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Making a decent cup of coffee with minimal effort

I’ve become a bit of a coffee geek over the years. This was especially fueled by my time working for Storyblocks, where my introduction to the office kitchen mostly included how to operate all of the various gadgets and gizmos for brewing coffee.

After trying many brewing methods, coffee bean origins and even roasting my own. I’ve come to realize that often times, less is more.

1. Coffee Beans

When picking coffee beans, the most important factor is the freshness. Buy whole bean coffee (i.e. not pre-ground) and look for coffee beans that has a “roasted on” date — “best by” dates are usually an indication that the beans are not fresh. Look for beans at places such as Whole Foods or local specialty grocery stores, or simply buy directly from local coffee shops that roast their own coffee.

Light, Medium, Dark? Single-origin? Blend? It doesn’t really matter what you pick. The biggest difference here is the flavor profile. If in doubt, look for smaller sample-size bags so you can try a couple of different variations. Generally, light roasts are more acidic and fruity in their flavors, whereas darker roasts are more bold and chocolatey - but this can also vary by origin.

2. Grinding

The biggest lever for making objectively good coffee is grinding the beans just prior to brewing.

I used a simple blade grinder for years, but you might want to consider splurging for a decent burr grinder (budget allowing) such as the Baratza Encore. The major benefit of a burr grinder is that you get a much more even grind. which greatly helps with consistently reproducing that same great cup of coffee every day.

3. Brewing

The simplest method? Just get a french press. It’s quick and simple to operate and comes in all shapes of sizes. Everything from a tiny one-cup brewer to a big family-size and even a travel french press (which happens to be my wife’s favorite!). Most options are less than $20 — no need to splurge here.

Here’s the general method:

  • Grind coffee semi-coarsely and leave it in the bottom of the french press (2 Tbsp of coffee to 6 oz of water)
  • Pour almost-boiling water over the ground coffee and stir gently
  • Wait about 3-4 minutes
  • Press the french press filter all the way down and enjoy your coffee

Start with 2 Tbsp of coffee to 6 oz of water and adjust the amount of coffee to make the drink stronger or weaker to you preference.

Want to up your french press game after a while? Check out coffee guru, James Hoffman’s ultimate french press brewing guide.