Establishing Habits for a Productive Life

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

It seems fitting that my inaugural post is about coffee – the substance which has fueled me through many sleepy nights and early mornings.  The need to make a “perfect cup” of coffee without terribly fancy equipment and without spending $4 at Starbucks originated out of necessity – the dining hall coffee on campus was a grainy, burnt slush, and with a college student’s budget, I couldn’t afford a Starbucks habit.

A couple general thought before we begin:

  • Keep your equipment clean. Any residual sediment from your previous cup with taint your coffee with a stale taste. Be certain that no grounds are caught between the three parts of your French Press’s filter – you can unscrew them and reassemble if need be.
  • Buy your beans whole. If you can grind your beans just minutes before you steep them, the quality of freshness will be much better than if you have an open bag of grounds sitting out for weeks.
  • Invest in a quality grinder. Though something like this might be a bit more affordable, I’ve found that a Burr Grinder, if you’re willing to splurge, makes a noticeable difference. I have the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Grinder, and I would highly recommend it. The main difference is that with a Burr Grinder, the beans drop into the blade one by one, as opposed to whirling about in one big mass. This 1) produces more evenly cut beans grounds and 2) keeps your unground beans fresh in an airtight container in the event that you grab more beans than you need.


Now that we’ve got our beans ready, our equipment clean, and our grinder in hand, let’s begin.  In my experience, 1/4 cup whole beans will grind down to 2 heaping tablespoons of grounds.  This is sufficient for one cup.  (I just measure my 1/4 cup of beans by grabbing one handful…and who doesn’t love sinking their hand into a bag of whole coffee beans?)

Grind the beans on the coarsest setting possible.  This will prevent powdery grounds from slipping through your filter and muddying your coffee. In the photo above, you’ll see I have my grinder set pretty close to 40.


Begin boiling your water.  Once it’s boiled, measure 6 oz. This is the standard amount for one cup of coffee. Let the water sit for a few minutes after it boils, ideally until it cools slightly to somewhere between 195 – 205 F.  Water that is too hot will burn your grounds and produce a distinctly bitter taste.


The ultimate strength of flavor in your cup with be contingent upon both the amount of coffee and the steeping time. I prefer my coffee on the stronger side, so I use 2 heaping tablespoons per cup.  Feel free to use less if you desire.

Standard coffee brewing time ranges from 4-6 minutes, but I usually set my timer for 6.  Remember, don’t cover your cup while the coffee brews – the grounds require fresh air to steep fully.

Stir occasionally throughout the six minutes. A light foamy layer form will form.


Once the six minutes are up, pour the mixture through a filter and into your french press. As far as French Presses are concerned, I find that the delicate glass ones are prone to break easily, which is inconvenient given how expensive they may be.  If you’re living in a chaotic environment, I might suggest something as sturdy as the Frieling Polished Stainless French Press. The higher price might ultimately be worth it if you can expect to be replacing your glass press frequently.

Filter the coffee once more by replacing your lid on your French Press, and pouring the coffee into your cup.

Breathe in the fresh aroma, put your feet up, and mentally prepare yourself for your day.

More information on making lattes and other specialized coffee drinks coming soon!



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