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how to get the BEST out of your morning brew

I talk a big waffle about coffee, yet I've written very little about it in this space outside of a latte recipe from years ago and a post about tea for coffee lovers.

Typical me.

Coffee is definitely a subjective matter - we all have our own preferred way to brew, specific flavors and notes we like to smell and taste with every cup, and have a predetermined ratio of how much creamer and sugar is too much or not enough.


Then there are those of us who don't like coffee (reasons being it's too bitter or acidic, the jitters are too much, the scent is overwhelming in a bad way, etc.), can't drink it due to medical reasons or opt not to for religious reasons. If you're reading this, my guess is you don't connect with any of that and might even be asking how, why?

If you do relate and are still reading this: 1) thank you, and 2) your coffee sipping friends will love you all the better for it (I think).

So whether you drink your coffee hot and simple, blended with ice and the works, or you poured over ice with a gallon of creamer, here are some things we can do to get the absolute best out of our brew.

NOTE: my intention here is not to shame anyone who makes their coffee differently than what is listed below (for example, maybe you use instant coffee powders or cold brew concentrates instead of making a fresh cup / pot. You guys: those things are available and brought to us by the blessed creators in the world for a reason: we don't have the luxury of time every day). So in the lines between the words I say below, I hope there resides some reminders or new information that's helpful for when you do make a fresh cup o'joe - you deserve to have the joy of sipping your own small coffee shop quality coffee, with personal touches, made by the only you.

1) reach for the whole beans instead of the ground coffee

When it comes to choosing whole bean vs. ground coffee, which works best for you ultimately comes down to convenience, time, and personal preference. When possible, get the bag of "whole beans" - basically, you'll have more control over the taste and getting the notes out of your coffee when you grind it to your level.

One factor to consider is the method you use for making your coffee. Different methods call for different grind sizes: French Press requires coarser beans, while espresso needs a finer grind. Having a grind too small or too large can lead to bitter or sour coffee, so it’s a good idea to make sure your coffee grind and brewing method are compatible.

Most ground coffees are a medium-fine grind size, which is suitable for automatic drip coffee or single-serve like pour-over or Aeropress. If you use a method that needs a very fine grind (like espresso or Moka pot) or just happen to alternate between a variety of methods, you might prefer the flexibility of grinding your own whole bean coffee.

The grinder I use is the Krups bean grinder, though I know a few people who grind theirs manually, so if you also want to classify yourself as a coffee bad ass who takes their brewing seriously, this grinder has some good reviews (you know, if you trust random people on the internet).

2) consider adding a non-electric coffee maker to your set up

As most of you likely have a drip coffee machine sitting on your kitchen counter - this is likely annoying to read. However, I'm still going to suggest giving this a go as you'll have more control over the desireable aspects of your cup, like taste, the cleaning process, the fact that making coffee this way forces your to intentionally slow down: genius. The two brewing methods I enjoy most are the French Press (no additional filters required) and Chemex pour over (filters required). If you're curious about the breakdown of the mechanics of most brewing methods, the book Craft Coffee is a great place to start. Another great thing to check out is Kion's blog on the best ways to brew coffee (they sell incredible coffee, too).

My other argument for getting this is that non-electric coffee makers are much easier to clean - which, speaking of...

3) clean the "maker" weekly

For the electric coffee machines, there are a lot of nooks and crannies for mold to build up, and who wants that in their coffee? Probably no one. Which is why it's important to clean the coffee/espresso maker as often as you can (I say weekly, because daily is too tedious and unrealistic. The pot itself should be cleaned after each use. Not just because of the mold aspect,but do we really want to taste left over coffee in our fresh cup? No.

For most drop coffee makers, fill the water tank with a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture and turn the machine on to run it through (I recommend doing this twice, then a third time with just water).

With other makers, get a brush (I use a baby bottle brush, it's perfect) and some hot water with dish soap to easily get rid of the residual oils without the risk of leaving an aftertaste in your coffee (I use a baby dish soap to be on the safe side, and occasionally use Dawn).

4) learn more about what you like

If you care about this sort of thing, a majority of coffee on grocery store shelves is mass-produced, low-quality, and depleted of beneficial antioxidants. So to take a minute or two to learn about the roasting process, and where / how it was harvested (like, are the crops heavily sprayed with chemicals to make it grow quicker?) could make the difference between having jittery migraines and enjoying coffee without those consequences.

