Michael holding a blue cup of coffee

The Essence of a Great Coffee

The Right Stuff

Had you asked me this question when I was in the army, making a brew in the jungle or sitting on the side of a hill, I would have said “rum”.  At that time my experience with coffee consisted of army issue instant powder, that fizzed and popped when added to hot water. So, a healthy amount of condensed milk and a reasonable dram o’ rum (or three) and boom – great cup of coffee – or hot rum with caffeine.  

Like my rum, syrups and/or whip cream don’t make great coffee, I think they were invented as additives to make bad coffee drinkable. Or more specifically the coffee is basically a caffeine delivery system.

close up shot of coffee beans on the plant

No matter how you enjoy your coffee, the coffee itself is the foundation. If it includes rum or syrup that’s ok, but because the base is coffee you really want the best coffee you can get. I have had coffee that, no matter how much stuff you put in it still tastes like old burnt boots topped with syrup.

My coffee mantra, “life is too short to drink bad coffee”. When I go to bed at night I’m looking forward to that first cup of coffee in the morning. That’s what makes going to bed work for me. 

How to make that perfect cup of coffee

1. Choose the right beans

BEANS, BEANS, BEANS. Coffee comes from beans or more specifically, they are seeds from a fruity red coffee cherry. As such coffee beans are inherently sweet, its flavors influenced by the terroir, the care it receives from the grower etc.  

2. Choose the right roaster

Roasting coffee beans is both science and art. Pro Hart, an Australian artist famous for his amazing outback paintings was asked what made a great artist, he replied, “being an artist is easy, it is simply placing the right color in the right place on the canvas.” The paint and canvas are the science, the art is in its use to create a masterpiece.

An artisan roaster uses the magical process called the Maillard Reaction, the browning process that can produce sweet caramelization. The art in roasting is manipulating these processes to bring out the essence of those beans.

3. Choose the right storage

Treat these magical little seeds, that have the potential to make your wildest dreams come true (well at least they will help create your wildest dreams as you sip on your liquid gold) with care. Keep them sealed in an airtight container, in a cool, dark and dry place. At the right time air and water when added to those beans, will create your magical drink, but only at the right time and place. Remember the art of art?

4. Choose the right grinder

As the saying goes, “a poor tradesman blames his tools”. But a great artist like Pro Hart chooses the right tools to create. A conical burr grinder is required. It’s a must. Don’t smash your precious beans with a nut buster. They are not nuts, they are the magical beans that will take you to a new dimension. Think Jack and the Beanstalk.

5. Choose the right water

Coffee is flavored water. Around 20% of the ground weight of your beans are dissolved to become a good – or bad – cup of coffee. So, if you use 33grams to make 20 ounces of coffee 6.6 grams are dissolved solids. That means about .23 ounces of your drink is dissolved coffee bean, the rest is water. I’ll let you figure out why you should choose good, filtered water.

6. Choose the right brew method

There are many ways to brew great coffee. Too many to go into here, but the key words are grind size; water temperature; extraction time (time the ground coffee is exposed to the water); and finally, pour your nectar of the gods into a pre-warmed cup. 

Now go and create a great coffee, drink it with purpose and let dreams and visions manifest before your eyes creating new worlds as you imbibe.