Buying a Coffee Maker

in Brewing Coffee

Question: What coffee maker do you recommend to make HOT coffee. Most do not heat the water hot enough so the coffee is not hot when it comes out even though
the wattage is over 1000. I’m getting tired of buying and returning coffee makers.

Answer: Hi Kathy, Be sure to check out our Coffee Makers Report Card. We started by creating a consumers report card against which to measure the best of the best coffee makers, and then went through the evaluation. You’ll see a description of the report card process by following this link, and then our ranking of the top five coffee makers. The good news is that the top five reflected a broad price range, so although you get what you pay for, you can also get an affordable machine that may not have all the bells and whistles but still makes a good cup of coffee. This section of the site is fairly new, and I would certainly appreciate your feedback.

The 50-Cup Coffee Maker

in Brewing Coffee

Question. How many teaspoons of coffee per cup of water do I use for the big (50 cup) coffee makers?

Answer. The ratio of coffee to water that you use shouldn’t differ based on the size of the coffee maker. Having said that, the big fifty-cup “urns” get mixed reviews as they often run into problems after a year of using them, sometimes with little support from the bigger manufacturer of these. If you were making 50 cups of coffee, consider grinding up 2.5 – 3 pounds of coffee for the job.

Hazelnut in the House

in Buying Coffee

I’ve tried to move away from the flavored coffees. Generally, artificial flavors are added to the mellower beans -like Peruvian coffee- that won’t have a strong natural flavor. After all, why add artificial flavor to an already-flavorful coffee? But what’s more, why artificially flavor any good coffee? Because of this last question, I’ve shyed away from the flavored coffees in place of quality coffees from the right sources that are so good, they don’t need artificial flavor.

But after a long hiatus, I caved and bought my favorite flavored coffee, and probably the coffee that got me into coffee…Hazelnut Coffee. I have to say I forgot how good hazelnut flavoring is with coffee. Because of it, if you already put sugar in your coffee, put in less with flavored coffee, you don’t need to sweeten it as much. Even my wife has been enjoying some, and she’s not quite the enthusiast for Guatemalan, Kenyan, and Arabian Mocha coffee that I am.

My moral: every now and then, relax the rules and buy a coffee that tastes good. I suppose there’s also Hazelnut syrup for coffee that flavors it and sweetens it at the same time.

Gift Ideas in Time for the Holidays

in New Content

I’m pleased to have published two new sections of

  • Coffee Gifts
  • Coffee Subscriptions
  • In time for the holidays, the Coffee Gifts section is meant to give some good ideas to the gift buyer shopping for the coffee lover, or better yet, ideas for you to suggest to those shopping for you. In reviewing the different coffee vendors, I found the Starbucks Store best for Gift Packs.

    First of all, they offer as much as a 33% savings on the same items they sell in their retail stores if you buy it from their website. Secondly, the online Store has a larger selection than most standalone retail locations.

    And introducing Coffee Subscriptions, or recurring delivery of coffee right to your door. These plans allow you to specify a delivery schedule of coffees of your choice at what frequency you want them delivered and in what quantities. Or, trust in the vendor’s pre-arranged selection of their best coffees, and you just decide how frequently you want them delivered. It makes delivery of great coffee automatic so you just set up the schedule and sit back while great coffee is delivered. I found the infamous Peet’s Coffee to be head of the class with their convenient Peetniks Coffee Club. I have personally used Peet’s to set up “coffee tours” for both family and myself personally, so I can vouch for the quality of their Customer Service and just as importantly, their coffee and how fresh it arrived.

    Looking forward to your feedback, either here or by e-mail.

    My Pyrex 4 cup glass perculator

    in Brewing Coffee

    Question: Hi Marc, Can you help me to make better coffee in my pyrex 4 cup glass percolater? It tends to be weak, too light in color and burned, I think. Really bad!! Thanks so much, Wendy Burke.

    Answer: Wendy, I appreciate the question but I’m afraid you won’t like the answer. You can read more about my opinions of the electric perculator, but suffice it to say, a weak and burned flavor is typical of the perculator, regardless of the construction or whether it’s electric or made stove-top. The glass perculator is a unique and interesting feature in the kitchen and unfortunately, makes coffee the same as any perculator: weak and burned. The coffee has been boiled in your perculator, and the drip brewer was designed to compensate for the shortcomings of the electric perculator which was an improvement over the stovetop perculator. The glass perculator may be unique and interesting, but left behind in the ways of making good coffee at home.

    Can a perculator make good coffee?

    in Brewing Coffee

    Question: I recently purchased an electric perculator and I’m not sure how this differs from the drip coffee I typically brew but it seems watered down even though I use the same ratios. Is this typical for this type of process and what would give me the most flavor out of a brew. I hate to have wasted money on the product but should I go back to a regular drip machine?