If you're able, test out an organic coffee. Coffee brands with an organic label smacked on the bags are ethically sourced, have lower levels of pesticides and other synthetic chemicals, and generally have a better taste (beans are grown in nutrient dense soil which results in a more rich and fresh flavor).

I've been drinking Peace coffee lately (it was the branding and also the fact that it was on sale for buy 1 get 1 free when I first brought it home), and as someone who is sensitive to a lot of coffee out there, I loved that it didn't heighten my already existent anxiety, or raise my heart rate through the roof when all I want is a good drink and energy (and boost in my mood, come on now).

Again, this is about discovering more of what you like. If you're good with the general "morning blend" at Target, you stick with that, friend.

5) store the coffee beans properly

Since coffee beans do expire (you're smart, you knew this), let's extend their life expectancy beyond what the bag they came in is claiming. The general rule of thumb is to store the coffee (ground or whole bean) in a dark and cool space (so when you see coffee beans packaged in a clear bag, be aware they might have been exposed to harsher temperatures with little to no protection, so the "freshness" piece might be non existent.

Why is this important? Consumer Reports put it right in sharing:

Coffee is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture, odors, and flavors from the surrounding air. In order to retain the fresh roast flavor, it's important to keep coffee beans away from heat, light, air, and moisture

I store my coffee in the Veken coffee canister, which checks all the boxes to keep your coffee fresh (even comes with a measuring spoon, so fancy).

If you see a jar or container made of glass - run from it, not to it.

6) take a coffee hiatus

There are people who live caffeine free (call for the applause) - and for the rest of us addicts, to take a "break" like Ross sounds wild, I know.

But there are reasons why even taking a week off your coffee consumption every month or two can improve areas beyond your energy. Some being: better sleep, rid the dependence of caffeine, better absorption (yeah, coffee can suck up the space our bodies need to soak in vitamins and nutrients - so even those supplements you take won't be their 100%).

Over all, a hiatus will regulate your body (hello, better blood pressure levels) and mind, and keep you from becoming too reliant on it (O mean, have you tried going off coffee for a day after having it for 5 years straight? Not fun, friend. Not fun). Train your brain to know you don't need it, but use it to get by and really enjoy it.

This will inevitably give you the best out of your next brew because after a break like this, you'll notice the benefits, and not the cons, of coffee more often.

Your body deserves a break from what has the potential to take a real toll on your body, mentally and physically.

7) if you like it sweet, consider these

I'm just going to say it: creamer can make your cup of coffee taste better, but the results will leave you feeling more cruddy then if you would had just drank it black.

My current dynamic duo: Nut Pods Vanilla Creamer with some pure maple syrup. Froth that up with my handy dandy frother and it's the closest I've gotten to making some coffee shop material, trust me (or not, it's your loss)

Not a dairy-free fan?

Great, here's something better for you.

Grab some heavy whipping cream, if you don't do this already.

The benefits to using this in place of popular flavored creamers (besides the creamy and smooth deliciousness) was just brought to my attention, some of them including: contains vitamins A, D, E and K, along with calcium and phosphurus which are key players in building up your bone health. And then add some of the maple syrup to sweeten it up.

You skip out on all the added sugars that can make you feel like garbage, and still have the great taste.

You're literally treating yourself in more ways than one. You can go ahead and tell yourself "you're welcome".

8) keep in mind: cold hits faster and hot lasts longer

When you make a cold brew, that stuff is going to get your groove going a lot quicker than a brewed hot cup of coffee. This is mainly due to a higher coffee to water ratio in the brewing process. And as most cold coffee concentrates are made through a different process, there is less acid in the liquid, so there is less irritation.

Depending on what you need out of your coffee today, keep that in mind.

The only concentrate that hasn't given me a major headache afterward and tastes great is from Chameleon (it's also organic, so that's a factor to consider).

Friendly reminder: if it clearly says "concentrate" on the label, and not "iced coffee", you're going to want to add some water or creamer of choice at a ratio of 2 parts concentrate, 1 part water / milk.

9) sip from favorite cups only

This might seem odd to add to the list, but for starters: it's my post, so I'll add what I want. Second, I believe there is magic that takes place as you pour freshly brewed coffee into your favorite mug in the sense that it alters how it will taste.

Might be the additional placebo effect and love you need to start the day as you sip from a cup that holds sentimental value, or is just cool to look at as you do whatever it is you're doing.

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