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Coffee Information

Coffee - How to Buy, Store, and Grind it for the Perfect Cup

In the early days of the coffee craze, before the firstStarbucks arrived in my town, I owned a tea and coffeehouse for several years. At the time, espresso wassomething new for most people, and a lot of my customershad questions. I decided to teach a class on coffee at theshop, and learned in the process that there are severalmisunderstandings about buying, storing, and grindingcoffee that when corrected can lead to a much moreenjoyable cup of coffee.

True coffee connoisseurs know that buying coffee beans insmall amounts that allow you to brew your coffee within aday or two of being roasted will result in the closest to aperfect cup of java. If you keep the beans in an air-tightcontainer the flavor will remain strong for seven to tendays. Contrary to popular belief, storing beans in yourrefrigerator or freezer will actually diminish the flavor.There are two reasons for this. First, the beans will soakup the flavors of other stored items. Secondly, moistureaffects the oils in the roast. Better to store thatcontainer on the counter (in a dark, cool place, ifpossible). If you can't smell an aroma or it's unpleasant,the beans are past their prime.

Soapy water can leave a residue, so when cleaning yourcoffee storage, use a dry cloth or paper towel to soak upthe oil. Clean the container regularly because oil can getrancid over time. Also, frequently clean the equipment youuse for brewing. Again, don't use soap because of theresidue. Instead use vinegar and salt and rinsethoroughly.

Always grind only the amount you will use immediately.Once exposed, the oils in the beans disperse, affecting thecoffee flavor. If you grind your beans the night before youbrew your morning cup, you will be losing flavor. Switch togrinding in the morning, unless you don't want to wake yoursweetheart with the noise from the grinder. How fine orcoarse the grind should be depends on how long the hotwater will be in contact with the coffee grinds. Theshorter the length of time, the finer the grind so that thesurface area is maximized. Here are the consistencies youwill want for the different methods of brewing:

Drip Brew: Grind to a character similar to table sugar ifthe drip cycles range from four to six minutes. Grind to afiner consistency if less.

French Press: Use an extremely coarse grind.

Espresso: Very fine, powder-like. The extraction time ofespresso should be between 25 and 30 seconds. If a oneounce extraction takes longer, use a coarser grind; if ittakes less time, grind finer.

How much coffee do you grind? For brewed (and FrenchPress) coffee, three tablespoons for eight ounces of water.For espresso, an ounce (7 grams) for a single shot. Doublethat for a double shot.

Time and again I heard from my customers that they had noidea what a good cup of coffee really tasted like untilafter they had followed these easy guidelines. Try it. It'sthe small things that will make your coffee drinkingexperience sublime.

Professional writing coach Marilyn J. Schwader writes on arange of topics. Her articles about coffee are publishedin The News at QY Coffeethe single on-line resource for a world of news aboutcoffee. Be sure to refer to all Marilyn's articles at

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