Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Comet Coffee x Bivouac presents: How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

   If you have red blood and sleep at nights, there's a good chance you're familiar with the superheated grounds-water solution commonly referred to as "coffee". And if you're Comet Coffee, there's a good chance you even dream about it.

    Tucked away in Nickel's Arcade, an alcove in an alcove between State and Maynard streets, Comet defines "off the beaten trail". But for the coffee devotees, the detour is worth it: since 2009, Comet has made a name for itself in places like the New York Times and Travel + Leisure Magazine by serving superb pour over coffee brewed from single-origin, seasonal beans. Comet's owner, Jim Saborio, believes the best cup comes exclusively from "good water and good beans" - no fancy set-ups required.

    Today on the Bivouac Blog, we learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee (hot or iced) at home by one of the best guys in the business. Saddle up the hot plate.

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee At Home 

Step 1: Good Water.

"getting good water at home... really is a process."

    "The really big factor is water, which, honestly, is also the biggest pain. For example, Ann Arbor tap water is super hard, which if brewed unfiltered results in a light-bodied cup that doesn't really have a lot of complexity to it. It'll be thin and sour, even with the best, freshest beans you can buy."

    So what can be done to solve that? "Spring water is the ideal choice, but that would require you buying copious amounts of spring water specifically for brewing coffee. A Brita filter will remove some of the hardness, but not nearly enough."

    "At Comet, we use a reverse-osmosis machine that takes Ann Arbor tap water, strips it completely of minerality, and blends some carbon-filtered water back into it so you get adequate levels of dissolved solids for really good coffee brewing. I wish there was a cheat sheet to get good water at home, but it really is a process."

Step 2: Good Beans. 

Barista Chris' choice for current favorite coffee: the Ritual Coffee Hacienda Carmona.

    "Everybody wants to think that there's a special coffee brewer or a special grinder that's going to completely change their game or really revolutionize the way they make their coffee at home, but in my opinion that's just not really true," explains Jim.

    "Good coffee means probably not buying it at the grocery store. It means getting it from a coffee shop or a roastery that prints when the beans were roasted on the bag, and most of the time, grocery store coffee bags just don't have that information. If the coffee is sealed in a mylar bag with a one-way valve, that'll usually keep coffee fresh for two to three weeks from the roast date.

"It’s worthwhile to note that flavors develop in coffee post-roast. Most light-roasted coffee isn’t at its best until it has rested three or four days. The best espresso, for example, comes from grounds that have rested 6-10 days. There’s such a thing as too fresh!"

    "Beans are still a crop, and as such are incredibly seasonal. There are big lags between when the crop is harvested, when it’s finished at the mill, when it’s exported and when our roasters receive it. Every producing country seems to have its own timeline for production, and knowing which beans are best when is crucial to brewing well. For example, we just got a lot of Costa Rican beans in since it's our summer is their peak. After all is said and done, we always want to make sure we're getting the freshest possible beans available.  Great coffee in is the best way to get great coffee out."

Step 3: Technique.

"Unless you're making coffee for a group, a pourover cone is the
way to go for the best coffee at home."

    "A lot of the criticisms of home coffee pot makers is that they don't get the water hot enough, and that's by design for safety purposes. Ideally, the water should be between 195-205 F, but that's splitting hairs unless you get the big stuff."

    "The biggest problem with many home coffee makers is that they don't let you pre-infuse the beans. Here, we briefly soak the grounds in water before we brew them to let the coffee 'de-gas' before we really brew it. Usually, your Keurig or Mr. Coffee will just turn on and pour the hot water right over the beans, and the moment that hot water hits the beans, the beans start leaking carbon dioxide. That C02 creates almost a 'protective bubble' around the coffee grinds, and the water can't really get in there to extract anywhere near the full flavor."

    The good news: "While most automated coffee makers can't accommodate the pre-infuse without making a huge mess, a pourover cone by its very nature will give you good access to the coffee bed for pre-infusion. Unless you're making coffee for a group, a pourover cone is the way to go for the best coffee at home. Out of all the ones on the market, I love the Beehouse dripper because it doesn't require an expensive proprietary filter. You can use the exact same ones you'd buy in bulk for your old machine."

Step 4: The Japanese Iced Coffee method.

    But what about iced coffee? "A lot of people do the classic 'cold brew' method, but I've never been particularly happy with it. Cold brew tends to bring a lot of the syrupy body out of the coffee, and anything that's distorting the flavor that much isn't really desirable. Instead, we lean towards the Japanese Ice method."

   "The Japanese Ice method is where you brew the coffee extra strong (think: same amount of coffee, less water) and make a really, really strong cup of coffee. Then, just flash chill it over ice. Because you put less water in originally, the melting ice actually restores the cup back to neutral rather than watering it down, and, you get many of the flavor notes found in a hot cup without the distortion of the cold-brew method."


Thank you so much to Jim and the entire Comet team for letting us come in and pick their brains about the art of coffee!

Want to try any of the amazing beans, devices, or methods we talked about today? Just want a really good cup of pour over? Pop on over to Comet Coffee in Nickel's Arcade and see everything they have to offer. Yes, the latte tastes as good as it looks.

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