How to get started brewing a better cup of coffee, and three great tools to help you make a perfect cup.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OXO.
I’m going to be fully honest about something here. It took me a long time to start to appreciate coffee the same way I appreciate wine. Up until a few years ago I treated it like just something I needed to drink in the morning, with no real focus on where it came from or how it’s brewed. How could that be, as someone who has made a career teaching about the quality of wine and the people who make it?!
$20 for a pound of specialty grinds? No thank you. $250 for a fancy espresso machine? What the?!
And then I had kids and learned that life is now moving at warp speed, and it was up to me to find moments of calm and clarity and learn to slow down.
I realized those small moments of peace and rare moments of quiet — and now that they’re in school, those much-appreciated moments of solitude — are something I deeply appreciate and don’t take for granted. I notice and pay attention to things more, especially when it comes to the quality of what I put into my body (whether it be a meal, a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee). And then a trip to Kona changed everything.
It was just a few years ago that I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Big Island of Hawaii to learn about Kona Coffee. And more important than getting to travel the island and taste samples of some of the best coffee I had ever tasted up to that point — a trip that awakened my taste buds the same way as my first trip to a vineyard — I learned about the proper way to grind, brew, and appreciate coffee.
Apparently, I’d been doing it wrong all these years! No wonder I didn’t appreciate it.
I’d learned the importance of different size grinds (coarse vs. fine), and brewing methods (espresso roast, vs. standard drip coffee, vs. pour-over, vs. French press, etc.).
I fell in love with pour-over! I’ve since learned that I’m not alone, and that many of my coffee loving colleagues and friends have known about the magic of pour-over for years!
If you ask the hubby, however, the perfect cup of coffee doesn’t need sugar or cream. I agree partially on that. I’m still a cream fan. Sue me.
THE BARN PROJECT
I’ve also shared with you that we’re working on renovating the barn on our 5-acre hazelnut farm. One of the plans is to use the barn as a creative space to both hold events and dinners, and also as a studio for photography and classes. Since we finally gutted and cleaned it out I’ve been appreciating it as a place to get away in the mornings, after dropping the kids off, and I make myself my morning coffee, while enjoying the quiet of living in the country.
We don’t have running water up in the barn, but that’s okay. I simply fill a kettle with water, and plug it in to warm up inside, and then use that kettle in my small portable pour-over coffee set. It’s the perfect set up!
Now I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in coffee (yet!). No, I’m just getting started on that journey. And the products I’m using are perfect for someone curious about quality coffee, and they could be for you too!
The new line of products by OXO called OXO Brew are great for someone like me or someone just starting to get into coffee, but it’s also great for coffee pros, because of the high quality.
Let’s start with the Fundamentals of Good Coffee
The Importance of the Grind (or Extraction)!
Up until a few years ago we had a pretty basic coffee grinder that had three settings (fine, medium, and coarse). But I was excited to learn about the OXO Brew Conical Burr Grinder because it has 15 different settings, from fine for espresso to coarse for something like a French Press, and everything in between.
Like I mentioned earlier, one of the things I learned in Kona was the importance of quality beans and how you grind them. The size and consistency of the grinds are important depending on the brewing method you are going to use. The faster your brewing method (espresso machine for example) the smaller and finer you should grind. The slower your brewing method (like French or Cold Press) the larger/coarser you should grind.
Once you grind or cut a coffee bean, you expose the layers of the bean. The outside layer is sweet, and the inside layer is bitter. You want your cup of coffee to have a balance between the two. That’s why consistency is important in your coffee grinding.
If you like a sweeter flavor, then grind it a little more coarsely.
It’s all about playing around with what you like, and adjusting the different settings based on your preferences.
I’ve learned that I’m a fan of the medium grind, especially for a pour-over method.
Next, the Importance of Water Temperature in Brewing Coffee
The temperature of your water is important because it helps to extract the right amount of flavor of the coffee from the beans.
- If your water is too cold you won’t extract the right amount of flavor.
- If your water is too hot it will extract more bitterness. And I don’t like a bitter cup of coffee!
- Boiling water should never be used, as it will burn your coffee! (Believe me, I’ve made that mistake!). Water begins to boil over 212°F so keep that in mind.
- You need the perfect balance. Therefore, temperature is important!
According to the National Coffee Association, 195°F to 205°F is ideal for optimal extraction.
Having an adjustable temperature kettle takes the guess work out of it!
With the Adjustable Temperature Kettle you can simply select any temperature between 170 and 212°F, and then the water heats up in just 4 minutes (for a full tank), and stays that exact temperature for up to 30 additional minutes. It’s pretty rad! It’s also great for your afternoon tea (if you’re into that sort of thing!).
Once you remove the kettle from the base it becomes cordless. So, I can either warm up my kettle inside my house and walk it to my barn and it will stay warm for a half hour, or just bring the base with me in case I need to keep it warmer longer and warm it up there.
Now it’s time to brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee!
In the past I’ve used a standard 12-cup coffee maker that heats up on its own (no temperature control), a pod-based machine, and a French press. I haven’t really loved any of them. They were all okay. The 12-cup was always just fine, and the French Press has always been way too strong for me, and I hate the waste involved in the pods, so I’ve stopped using them. Pour-over is where I’ve found my happy spot.
As someone still getting into the pour-over method, this portable Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank is awesome, simple to use, and super affordable (at only $15). Just pour your pre-measured grinds (I like a medium grind for this) in a compostable filter and place in the cup. Then place the water tank over and fill with the desired amount of hot water (10-12 oz for a single cup), then place the lid and wait about 2 ½ to 3 minutes. That’s it!
This is perfect for a single serving, and also if you’re on the go. The cup is lightweight and easily transportable for travel. It’s also a great one to try if you’re wanting to get into this style of coffee and not ready to invest a lot of money.
But when it comes to the grinder and water, those are going to be key for good quality coffee no matter what you use to make it. When we have lots of guests and need to use our 12-cup maker, I love the improvement that the simple change in grinder has made.
I’ve made the switch, people! And it’s made a huge difference in how I enjoy my mornings. Those small moments of peace are so crucial to my day and well-being. Twin 7-year olds are no joke! Running a catering company and a full-time blog is no joke! My morning ritual is now just as important as enjoying a nice, and well—deserved, glass of wine with my hubby at the end of the day after the kids have gone to sleep! Taking a moment to slow down from this insanely busy world and enjoying something as simple as a cup of coffee can make a huge difference in our busy and chaotic lives.
Though I’m still a fan of adding a touch of cream to my coffee.
Hey, it’s how I like it!
What about you? What’s your favorite way to brew coffee?
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OXO.