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Tips on Storing and Preparing Your Specialty Coffee at Home

  1. Start by purchasing only one to two weeks’ worth of coffee at a time, preferably in whole bean form, to ensure coffee freshness. Online customers may want to order a bit more to save on shipping costs. When coffee is ground, more surface area of the coffee is exposed to the air, which leads to quicker breakdown of flavor and aroma. Even in whole bean form, coffee loses much of its flavor in only about two weeks.
  2. Store your coffee in an airtight, opaque container and in a cool place. Squeeze excess air out of your container, if you can. Air and moisture are the enemies of roasted coffee. Refrigeration is not necessary. Coffee is very absorbent, especially when ground, and if stored in the refrigerator or freezer, it runs a higher risk of picking up unwanted tastes and smells than if just stored on the counter. As long as the room is kept fairly cool, there is no reason to subject coffee to the harsher conditions of your refrigerator or freezer.
  3. Grind your coffee just before using, if possible. Home blade grinders only cost about $25 and are adequate, if they must be used, for methods of coffee preparation involving medium to coarser grinds. Burr grinders (either the wheel burr type or the conical burr type, the latter being the better of the two) can cost quite a bit more, but they are worth the extra cost. They offer multiple grind settings, create a more uniform and consistent grind, and impart little heat to the ground coffee.
    Try to match the grind of the coffee to your coffee maker. In general terms, grind your coffee as fine as you can without clogging the holes of your coffee maker or filter. Home espresso machines need a fine to medium grind. Manual drip and automatic drip brewers take a medium grind. French press makers call for a medium-coarse grind, while cold drip (Toddy) makers require a coarse grind. A powder-fine grind is necessary to prepare Middle Eastern coffee properly.
  4. Use only fresh, cold water for preparing coffee. Warm water may pick up impurities from the water heater. Remember that every cup of coffee is ninety-eight percent water!
  5. Be sure to use the right proportion of ground coffee to water. For home espresso machines, follow manufacturer recommendations. For electric and manual drip brewers, two tablespoons of ground coffee per six ounces of water is the ratio we recommend. For press makers, try one tablespoon per four ounces of water. Using less ground coffee leads to over-extracted, bitter-tasting coffee. If your coffee tastes too strong when you use our recommended ratio, simply add some very hot water to it to decrease the strength of the brew.
  6. The optimal temperature for making coffee is 195° to 205° F. When preparing manual drip or French press coffee, bring the water to a boil and then remove it from the heat for about thirty seconds so that the temperature drops into the proper range.
  7. Again, purchase the freshest coffee you can find. Look for a roast date on the bag, not a deceptive “best if used by” date. A fancy package is never a good substitute for fresh and flavorful coffee.