20 September 2017

5 Ways to Ruin Your Coffee

A post about how to make better coffee deserves a follow-up with some ways to avoid common pitfalls in coffee preparation. For those of you who enjoy reverse psychology, here are five of the best ways to ruin your coffee:

1. Store your coffee beans in the freezer after opening. Know how your freezer gets super dry to keep ice from building up in there? Think about what that drying effect does to your coffee. To avoid that, you should store it in a cool dry place (your counter top or cupboard is fine) in an airtight container, or in the original packaging sealed up very tightly. The less the beans are exposed to open air, the better chance they’ll have of staying fresh.

2. Assume that coffee lasts forever, like rice or sugar or dried beans. It doesn't. The aromatic oils are quite volatile, and as a result coffee tends to go stale quickly. In terms of perishability, think of it more like milk than like a dry good. This is another excellent reason not to keep coffee sitting pre-ground in a canister along with flour and tea bags (I'm looking at you, mother).

3. Leave the coffee sitting on the burner for a long time. Coffee has a mild, delicate edge of bitter-sweetness that's easily destroyed by prolonged or excessive heat. Fifteen to twenty minutes on the burner is all it takes to give you that nasty stewed flavor. This is why it's a good idea to use a coffee maker with a carafe rather than a glass decanter -- the coffee will stay warm for several hours without getting burnt.

Similarly, skip reheating cold coffee, especially in the microwave. Better to throw ice in and drink it chilled, if you must.

4. Use artificial sweetener or that fake hazelnut/vanilla/whatever-flavored non-dairy nonsense. That stuff contains contains about as much real food value as laundry detergent. A surefire way to ruin even the most exquisite cup of coffee. If you like it light and/or sweet, use REAL cream or milk and REAL sugar, and not too much of it. If you're brewing good quality coffee properly, there's no need to obscure its flavor.

5. Neglect to periodically descale your coffee maker. It makes a big difference, especially if you have hard water. The descaler will clear the water lines of calcium deposits, giving you better tasting coffee and a faster brewing time as well. (You can decide how often you want to do this. Some manufacturers recommend descaling once per 100 cups brewed, but let's face it, if some of us went by that, we'd be doing it every other week!)

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