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How to make a good cup of coffee

June 09, 1998|By Kate Coleman

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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Good cup of coffee

Amy Orsini has an automatic drip coffeemaker at home, but she usually waits to get to work at Bentley's Bagel's to have her morning cup of coffee. The house blend is called "fog lifter."

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Whether you drink your coffee to lift your morning fog or relish the aroma and flavor, here are a few tips from experts to help make that first cup of Joe - or the second or third - a little bit better.

Good water and quality coffee beans are necessary, according to Trish Knight. She always uses charcoal-filtered water, at home and at The Maples Gourmet Center, the Hagerstown store she and her husband, Eddie, own and operate.

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The general rule on whether to filter or not to filter water depends on your water and your taste buds, according to Julie Barrett, a beverage category manager at Dunkin' Donuts' corporate headquarters in Randolph, Mass. If you drink the water fresh out of the tap, it's OK for coffee, she says.

Use cold water. Hot water is flat, Barrett says.

Both Barrett and Knight advise against buying large amounts of coffee. Fresher is better, and if you can shop for bread and milk at least once a week, you can buy coffee beans more frequently, too.

Because roasted beans have a shorter shelf life than green coffee beans, the Knights buy green coffee beans and roast them at their store. Unless they are in a vacuum-sealed bag, roasted beans stay fresh for about 20 days, and freshly ground beans only stay fresh for about a week, according to Dunkin' Donuts.

Barrett recommends finding a coffee blend you like and sticking with it.

Arabica are the more "gourmet" beans cultivated at higher altitudes with lower yield; Robusta beans are more easily grown beans found at lower altitudes and are used in making commercial coffees, Knight says.

The coffee beans from these plant types have qualities that depend on the soil, altitude, climate and atmosphere where they are grown. Columbian beans are known to have more acidity, Brazilian beans are chosen for sweetness and Guatemalan beans for their "body," Barrett says.

Store coffee in an opaque, airtight container at room temperature in a cool, dry place, Barrett says.

Condensation can form and deteriorate the flavor if you take beans in and out of the freezer, she says. And don't store coffee in the refrigerator; it will absorb moisture and aromas - like baking soda, Knight says.

The best coffee is made with the freshest beans, freshly ground. Our experts recommend a "burr" coffee grinder, which grinds by crushing beans more consistently than the more common propeller grinders that chop them.

Once you find your favorite coffee, determine the proportions for that perfect cup. Dunkin' Donuts' formula is 3.25 ounces of coffee per 60 ounces of water. That's about a level tablespoon for three or four ounces of water, Barrret figures.

Did you ever forget to turn off your coffeemaker and come home from work to a nasty smell and crunchy coffee residue at the bottom of the pot? This is a clue to why you shouldn't leave coffee on a burner for more than 18 minutes. Heating the coffee longer cooks it, evaporating the water and changing the flavor. Put it in a thermos or insulated carafe to keep it warm longer, Barrett recommends.

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