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Think you know how to make a great cup of coffee?

Co-owner of Black Drop Coffeehouse explains how to make a great cup of coffee

Ryan Siu of The Black Drop gives a few pointers on how to make a great cup of coffee at home. A burr grinder is the most important tool for a top-notch cup of joe.
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Ryan Siu of The Black Drop gives a few pointers on how to make a great cup of coffee at home. A burr grinder is the most important tool for a top-notch cup of joe.

No matter how you make your coffee at home — pour over, French press, percolator, drip maker, cold brew — the grinder is more important than the brewing process you prefer.

“That is honestly the most important thing for making coffee at home,” said Ryan Siu, co-owner of The Black Drop coffeehouse downtown. “It’s hard to make — really hard to make — good coffee with a poor grinder.”

For Sui, coffee is akin to chemistry. It starts with evenly ground and measured beans, followed by the correct amount of water at the optimal temperature (195-205 degrees). He admires the precision required, and brews as deliberately as a chemist in a lab.

“Now, coffee is science,” Sui said. “A scale is useful for home brewers who want to take their coffee to the next step.”

Most folks use a blade grinder that pulverizes the beans unevenly, and creates friction that can heat the grounds and change their flavor. Sui favors a burr grinder, which produces grounds with a consistent size for the variety of settings that are required for popular brewing methods such as pour-over and AeroPress. He recommends the Baratza Encore burr grinder (about $130). For heating the water, he opts for an electric Bonavita variable-temp kettle (about $75). For pour-over brewing, the Kalita Wave glass dripper ($30) is Sui’s go-to gadget.

I tried all the fancy vacuum pots, cold filter pots, French press pots, and came back around to the old standby (a percolator). Like the one Mom used.

Mike Ashby, Sudden Valley

Pour over

kalita

This category includes the simple cone drip coffeemaker that sits atop the mug. Sui favors the precision control that his Kalita Wave allows, producing a “well-rounded cup.”

AeroPress

aero press
Ryan Sui, co-owner of The Black Drop coffeehouse in Bellingham, works the plunger on his AeroPress during a demonstration. Robert Mittendorf rmittendorf@bhamherald.com

Similar in some ways to a French press, but with a disposable filter. It was invented about 10 years ago and is so favored by baristas that there’s even a World AeroPress Championship, and the winning recipes are published at worldaeropresschampionship.com.

Cold brew

cold brew
A container with a gold filter is used for cold-brew coffee. Robert Mittendorf rmittendorf@bhamherald.com

Joe Oester of Bellingham swears by the cold-brew method and uses a hand-operated burr grinder.

“It’s the key ingredient to making good coffee. It evenly grinds the beans and you can deliver more flavor and caffeine in the brewing process,” said Oester, who switched to cold brew several years ago. “I love cold coffee. It’s less bitter, with a low acid taste.”

He uses a large container with a reusable gold filter and lets his brew “sit” for 12 hours.

Percolator

percolator
A classic percolator sends boiling water up through a central tube, where it cascades over the grounds in a basket strainer. Robert Mittendorf rmittendorf@bhamherald.com

Mike Ashby of Sudden Valley, a former police officer, favors a good old-fashioned percolator.

“I have tried it may different ways, I owned a few small coffee shops and experimented,” Ashby wrote in response to a recent Facebook query. “I tried all the fancy vacuum pots, cold filter pots, French press pots, and came back around to the old standby. Like the one Mom used.”

Drip maker

mr-coffee
A programmable Mr. Coffee will make a decent cup of coffee for those who want their caffeine to go. Robert Mittendorf rmittendorf@bhamherald.com

Most drip coffeemakers — such as the ubiquitous Mr. Coffee — will brew a passable cup of joe, and offer the ease of programming for an effortless morning jump-start. But the Bonavita eight-cup model with thermal carafe ($189) earned nearly perfect marks from the discerning folks at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, who said it produced a “full-flavored” cup in a 2016 test.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-715-2805, rmittendorf@bhamherald.com, @bhamMitty

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