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Choosing the Perfect Cup of Coffee

There used to be three choices for coffee lovers at their local supermarket: Folgers, Maxwell House, or the store brand. But in today’s world of Starbucks and the countless imitators it has spawned, how do you tell the difference between truly gourmet coffee and overpriced coffee barely above the store brand standard? How do you pick between all the different exotic flavors? How do you keep your coffee fresh once you’ve bought it? Below are some tips to help you brew that perfect cup.

1. First, if you’re going to pick what you like, you have to know what you like. It sounds obvious, but many coffee drinkers don’t know what “dark,” “full-bodied,” “nutty,” etc. actually taste like. One useful coffee glossary online can be found at LucidCafe.com.

2. Speaking of what you like, did you know that the coffees that have “European names” (ie, “French Roast”) has nothing to do with the country of origin but the coffee style? French Roast coffee is generally bittersweet; Italian Roast is even darker and more bitter. Not surprisingly, American Roast is considerably less dark and less bitter. Many people enjoy darker roasts, but the darker the roast, the less you will enjoy the subtle flavors.

3. By contrast, coffees with “non-European” names are from that country. So Sumatra coffee, for example, is from the island of Sumatra, and so forth. The coffees from different areas all have slightly different flavors based on the different soil types (level of acidity and other factors).

4. Which is better – whole, or ground? A better question to ask is: How fresh is this coffee? Whether it is ground or not makes less difference than how fresh the coffee is. Choose a coffee (whole or ground) packaged in an airtight container. Porous containers, such as paper bags, will allow coffee to go stale quickly. Once you open that container, your coffee starts to lose its freshness. This means if you’re buying coffee in bulk but you’re only drinking a cup per day, your coffee will be flavorless in six months’ time.

5. If you’re picking out whole beans at your local market, stay away from beans that are split, broken, or cracked.

6. And what about decaffeinated coffee? Can you still enjoy the same flavor and body as its caffeinated cousin? Although some restaurants serve a weak cup of decaf this is not a result of the coffee but of improper brewing. Allowing the coffee to sit out for a long time on the burner also causes it to become bitter and flat. By brewing a decaf cup in the proper way and by consuming it before it turns bitter, you can enjoy your cup of joe without the caffeine side effects.

7. And by the way, before you brew that perfect cup of gourmet coffee, make sure your coffee equipment is clean! There’s nothing worse than the residue of old coffee smell mixing in with your newly bought gourmet coffee. This is true for your coffee grinder as well as for your coffee maker – and especially if you enjoy testing different flavored coffees. If you do not clean your equipment regularly, your “hazelnut” coffee might just taste a lot like the “vanilla” coffee you had last week.

Enjoy! For more useful resources, visit MyGourmetCoffees.com.

Submitted by:

Rachel Medlock

Rachel Medlock is a long-time coffee lover and webmaster of a site on gourmet coffees -- MyGourmetCoffees.com.





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