Making Coffee: The Basics


The NCA Brewing Essentials Handbook

In the end, the best way to brew coffee is the way you like it.  

However, if you dedicate yourself to learning the basics, you can greatly improve your technique. We hope this has inspired you to try out new coffees, whether it be through roasting, sourcing, or brewing.

Follow our lead for the perfect cup of coffee every time.

Material Possessions

Make sure that everything used to make coffee is cleaned thoroughly after each use.

Use clear, hot water to rinse (or a clean, damp cloth) and pat dry. Caffeol (the oil from coffee beans) can accumulate if it isn't used, and if there are leftover grounds or if the coffee maker hasn't been cleaned after each use, the coffee you drink may have an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.

Keep your single-cup coffee maker in tip-top shape with the help of our maintenance guide.

The Beans

A cup of coffee is only as good as its beans. The brewing method you prefer is important, but the type of coffee you buy also makes a big difference in the final product. The differences between roasts can be enormous, so be sure to read up on our A Reference for Different Styles of Roasting

Ingredients that contribute to the overall flavor are:

Even though you have many options, remember that there is no wrong one; for instance, you can order a dark, flavorful espresso roast coffee but still have it ground to be brewed in a drip system. Have a good time experimenting with various pairings


To get the best flavor, coffee should be purchased as soon as possible after roasting. If you want to make a good cup of coffee, you need to buy it frequently (at least once every two weeks) and only buy it after it has been freshly roasted. Visit our site for more information on Tips for Keeping Coffee Fresh for a Long Time in order to preserve its maximum flavor and freshness

In addition, you should never use old coffee grounds again. By the time coffee has been brewed, all but the most unpleasant flavors have been removed. Instead, consider these six creative reuse options for stale landscapes.

The Grind

To get the most flavor out of whole bean coffee, you should grind it right before using it. For uniformly-sized coffee grounds, a burr or mill grinder is ideal.  

Some of the coffee will be ground finer than usual with a blade grinder, making it less desirable. Coffee ground with a burr grinder is noticeably smoother than coffee ground with a blade grinder, so if you usually grind your coffee at home, give it a try at the store. (Whichever method you choose, always use your grinder in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, and don't forget about any relevant safety precautions. )

The flavor of your coffee will be drastically affected by the size of the grind. Your coffee may have been over-extracted or ground too fine if it has a bitter flavor. Alternatively, if your coffee is lacking flavor, it may be under-extracted due to a grind that is too coarse.  

(This easy-to-understand infographic will guide you in selecting the ideal texture for your chosen brewing technique. )

If you'd like your coffee ground specifically for you, be sure to specify your brewing method when placing your order. Would a French Press be used? Whether it's a flat or a cone-shaped drip filter Filtration through a mesh of gold They'll grind it to your specifications for use in whatever dish you're making.

The Water

Using high-quality water is crucial for producing delicious coffee. If the water quality in your area is poor or if it has an unpleasant taste or odor—for example, chlorine—you should drink filtered or bottled water instead.  

Turn on the cold water tap for a few seconds before filling the coffee maker. Don't use filtered or bottled water.

The Optimal Coffee-to-Water Mixture

The "Golden Ratio," which recommends using one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water, is a good starting point. One's personal preferences in flavor can be accommodated.  

Make sure you are using the correct amount of water by referring to the brewer's cup lines or indicators. Also, some brewing processes result in water loss due to evaporation.  

The Water's Temp

Prioritize Risk Avoidance Naturally, all necessary precautions should be taken for the safety of everyone involved, from those preparing the coffee to those serving and drinking the coffee.  

For optimal extraction, keep the water in your brewer between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Coffee made with cold water will taste flat and under-extracted, while coffee made with hot water will lose some of its flavorful qualities. However, cold brew does not require heating. )

Allow the water to come to a full boil if you're making coffee the old fashioned way, but be careful not to overdo it. Remove the water from the heat and let it sit for a minute before dumping it on the soil.

Depending on the vessel it is served in, coffee typically loses its heat quickly after being served. Cream or milk, which are often added to coffee, also have a calming influence. As with so many other aspects of coffee, the ideal serving temperature is a matter of individual taste. For these and other reasons, serving coffee immediately after brewing is recommended. Brewing at 200 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended based on cup quality. Lower serving temperatures should be considered when serving hot beverages, especially in retail or clinical care settings where risks for burning or scalding exist. To make their hot coffee more bearable, many people prefer to dilute it with cold milk or cream, or wait for it to cool to a more manageable temperature. Based on the results of one study, the ideal serving temperature for coffee is 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

When making or serving any kind of hot drink, whether for yourself or a customer, remember to put safety first. Since NCA is unable to provide advice regarding a specific working environment or situation, we recommend consulting internal counsel before making any safety-related decisions and referring to our Food Safety Plan Templates for industry-specific information.

Waiting for the Brew

Coffee's flavor is also affected by how long the water stays in contact with the grounds.  

The recommended contact time in a drip system is 5 minutes. French press coffee preparation requires a contact time of two to four minutes. During the short 20-30 second brew time of espresso, the coffee is only in contact with the water once. However, cold brew requires a longer steeping time, around 12 hours.

You are probably not satisfied with the final product because of:

  • The brew time was too long, resulting in overextraction.
  • It's not getting enough of an extraction because the brewing time is too short.

Play around with the contact time to find what works best for you.

Have fun with your java

Only brew as much coffee as you plan to drink immediately after preparation because the flavor starts to degrade quickly. A warm thermos is the other option, so long as the coffee is consumed within an hour.

(Don't fret; stale coffee is probably not harmful; it's just not very appetizing. Don't blindly believe everything you read online; use common sense before consuming anything. )

Enjoy your coffee with the same care and attention to detail that went into making it. Smell the aroma as you sip. It has been a collaborative effort to get to your cup.

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