How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee
By Mare Punzalan
When it comes to coffee drinkers, there are two different types of people: those who consume it as a means to an end, and those who treat it like art. If the rise of coffee culture has taught anyone anything, it’s that a great cup of joe is the result of painstaking attention to detail and quality ingredients. In the same way that a master mixologist can make a beautiful drink with all its essential components and small nuances, coffee brewers have elevated a centuries-old beverage into a revered craft. Here, some of Toronto’s most respected experts weigh in on what it takes to make that perfect cup of coffee.
All great coffee starts at the beginning with the beans. It’s the reason why so many great cafés go through a rigorous process to find the perfect variety and roast. According to Joe Agnoletti, owner of Lit Espresso Bar and Pig Iron Roasters in Toronto, “high quality coffee has amazing roast. With a good brew, you should be able to taste the coffee flavour and not the flavour of the roast.” He stands behind the medium roast as, “it brings out the qualities of that coffee.” As for dark roast, it’s considered poor quality. Think of it as burnt meat. “It’s possible to achieve super sweet and super flavourful coffee without going dark.”
If you’ve ever wondered why your home brew always seems to taste sub-par in comparison to what’s whipped up for you at your local coffee shop, part of the answer may be in the type of water used. Tap water is loaded with minerals and can affect the coffee’s flavour. That’s why places like Sam James Coffee Bar use a special filtration system to achieve optimum taste. But if you can’t get your hands on one, boiling is another alternative, a practice used by Crema Coffee Co. in Toronto.
Whether you’re a soy enthusiast or a dairy lover, according to Dan, a barista at Crema Coffee Co., “you want the temperature to be 140°F. If you’re not into boiling hot coffee, then 120°F works.” However, scoring that silky consistency on all fronts make take some practice. Just keep in mind that the higher the percentage in fat, the easier it’ll be to achieve a dense, velvety texture.
Get yourself a good grinder. “Coffee grinders can achieve levels of extraction. The more expensive the grinder, the higher the level of extraction you can achieve,” explains Agnoletti. “If it’s too fine, you will over-extract and get bitter flavours. If it’s too coarse, than you’ll under-extract and it’ll taste weak and watery.”
“It’s all about consistency”, says Paul, a barista at Sam James. Measure twice and brew once, a good adage to keep if you want to get your brew right. “Start with a 16/1 ratio. That’s 16 parts water to one part coffee, depending on the grinder you use. For consistency, use a scale and measure your coffee and water. If you hit the ratio, it’ll taste good, ” says Agnoletti.
What’s your preference?
FREUD Cafetiere French Press
A London-based company that started with a vision to unite people over coffee and beautiful design, FREUD has been mastering its techniques since 1986. The Cafetiere is a fine representation of their strength in design, using sturdy stainless steel and a handle for ease of pouring. $160
Form and function beautifully collide together with this slick take on the coffee machine. Precision-machined aluminum, borosilicate glass and a selection of different hardwoods are a few outstanding features, in addition to a stainless steel showerhead that uses a Fibonacci Spiral pattern for even water distribution. $595
The Trinity ONE
While each part is finely crafted into a minimalist structure, this brewer runs like a beast. It works like an Aeropress, and with a top conical shape included, it can be used as a pour-over. Added bonus: it has the capabilities of brewing a cold one, too. $225
Known for its unique blend of grass-fed butter and coffee, this mixture has developed a cult following of those who swear by its energy-burning properties. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste that bad, either.
Coffee Leaf Tea
The coffee and tea rivalry may be a thing of the past with these roasted coffee leaves. Favoured in the 1800’s amongst locals in Ethiopia and the South Sudan, coffee leaf tea is quickly starting to gain popularity due to its characteristic flavour and nutritional profile.
Yes, it’s stored in a keg. Yes, it pours out of a beer tap. No, it’s not beer. It’s a delicious cold coffee experience, ideal for hot summer days. Grab a glass from Canadian company, STATION Cold Brew, and tell them we said hi.