Finer Things in Life: FTIL #9 – How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

One of my favorite java joints is Intelligentsia.  Yes, I am biased towards local craft (Intelligentsia is Chicago-based), but their coffee is really good, not to mention their baristas winning several titles in the World Barista Championships.

At Intelligentsia Coffee, in the Monadnock Bui...

As I learned, there are a few simple steps you should follow to brew up a really good cup of coffee at home.

  1. 1. Grind just before brewing – use burr grinders that use steel plates to evenly grind vs. blades that could unevenly chop the beans.  Fine grind for espresso, medium for drip and coarse for French Press.  Many recommend not storing the beans in the freezer. but as long as your seal the bag tight and put it in a proper freezer bag to avoid seepage of odor, I prefer freezer storage.
  2. Don’t skim on the amount of grind – I remember re-brewing used grind when I was a starving graduate student (come on, admit it – you’ve done it).  Err on the side of putting too much grind, if any – you can always add hot water and make it semi-Americano.  Rule of thumb – 2 tablespoons for 6 ounces of water.
  3. Use filtered water – even if you have good tap as we do here in Chicago, let the tap run about half a minute to let stale water out of the pipes.  But cold, filtered water is always preferred to get chlorine other metals out of the brewing process.
  4. Ensure the water is hot enough and “steep” – this is crucial since hot water should not just pass through the grind, rather grind should sit in hot water for a specified amount of time.  The biggest culprit in less than ideal home brews – most coffee makers do not have sufficient firepower to heat the water to the desired 200 degrees and do not steep as they should.

I currently have a Breville grinder / coffee maker combo – little expensive, but worth every penny…   Here’s to enjoying finer things in life!

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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (; following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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