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Brewing Tips

how to make coffee

Professor Peaberry Brews Coffee and shares his knowledge.
How to brew the perfect cup of coffee, espresso, latte and other concoctions...


French Press

French Press maker.If the French are known for refinement and elegance, than the French Press is positively emblematic! In fact, it’s a personal favorite. Few methods of brewing coffee allow such precise control of the process. So let’s press on, shall we?

You’ll need your French Press, hot water and have course, coarse ground coffee.

1. Heat the water by whatever means necessary, a lighting bolt comes to mind… A whistling kettle actually is my personal favorite. Use only the purest water, free of chlorine and hard minerals, so that nothing gets in the way of the coffee flavor. Distilled water is a no-no: it can leave your coffee flat.

2. We’ll assume you’ve ground your coffee to perfection - a somewhat coarse grind is best for the press. It should look like coarse sand with fine chunks… So now it’s time to measure or weigh the coffee for the most accuracy and place in the press. Remove the plunger from the carafe and set it aside. Carafes vary in size, but the measure is the same: about 2 round tablespoons per 8 oz of water. More precise: 7 grams per cup.
Or for a 20 oz French Press use 2 oz or 50 grams of coffee. Which is approximately 1 oz per 10 oz of water.

3. When your water boils - or whistles - let it rest a moment to cool. The best brewing temperatures are between 201-205 degrees. Pour the water SLOWLY into the carafe and let it sit over the ground coffee. Not too full! You still need room for the plunger.

4. Notice the foaming action of the coffee and water, known as “blooming” or, for the more technically minded, “off-gassing.” Stir with a spoon to rid the foam.

5. Place the plunger/lid on top of the carafe to help keep in the heat and wait 4 minutes. Oh, the agony of waiting!

6. At four minutes… take the plunge! SLOWLY press the plunger to the bottom of the carafe and leave it there. Don’t be a fool and retract the plunger.

7. Pour yourself and your friends - if they’re near - a cup of delicious coffee. Put a lovely record on your stereophonic device, exhale and ENJOY! Wait, one more thing--

8. I recommend decanting the coffee into a thermos or heat saving pitcher of some kind as even the grounds at the bottom of your French Press will continue to brew the rest of the coffee and-gasp! - over-brew it.

Automatic Coffee Makers

Drip coffee maker.This is by far the most popular means to make coffee in America. The choices for machines in this category are enormous! And while these machines can do everything from keeping time, turning on automatically to fetching your e-mail – oh, I wish! - only a very few offer the kind of precision needed for a perfect, tasteful cup of coffee. Since the process of making coffee varies from machine to machine, here are a few dreadfully important guidelines to follow.

La Machine

Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker.Machines that heat the water to between 195 and 205 degrees - and can do it in less than 6 minutes - are ideal. If you have something lesser, it’s not a total disaster, but it will be something to ask Santa about come the holidays.

Clean Water

Clean filtered water for coffee brewing is a must.This can’t be stressed enough-- use clean, filtered water, but not necessarily pure water, such as distilled or ionized water. Coffee flavor is best if there are some minerals to bind with. If the water is too hard, it affects not only flavor but also encrusts the machine’s heating elements. The words coffee and crust are not pleasant bedfellows.

Measure Up

I detest measuring the water to the four-cup mark on a strange pot and only getting one 1 ½ cups of brewed coffee! A cruel joke, indeed. Every machine is different, so you may have to test just what THEY mean when THEY say “a cup” or “a scoop.”

Filter Pros and Cons

Paper filters are the least expensive kind, but can also filter out the best flavors found in thePaper coffee by trapping the oil. Cheap papers can make your coffee taste like, err, paper. Wetting the paper first can cure the latter by rinsing away any residuals from the manufacturing process.Gold mesh reusable coffee filter. Cloth filters need a lot of care, they must be thoroughly washed before each brew, but many consider them a very green alternative. Stainless steel or gold-plated filters provide a more costly but imminently reusable alternative and only need to be washed and scrubbed with water. The quality of the cup is good, but some of the finer grounds can get through - so use a medium-coarse grind.

Carafe It

Small coffee thermos.After brewing, it’s best to empty the pot into a thermos or insulated carafe. Coffee machines are notorious for overheating the finished coffee even while set to “warm” and ruining a perfectly good pot. Sinful.

Clean Up

Periodic cleaning of your machine to free it of rancid coffee oils and mineral build-up in the heating elements is essential for making the best possible cup every time. Whistle while you scrub-a-dub.

Pour-Over/Filter/Manual Brewing

Chemex Coffee Carafe.This is an easy and effective way to brew outstanding coffee with precision and employs the most basic rules of coffee temperature and time. Some say it’s he best! There’s very little to it, really, so let’s get to it.

1. As always, use coffee ground only moments before preparation. For this method, coarse to medium fine is best.

2. Place your brewing cone, either plastic or ceramic, over your cup or a storage vessel.

3. Place your preferred filter type, either paper, cloth or metal/synthetic mesh.

4. Measure coffee and place it in the filter bed. As a rule of thumb, about 2 tablespoons for a cup or 7 grams per six ounces of water. Level the coffee in the filter.

5. Heat water to boil and then let cool for a moment, so it settles to between 195-205 degrees. You can start the water boiling first and cover the other steps so the water is ready when you are to pour.

6. Pour a small amount of hot water over the grounds first. Let it soak and allow any foam to dissipate. Then—

7. Pour all of the water on the grounds being sure to get them all thoroughly soaked. Your brew will drip through to the bottom then down into your vessel.

Remove the brewing cone, stir with a spoon and enjoy a wonderful cup.

The Moka Pot

This is a fun way to make an inexpensive, deliciously mild espresso or strong coffee. In fact, it’s rather quaint and a sure way to impress company or a love interest with the appearance of a rarified skill.

Moka Pot coffee maker.

A “moka” pot has two chambers. Water goes into the bottom chamber with the finely ground coffee suspended in metal basket above. Screw the bottom chamber together with the top chamber and place the entire pot over medium heat.

As the water boils, steam pressure forces the water through the coffee above it, into a narrow tube, and eventually collects in the upper chamber. Remove the entire assembly from the heat and allow the coffee to settle. Serve immediately. Great straight and strong or as a café con leche with hot milk. Impressed?


The art and science of a good shot of espresso could fill volumes, so we’ll only delve into a few basic principles and in no particular order. Life is too short and I would rather be drinking espresso than lecturing on it. On with the lecture...

Espresso is not a coffee roast per se, but there are certainly roasts that make a better, bolder shot. The best espresso comes from a blend of Arabica beans that balance dark roasted flavors with sweeter, milder roasts.

La Marzocco G3 Espresso Machine.More than any other brewing method, espresso demands a very fine, consistent grind some say is close to a powder. Those small hand grinders will not do when making the perfect espresso, you’ll need an adjustable Burr grinder.

Keep your machinery clean. That grinder, the steaming nozzle, et al.

The correct “dose” of espresso grinds for a single shot is 6-8 grams per cup. Double for a double shot, naturally.

Tamp or pack the grinds into a puck with moderate, consistent pressure. Turn the tamper to “polish” the puck.

Extraction time is between 20 and 25 seconds for either single or double shots. Be consistent.

Finished espresso is thick and creamy, with a foamy, orange-brown crema on top.