“Brewing a single cup with a cone filter is a simple, bulletproof technique that lets the flavor of the beans shine,” says 2010 World Barista Champion Michael Phillips of Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea. Follow his method.
Coffee begins to lose flavor from the moment it’s roasted, so find the freshest beans you can, says Phillips. “If there’s no roast date on the bag, it may be because the roaster doesn’t want you to know it,” he says. Find a local roaster, or order online from an artisanal roaster (see below). Aficionados often prefer single-origin brews, but a blend offers a more consistent cup. By mixing beans from several regions, the roaster downplays off-flavors and boosts the best tastes from each bean.
Exposure to oxygen destroys the volatile oils that give coffee its flavor, so buy your beans whole and grind them yourself. But don’t use a spice grinder; it chops unevenly, yielding coffee that’s both over-and underextracted. Upgrade to a burr grinder, which pulverizes beans uniformly as they pass through the grinding elements. Models go for as low as $30, but for a truly solid burr grinder, Phillips recommends the Capresso Infinity ($90, capresso.com); it offers precise control over your grind. For the pour-over cone, a medium-fine grind–between flour and kosher salt–is ideal.
The brightest, cleanest flavor comes from using a simple pour-over cone lined with a paper filter, says Phillips. A bonus: It’s easy to clean and takes up almost no counter space. He recommends the Japanese-made Hario V60 02 ($21, shop.hariousa.com).
BREW LIKE A BARISTA
STEP 1: Heat the water
Boiling water can scald the grounds, but water that’s too cool won’t extract their full flavor. The ideal range is right around 200°F, give or take 5°. To reach that, boil filtered water in a kettle and then let it cool for 30 to 60 seconds.
STEP 2: Prep the filter
Pour a bit of just-boiled water through the filter to saturate it and wash off loose fibers that would sour your coffee. Then toss out any excess water from the cone and place it on top of the mug.
STEP 3: Brew the coffee
Fill the filter with 2 rounded tablespoons of grounds for 8 ounces of coffee. Gradually pour in just enough water to saturate the grounds. Wait for the coffee grounds to “bloom”– about 60 to 90 seconds. Now starting in the middle of the cone, pour the remaining water in a slow, narrow stream, working in circles out toward the edge. Don’t flood the cone.
OUR TOP BEAN PICKS
1.) BEST LIGHT BLEND
Zoka Tangletown Blend Brews up bright and acidic,with notes of caramel and orange peel. $11 (12 oz), zokacoffee.com
2.) BEST MEDIUM-BODIED BLEND
Verve 1950 Blend Warm, toasty body with a sweet, fruity finish–evoking the balance of a classic mocha java. $12 (12 oz), vervecoffeeroasters.myshopify. com
3.) BEST DEEP, BOLD BLEND
Gimme! Coffee Leftist Espresso Blend Roasted dark for espresso, yet chocolatey and nutty enough for brewed coffee. $11 (16 oz), gimmecoffee.com