How to Make The Perfect Cup of Coffee

This is easy to do and won’t cost much. You just need an Aeropress, good beans, and maybe a hand grinder. Let me walk you through it.

First, buy beans from your coffee shop. I’m partial to locally roasted beans. Experts tell me fresher beans make better coffee, but I mostly want my money to stay in the community. I avoid Starbucks beans not because they aren’t good — I like them — but because I don’t want my Syracuse money shipped to Seattle. No offense, Seattle. If you do not have a grinder yet (more on that below), ask the folks at the shop to grind the beans for espresso.

Coffee machines, with the exception of espresso machines (expensive and difficult to master), make terrible coffee. Don’t buy a drip coffee machine and if you have one, set it aside. Drip machines fail to heat the water properly and don’t get the flavor out of the coffee. Under no circumstances purchase a Keurig. They make terrible coffee and are enormously wasteful. There is an overwhelming array of machines and devices to choose from. Some have their merits, others are complete wastes of money. One machine stands above them all.

Since you’re buying coffee at a shop I’ll assume you drink only one or two good cups of coffee a day. For the price of ten of those coffees, get a $20 Aeropress right now. It is a simple device that looks like a large, plastic hypodermic. It is inexpensive, wastes almost nothing, lasts for decades, is easy to clean, uses no electricity, requires no training, and makes perfect coffee every time.

The Aeropress consists of four parts and three accessories. The filter cap has holes in it to allow coffee to pass through. A circular filter sits inside this to strain out the grounds. The chamber screws to this and holds the ground coffee and hot water. A plunger fits in the chamber and when pushed forces the water through the grounds and coffee into the mug. The accessories are a funnel, stirrer, and scoop.

To brew perfect coffee, heat water in a kettle. Any kettle will do. Place a filter in the filter cap and screw it to the chamber. Measure two scoops of finely ground coffee into the chamber. If you like weaker coffee (why would you?), measure a scoop and a half. Catch the kettle before it boils and pour hot water into a mug to warm it. Part of making good coffee is getting everything hot at the start. Pour that water out and place the chamber on your warmed mug. Fill the chamber halfway with hot water. Using the stirrer, gently mix the grounds into a slurry. Fill the chamber nearly to the top with hot water. Insert the plunger and press gently. Plunging takes twenty to thirty seconds. Don’t rush. Top off your mug with hot water or leave the coffee super strong.

To clean, immediately upend the Aeropress, unscrew the filter cap, gently peel the filter off for reuse (they last a month or more), and pop the puck of grounds into the garbage. Pull the plunger and rinse everything. I clean the filter, put it back in the filter cap, screw that to the chamber and give it a shake. Dishes done, it’s time to enjoy a perfect cup of coffee.

My Aeropress is two and a half years old and has made more than a thousand cups of coffee. It is as good as new. The coffee I make with it is the equal of that made by the baristas at Recess Coffee, my local shop, and they make a damn fine cup of coffee.

For extra credit, consider grinding your own beans. The fresher the beans and the closer to brewing that they have been ground, the better the coffee. Blade grinders are cheap but massacre the beans. Avoid them. A burr grinder is the way to go, but electric burr grinders cost too much, sometimes hundreds of dollars. Since you’re making only one or two good cups a day, get the Hario Skerton hand grinder for $30. Mine is three years old and takes two minutes to hand-crank two scoops of beans. I grind while the water heats. Grinding beans at home isn’t necessary, but the difference becomes noticeable.

Good coffee requires good beans. I buy locally roasted beans from Recess Coffee for $18/lb which makes about twenty cups. I go through maybe a pound and a half of beans a month.

Good coffee requires a good device for brewing. My Aeropress cost $20 two and a half years ago. It costs the same now and it will last for decades. The Aeropress comes with 300 filters which, when washed and reused, is enough for twenty five years.

Good coffee is even better with a burr grinder. My Hario Skerton is three years old, cost $30, and will likely still grind perfect coffee long after I’m dead.

Good coffee made at home is inexpensive. In two and half years I have consumed about $800 in beans and spend $70 on equipment.

Good coffee bought at the coffee shop is very expensive. Recess charges a reasonable $2 per cup but one cup a day over 900 days (the time I have owned the Aeropress) would cost $1,800.

In just a year and a half I’ve saved almost $1,000. Not bad.

You want to save money and make perfect coffee at home? Buy an Aeropress, good locally roasted beans, and a hand grinder. It will set you up for life.

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