5 tips for a fresher cup of coffee

Coffee maker pot filling close up Photo by trekandshoot/Shutterstock

Spending your morning on a misty dock without a hot cup of coffee is like sitting in a canoe without a paddle. But what’s the key to a spectacular cup? Beyond buying quality beans from a local roastery, many java enthusiasts would argue that it’s the elusive fresh factor. When your coffee is perfectly fresh, the first sip of your morning brew makes your day at the cottage even more magical. But the experience is soured if you get a mouthful of stale flavour instead. If you’re searching for the secret to a consistently fresh cup, these tips are a pretty good start.

Grind on the spot

While pre-ground coffee is readily available and very convenient, true coffee connoisseurs know there’s no substitute for grinding your own beans. Once the surface of coffee is exposed to air, it begins to go stale. Because ground coffee has far more surface area, the process happens faster than with whole beans. The best possible scenario is to whip out the coffee grinder when you’re craving caffeine and grind right before you brew.

Buy with freshness in mind

Sure, you could fill a bag with scoop after scoop of cheap beans at your nearest bargain-basement bulk outlet, but even whole beans need a little TLC to stay fresh. If you fancy a fresher cup, skip the bulk beans and and buy in bags. Even better, look for roasters whose bags have special one-way valves that seal in freshness for longer periods. Another benefit of buying bagged beans instead of bulk is that you’ll know when they were roasted. If it’s been more than 48 hours, the beans’ freshness has started to fade.

Don’t wait to drink

We know you’re busy. Sometimes you put the coffee pot on with the best intentions but then get distracted by chores, family, or work. An hour later you shuffle back to reheat a cold cuppa joe. Unfortunately, re-warmed coffee can have a slightly scorched taste and lack a deeper complexity of flavour. Leaving it on a warm burner may keep it toasty while you bustle around, but it will still dull the fresh taste. Do yourself a favour and make the time to sit down and sip right after the coffee is brewed.

Pick a savvy storage solution

Fresh Coffee has many cunning enemies, including air, moisture, heat, and light. That’s a pretty tricky list of things to avoid, but there are a few rules to follow when storing your beans. First, choose a cool, dark, dry place like a pantry or a cabinet. Avoid locations near heat sources, like the cupboard over the stovetop or next to the window with excellent sun exposure. Although there is some debate about whether storing coffee beans in the freezer will prolong their freshness, there are far too many absorbable food smells and too much moisture to make it a viable solution. Next, pick a storage container to transfer your beans to after the package has been opened—something airtight and made of glass, ceramic, or non-reactive metal. If you must store your coffee on the countertop, make sure your storage container is also opaque so there’s no light exposure.

Use the right water

Even if you’ve been meticulous in buying, grinding, and storing your coffee, you can blow it all when it’s time to add water. About 98% of your hopefully perfect cup of coffee is composed of water, so if you neglect the quality, the results will be disappointing. Unless your water comes directly from the lake, opt for filtered tap water or choose bottled water over distilled water, which has been robbed of minerals that affect taste and coffee extraction. Always use cold water, which is full of dissolved air that also impacts flavour. Hot water or heated-and-cooled water will be missing that component.