“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).