quantum

Any other percolator fans out there? I swear by my GE 9 cup percolator w/ the tube in the handle that shows how much is left in the pot.

peter
peter

All good -- beans, clean, etc., but don't forget the water. The more neutral, the better. At least use dechlorinated, prefer RO or even distilled.

Pneathery
Pneathery

You shouldn't keep your coffee in the fridge, or the freezer, the oils on the beans can go bad if you take them out, then put them back. There will be condensation on the beans causing some nasty tastes in your beans. About grinding beans, grind them right before you use the beans, not on a Sunday and then use them throughout the week. That is the same thing as buying the beans already ground. Once you grind the beans they start to decompose, and they are putting off carbon dioxide. Always brew the coffee right after grinding. Also the grinder makes a huge difference. I had heard that all of my life, and just thought people were being snobs. One day my grinder died, it was a spinning blade grinder, I went out and bought a new grinder, I ended up buying a burr grinder, it was my first. I was exited and as soon as I got home I brewed a pot of coffee. The change in taste was huge! That morning I had had a pot of coffee, using my old blade grinder, and in the afternoon I had one using the burr, everything else was the same. Same water, same beans, same coffee pot. I could taste the difference in the coffee.A word about salt. I would never use salt in my coffee, but I also wouldn't buy "flavored coffee" I think it ruins a good bean. My wife was the first person that I had ever met that used salt in her coffee. She explained to me that when she was in high school she worked in Waffle House and they did that to their coffee, it removed the bitter taste from the bad coffee. So I guess if you think your coffee is bitter, then put salt in it. But then again this is just personal taste, but I would never add salt to my coffee. Personally I don't use a press, I use a drip coffee pot, I drink 3 pots from it a day, and I found that the French press wasn't right for me, try it though, they are wonderful. If you haven't tried the beans from Costco, try them they are wonderful, better then starbucks, and cheaper then folgers. That is the only reason I have a membership to Costco.

Justin Stewart-Maynard
Justin Stewart-Maynard

Having worked in multiple coffee houses, the info here is spot on. I only use a French Press at home, I grind my beans as I use them, and keep my coffee at room temperature in an airtight container. I would, however, like to add to this wonderful list by providing the 4 basic necessities for a perfect cup of coffee. Although they don't always "practice what they preach" (from personal experience, no less), Starbucks gives a great list of fundamentals on things that you would assume would be a given but aren't always though of.

http://www.starbucksstore.com/...

Simply put, Use good coffee

Use the proper grind (This really makes a BIG difference. I've helped so many customers who simply don't know what setting to grind their beans on)

Use good water (Similarly, water is huge. Coffee is mostly water. It's much better to invest $10 or so in a container with water filtration than use crummy tap water. There's a reason why the 2nd most expensive investment for any coffee joint will be their water filtration system, next to the espresso machine itself)

Use the proper amount for what you're brewing. The "industry average" is around 2 tbsp per 6 fl oz of water. If you're trying out a coffee you're not used to drinking, try it with a standard proportion THEN modify it to your liking. It'll save you time and trouble in the long run.

Just my two cents!

Jeffmcvay
Jeffmcvay

If you like French pressed coffee, you should really try a vacuum brewer. These brewers produce a cup that tastes like fresh ground coffee smells. The model I use is the Yama 40oz stovetop coffee siphon.

Jon K
Jon K

Ok, I have to say there is some bad advice here. First, ground coffee goes stale in about 15 minutes. If you are going to grind your own which you should (but in a burr grinder not a whirly blade) grind every day, period.

Clean your machine and french press = good ideas.

Salt.... really? No.

The no freezer thing is completely false. Whole beans may be stored in a freezer in an air tight container without any change in taste. Do not open and refreeze the container or thaw and refreeze. Two weeks after coffee is roasted it has gone stale so don't freeze old beans. Do not refrigerate the beans as it truly does no good. Home-barista.com blind cupped frozen beans and found no change in flavor.

Kyle
Kyle

But what's the best way to make coffee for 1 person if I don't need a whole pot?

Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch

Couple of comments...

1. I know it's also mentioned, but I'd put grinding the beans yourself above buying good beans. Buying a 2 1/2 lb. bag of beans at Costco and using it over a period of a month might not be optimal, but it's still TONS better than buying pre-ground beans in my experience. Obviously, the sooner you use your beans the better.2. You can also run CLR (heavily diluted) through your machine to get rid of calcium deposits and then water as well to rinse it out.3. Interesting... will have to give that a try.4. On top of a French press, if you're the sort that likes drinking coffee throughout the day, buy a decent vacuum thermos to keep it warm for a decent length of time.5. No comment here.

Another suggestion - If it's not cost prohibitive (buy it in bulk or use a Brita), use filtered/bottled water.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I hated coffee until I had my first cup of French Press.

Tim
Tim

You say "Chicken Skin" like it's a bad thing.

vext
vext

You are a magnificent bastard. Please brew me a cup, as you certainly know 'zactly whatchadoin'.

Job plz!
Job plz!

Coffee gives off CO2 fresh out of roast, so as long as the container is sealed they won't be sitting in oxygen too much. If you buy stale coffee as most people do, it doesn't matter. Pour it out on the sidewalk for storage :)

Carlos
Carlos

The vac u vin for coffee sounds like a good idea but nothing beats getting your own grinder (burr preferably) and grind your beans for every brew. Whole beans keep well for one to two weeks in the bag in a cool dry place.

Delphimax
Delphimax

pls learn to not to deliver your thoughts in a blocky chunk of text. no one will start reading it.

better: break your point into paragraphs. your genius will encounter more eyeballs that way. (pls pass it on...)

Job plz!
Job plz!

Sounds like you're into it a bit, but what puzzles me is that you're still buying terrible coffee (that may also be stale). Costco and Whole Foods do not sell good coffee.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Heh, you're right. The tubs are just the most recent memories. And we used to make ice cream exactly like that when I was in middle school. Wow. Hadn't thought about that in years.

Job plz!
Job plz!

Coffee seeds = coffee beans

Grocerylist
Grocerylist

I've read the same thing about french press raising your cholesterol but the study showed this was only for people that drank 6+ cups a day. So if you drink less than that you're fine.

Job plz!
Job plz!

If you're worried about that you should look at the layer of lipids on espresso.

zorbo
zorbo

oops, make that *her* recommendation. Will try the salt thing though...

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Job plz!

No. Never used distilled. Have you ever tasted it? Distilled can also break espresso machines.

nfabian
nfabian

i agree about not refrigerating/freezing the beans, but for a different reason: beans are roasted, and they lose their roasted-ness in a refrigerator. cooks don't refrigerate toasted nuts for the same reason...

Job plz!
Job plz!

So you know how to keep terrible Costco coffee as terrible as when you bought it? You were on target until the end there.

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Job plz!

Starbucks site said 1.6 grams per oz. That is not industry standard.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

I'm not a huge fan of the French Press because of all the grit and murkiness. Plus it is a devil to clean in an office setting like mine that doesn't have a full kitchen with sinks. For me the way to go is with a Melitta drip single cup and #2 filter paper. Money no object, splurge for a Hario or Clever version of the same design. The Clever allows you to steep your coffee before filling your cup. Both available on Amazon. Melitta you can find at Target, Kroger, etc. Hario is also available at Greenway Coffee and Catalina Coffee in town.

Job plz!
Job plz!

has no one heard of Cafiza here? You don't have to use tub cleaner.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I'm telling you, there is this one coffee shop in town - which shall go unnamed here - that serves coffee that tastes like someone filtered it through three-day-old rotisserie chicken skin. Ugh.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

Obviously, one stores the whole beans in the Vacu-Vin and grinds them as needed.

Job plz!
Job plz!

It's actually full of bad information from someone who knows little about coffee making, unfortunately.

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Job plz!

Aeropress is very fun. Get one.

bibulb
bibulb

I was gonna mention - bOINGbOING's mentioned the Aeropress and Frauenfelder seems to personally dig it.

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