By: Bo Ryles, a man who has consumed enough coffee to fill Lake Sinclair

After a bag of Clover Coffee arrives in the mail and you have stored it properly, you areready to move beyond simply smelling those beans. You are ready for the perfect cup of coffee. Like anything tied to our sensory organs-opinion will vary on what indeed is perfect. I have read a little, drank a lot, and offer advice on finding your perfect cup of coffee.

Coffee connoisseurs from Eastman to Monroe generally agree that using recently roasted-freshly ground coffee, quality water (really high quality H20), clean equipment, and brewing at the proper temperature will consistently yield good coffee. It’s so important to grind the beans for your next cup of coffee moments before you brew.

Frank Fitch put a tin coffee pot directly on coals as we camped near the Broad River. He would just boil the coffee. My dad did practically the same thing with a 20 cup percolator sitting on a gas stove top slowing boiling 18 hours a day. Neither of those heroes of mine made a perfect cup of coffee. Choosing the apparatus that works for you is important. Percolator, press, and drip maker are the most often used creators of the beverage we know as coffee.

At our home, we typically make two pots of drip coffee each morning and then use a French Press for the later batches. I confess, occasionally I massacre left overmorning coffee with a microwave. Microwaving cold coffee is not the best coffee, butI have never liked the idea of wasting coffee while many people in the world are living without caffeine. If you must microwave java, be most careful to stop it at the minimum temperature that works for you. I find that 47 seconds is good, 55 is too long. I also have found I can peel a banana, get the cream out of the fridge, turn on the radio, andsweetly tell the dog to stop barking in 47 seconds.

Back to perfection, percolators really let out the wonderful smell of coffee but in doing so flavor escapes as well. So percolate coffee to make you house smell good but avoid this type brewer if perfection in the cup is your goal. Drip makers are better. They are easy to use and allow you to grind beans to a very fine powder thereby releasing a lot of flavor. The automatic grinding ones are really convenient, but be aware that they must be cleaned every time and also do not handle the grinding as well as a separate burr grinder.

The thermal carafe drip makers give a great advantage of having hot coffee longer without having a burner underneath overheating the bottom half of the pot. I only fault thermal carafes in that they prohibit seeing the color and darkness ofthe brew. Drip makers come in small, medium and large. They are available white,red, black, chrome and even purple. Just get a drip brewer that has a timer, is easy to clean, makes the right amount of coffee for your family, and has an automatic offfeature.

Let’s move up the chain in perfection—The French Press. The press method is ideal. The French Press is incredibly simple but works wonderfully. Just grind the coffee, pourit into the carafe of the press, pour hot fresh water over the ground, place the plunger in the top of the press to seal in the flavor, allow the grounds to soak in the hot water 3 minutes, plunge the plunger and pour a great cup of coffee. This method works anywhere. You can indeed microwave the water to get it hot. I’ve been known to stop in a convenience store and microwave water. I did buy a Coca-Cola just to be fair to the proprietor.

How much coffee? I find using one tablespoon of coffee for each cup of coffee workswell. Contrary to Mark in the old beef barn at 4-H livestock shows, never reuse coffee beans or grounds for a second brewing process. Using measuring spoon, scoop, or cup, get the amount just right to suit your taste.

Water temperature: The goal is to have the water near boiling (195°205°).
Condiments (for you Tech students-that’s the stuff you put in the coffee)- true aficionados say drink it black. Simple observation of the crowd at the local coffee shop hovering around the sugar and cream area inform us that many people like to add things to their coffee. The most-often condiments are of course sugar, cream, and artificial sweeteners. I find a few drops of half-and-half mellow the flavor a bit and really are preferred to pouring a lot of 2% milk in the drink. A touch of cinnamon or nutmeg is nice at times. Those drinks in the weird shaped amber bottles with totem poles and such on them also work well at times like after dinner with a piece of grandma’s poundcake or Wilbur’s recipe of homemade peach ice cream. I have a friend who regularly stops at coffee shops and gets a mocha, extra hot, no whipped, with peppermint. In addition to adding twice the price of coffee- I suspect the friend has no idea what coffee really tastes like. My advice is to keep added ingredients to a minimum and avoid masking the wonderful flavor of the coffee.

Another often overlooked step to a perfect cup of coffee is the cup itself. Whether you use a dainty china cup, a glass mug with a bulldog etched on it, or (my preference) a large Diane Davies pottery mug— make certain the cup is warm. A cold mug pulls the oils to the side of the cup and also cools down what was a perfect cup of coffee. Fred Martin invited me to the Satilla River Club in deep south Georgia many years ago. Every morning the cook at the club puts heavy stoneware mugs in the oven and then transfers them to a styrofoam chest. The guests retrieve a warm mug no mater how late they sleep. The warm mug heats up your hands, keeps that coffee hot longer and makes the whole coffee drinking experience a touch better.

Like any good 4-H Demonstration, allow me to summarize. To make a perfect cup of coffee:  1) Start with recently roasted, freshly ground high quality coffee beans. 2) Use fresh, clear, clean water. 3) Use about 1 tablespoon of coffee per cup 4) Use a clean brewing system that assures high enough temperature but does notscorch the brew. 5) Warm the cup 6) Don’t overuse condiments and flavors.

Finding your perfect cup of coffee should be a fun adventure. Tweak the amount of coffee, the method of brewing, and the manner of serving to fit your needs. At my house, the best step I take is to sleep a few more minutes as my wife prepares the perfect pot of coffee before I even step into the kitchen. “This concludes my demonstration.”