Brewing a Good Cup of Joe

For a while now I've been enjoying food shows - mostly stuff on the Food Network, like Good Eats and Iron Chef; but recently I've started watching America's Test Kitchen, which really is a fantastic show. Like many things on public television and public radio, America's Test Kitchen does a good job of communicating information without diluting it with a lot of fluff.

Another one of the things that makes the show so good is that they don't just show you recipes, they review different brands of ingredients and different pieces of kitchen equipment. Here's a segment that they did on drip coffee machines.

Not surprisingly, most of these machines make a pretty bad cup of coffee. To me, the idea of paying a hundred or more dollars for an appliance that makes coffee as bad as a cheapo machine makes me cringe. Of course, the reviewer does make a good point - fancy bells and whistles may simply be disguising the fact that the "guts" of the machine aren't any good.

I think it says something when the best cups of coffee come from the simplest brewing methods: French press, pour-over cone and Chemex. Sure, they require a little work and a source of hot water, but honestly, it's really not that much extra work considering how much better the final product is.


    I use a stainless steel and glass french press I bought for $45. My bean grinder is a $15 blade-style unit. Alton Brown from Good Eats recommends a grinding wheel style unit for uniform grinding, but they are $100 and up, so I couldn't justify the cost.


    If you like the ATK TV show, you should check out their magazine, Cook's Illustrated. Like everything else, there's far more detail in the magazine than you can find in the TV show.

    On January 03, 2012 oboe said...

    Can't stand the French press. I know it's a matter of taste, but I hate the grit, and the fact that the grounds sit there and steep for a long time.

    The Chemex process makes fantastic coffee. Simple, easy to clean, and no grit. The drawbacks: it's more labor-intensive, and I've broken about a half dozen of the damned things over the years.

    Now I use a makeshift Chemex by using a plastic filter holder and an old-fashioned camping coffee-pot.

    Bonus: I can take the same process with me when I go camping.

    One last thing: Sidamo Coffee on 5th and H St NE has the best whole bean coffee in the city. Check it out.


    I respect any coffee shop that roasts right there in house. I've had a few cups of Sidamo on H St NE, but I guess I owe it to them to buy some of their whole bean.