Unplug & Recharge//

How to Really Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Slugging down any old sludge while pulling on socks is no way to start the day. Learn to brew amazing java and savor the experience here.

The rich scent of ground coffee beans, the steam rising from your cup, that first strong sip — really, what could be better than a cup of perfectly brewed coffee first thing in the morning? For coffee lovers like myself, the answer is obvious: nothing. But how often do you really slow down and savor that first cup, coffee-commercial style? It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the rush of morning routines that you skimp on this small (but, I would argue, important) ritual. If you would like to carve out your own extra-special coffee-sipping time in the morning, the steps outlined below can help, from setting up your coffee station to finding the perfect spot for enjoying that first cup — and, of course, crafting the perfect brew.

1. Choose a brewing method. Sure, you could use a drip coffeemaker. I did for many, many years and was perfectly satisfied with it until it broke and I decided to try something different. A drip coffee maker is traditional (at least in the States), is easy to use, brews up quickly and can be set up the night before, so you don’t have to fuss with anything in the morning. On the other hand, the coffee that a drip machine produces tends to be not as richly flavorful as some of the other methods (listed next), and coffeemakers with warming plates are notorious for burning the coffee left to stay “warm” in the pot. If you thought all cups were created equal, I beg you to try a new method and see how you like it.

A few of the most popular other methods:

French press: This is a small glass or stainless steel pitcher (I recommend stainless steel, as it is less prone to breakage) with a plunger that separates the coffee grounds from the hot water. Produces strong, rich coffee. A negative is that the last pour always includes some dregs.

Pour-over: Whether you’re using the popular Chemex or a single-cup apparatus to make pour-over coffee, you put the grounds in a filter over your cup or container, and slowly pour hot water over. A favorite method of coffee connoisseurs, the pour-over method results in a pure (no dregs), strong, rich cup. The negative is that you have to stand there pouring water slowly over your cup, in effect manually brewing it.

Espresso: Espresso lovers have their own favorite methods, and I have to admit I treat myself to espresso drinks only when at a coffee bar. The simplest and cheapest way to make espresso at home is with a stovetop espresso maker, of the type found in Italian kitchens everywhere. Electric espresso makers will make a “cleaner” cup with fewer dregs.

Pods: Coffeemakers using pods of coffee, like the popular Keurig machines, are certainly convenient — many offices have installed them for this very reason. Just pop in a pod, press the button and voilà, coffee. They do, however, produce more waste and are costlier to operate (those pods are pricey), and you miss out on the delicious scent of fresh coffee beans in the house.

Related: Invest in a New Coffee or Tea Maker

Holly Marder, original photo on Houzz

2. Clean your kitchen. Add music if desired. The key to having the time to enjoy a fabulous coffee experience in the morning is preparation. Leave your kitchen spotless the night before: no dishes in the sink, crumbs wiped off the counter, fresh mugs lined up in the cupboard and coffeemaker cleaned and ready to go. I highly recommend adding a small radio or iPod dock to your kitchen, if you don’t have one already. Being able to put on lovely music while your coffee is brewing makes the wait more bearable.

Related: See More Clutter-Free Kitchen Coffee Stations

3. Choose your kettle. If you are using a French press or the pour-over method, you will need to boil water first … so you will need a kettle. I personally recommend the Hario kettle (I have the electric version), because the slender spout is perfectly designed to give you that desirable slow pour that lets your coffee “bloom.”

4. Buy your coffee and consider the grind. Buying beans from a local establishment that roasts them onsite is optimal. Buy only as much at one time as you can consume in about a week. Decide if you want to grind it yourself or have it ground for you. I used to grind our beans at home with a standard grinder, but when I realized my local coffee roaster has a truly superior professional-quality Burr grinder, I started having it ground there. I find the flavor is definitely richer — just make sure to store your ground coffee in an airtight container so it stays fresh. And when you are having your coffee ground, be sure to specify what brewing method you use; it will be ground differently for French press versus drip and so on.

ANNA CARIN Design, original photo on Houzz

5. Get your supplies in order. Setting up a coffee station in your kitchen so that everything you need is easily at hand is very helpful during that precoffee brain-fog time. Clear off a section of a counter near the stove or an outlet, depending on what you need for your coffee brewing method. Gather your coffeemaker, kettle, coffee beans, grinder, coffee filters and cups. Also keep any add-ins you like at hand — I avoid sugar in my coffee, but a scoop of maple sugar or homemade vanilla syrup is wonderful for an occasional treat.

6. Brew the perfect cup. Your counters are sparkling; music is playing; you have everything you need at hand … now it is time to brew that perfect cup. If you are using a French press, preheat it by swirling hot water inside (and dumping it out) before brewing your coffee. No matter your brewing method, a good rule of thumb is to use one tablespoon of ground coffee per cup of water for a nice, strong brew. French press and pour-over brews benefit from a slow pour, to allow the flavor to develop.

If your coffee tends to go cold in your cup before you finish drinking it, try preheating your cup as well as your pot by filling it with hot water and dumping it out just before pouring the coffee.

Martin Hulala, original photo on Houzz

7. Find your morning spot. Somewhere beside a window that gets great natural morning light is ideal. If you like to have a little bite to eat with your morning cup or need room to spread out the paper, the breakfast table is a natural choice. Remember to clear it off the night before — adding a bud vase with flowers would be a nice touch, too. If you tend to be chilly in the morning, keep a soft throw folded over your chair, and add extra cushions if your chair needs it.

Related: These Coffee and Accent Tables Create Energizing Settings

Prefer a more quiet, contemplative start to your day? Carry your coffee back to the bedroom and prop yourself up with plenty of plump pillows, or find a seat in a comfy armchair in a quiet, sunny corner of the house.

Sarah Greenman, original photo on Houzz

8. Personalize your space. Include something that will make you smile first thing in the morning — like the message written on the red chalkboard door in the kitchen shown here. An inspiring art print or even a new favorite mug … even a small detail is often enough to elevate your morning.

Original article written by Laura Gaskill on Houzz

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