    Answer: My suggestion would be to go back to the regular drip machine. Unfortunately, I hear all too often from perculator owners that say using the same amount of coffee leads to a weaker coffee in the cup from using the drip brewer. The percolator is almost like charcoal grilling: it has die-hard lovers but has otherwise been relegated to camping trips. The percolator violates what for some is a rule of good coffee, and that is boiled coffee is spoiled coffee. The percolator heats the water to boiling, and forces it through a tube onto the ground coffee in a filter. It all happens too fast for the water to properly absorb enough flavor from the coffee, so this semi-brewed coffee is also heated to the point of boiling and forced again through the tube onto the ground coffee. This is repeated enough that you are boiling coffee, and doing it more than once. While I’m no chemist, I believe this is why people complain of a weaker coffee from the perculator.

    New coffee maker is making coffee worse

    in Brewing Coffee

    Question: I bought a new drip coffee pot, and now, using the same coffee, I have a weak, nasty tasting coffee with an oil slick.

    Answer: Tough to know all the possible reasons why your new coffee maker is making coffee worse without more details on your new maker. The easiest advice is that you should run a ‘cleaning cycle’ through your brewer of two parts water and one part vinegar. Following that, a couple plain water cycles to make sure the vinegar is rinsed out. Vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent, and might eliminate with the nasty taste. Because your coffee is also weak, that could be that the coffee maker is not strong enough to properly extract coffee solids out of the ground coffee and into the pot. You could check the wattage of your new coffee maker. Anything close to 1,000 watts is acceptable, more than that is a good brewer, less than that is not optimal. The oil slick problem might get solved with the vinegar wash, but could also be a defect with the machine. If the wattage is close to 1,000 watts and your vinegar cycle doesn’t improve the coffee, I’d say your coffee maker is defective and should be returned.

    Sugar to cut acidity in coffee

    in Serving Coffee

    Question: Does adding a little sugar to coffee reduce the acidity? It works for tomato sauces, so I wondered about coffee. — Sharon

    Answer: Hi Sharon, using sugar to cut an acidic taste in tomato sauce definitely offsets using one of the other four basic tastes: sweetness. While it can make something taste less acidic, it doesn’t actually neutralize the acidity. The four basic tastes are bitter, salty, sour, and sweet. Sourness is the basic taste that picks up acidity, and sugar cuts that with another countering basic taste. Sugar is purely a personal taste for coffee drinkers, and why not? It’s as popular a drink because it can be seasoned.

    Want strong, but it’s brewing weak

    in Brewing Coffee

    Question: I just found your website while searching for coffee brewing methods. I’m a college student at Virginia Tech entering my Junior year right now and I’ve just moved into an apartment and invested in the most basic Black & Decker coffee-maker I could find (it’s a 975 watt model for reference). I found out that I really enjoy coffee over the summer and it really makes me more productive.  I bought some Starbucks ground “Sumatra” at the local grocery store since I don’t have a coffee grinder. While I realize this coffee is supposed to be “Extra Bold”, frankly, I find the coffee coming out of the coffeemaker a little too weak for my tastes. I really like a coffee with a complex flavor that packs a whallop. The flavor of the coffee itself is definitely not a problem, in fact, I like it a lot (it smells unbelievable for one thing), but I’m already using four “heaping tablespoons” per four cups as per the instructions and honestly, the coffee is just “OK”. I didn’t want to use more because there’s already a decent amount in there and I think I’d just be wasting it if I put in more.  Thanks a lot. — John

    Answer: First off, John, the wattage of your brewer is very relevant.  Most home brewers are around 850 watts, the ideal is 1,000 watts or more so your machine should be fine.  If you like a strong coffee, I’d suggest something closer to two tablespoons per cup so a total of eight if you’re making four cups.  You wouldn’t be wasting the additional ground coffee that you put in and you should find it is more to your liking. Sumatran coffee is among the most highly regarded and you’ve already noticed its strong aromatic qualities. The fact that it smells great and you are picking up its flavor means that the coffee itself -although pre-ground and cared for by a grocery store- is fine. Otherwise, there’s no accounting for a defective machine and I would suggest if your brew cycle is less than 8-10 minutes that the water is not being heated enough before drip-brewing through the grinds. Starbucks is grinding the beans for you, so I’ll rule out that it’s ground too coarse. I hope this helps and I’d like to hear how it turns out.

    So many coffees in the world

    in Buying Coffee

    Question: You may have covered this in your content, but I’m sometimes a bit intimidated at coffee shops because I’m not sure how Kenyan coffee may differ from Colombian. Because of my ignorance, I often play it safe by going with Colombian, but maybe I’m missing out on other growers. Could you provide a primer by region to direct us to the different qualities? — Jacques

    Answer: More than happy to, Jacques. The marketing of Colombian coffee has been outstanding and certainly makes it stand out, but it is by no means the only quality or even best coffee in the world. Check out Different Kinds of Coffee for the primer you’re looking for.  To get you started, my personal favorite has always been coffee from Guatemala and I’ll choose it first.  It has a bold flavor.  It has a complex flavor, which means for those with a sophistocated sense of taste, that there’s alot going on when you taste it – floral, spicy, sometimes fruity depending on the coffee.  It is usually a full-bodied coffee which means it doesn’t sit in your mouth like skim milk.  But, I’m just one person.  Check out Different Kinds of Coffee to learn about many of the coffees of the world.

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