How to Brew the Best Cup of Coffee

Owner of Joe Coffee demonstrates the pourover method

If anyone knows how to brew a cup of coffee, it’s Jonathan Rubinstein. Family owner of Joe: The Art of Coffee in New York City (with his sister, Gabrielle Rubinstein-Cheong), has opened up eight successful locations and introduced specialty coffee brewing to a booming industry. Now, the duo brings their coffee expertise to print in the book Joe: The Coffee Book, released this Friday.

So how does a guy who lives and breathes coffee drink his cup of joe every morning? (He drinks a maximum of three cups per day.) Rubinstein swears by manual brewing at home. It sounds harder than it is, he says. "There’s something about the simplicity that produces the better outcome, the coffee — it’s really just heating up water and pouring over ground coffee beans," he says. Rubinstein says if you’re willing to invest a bit more in the tools (more than the generic Mr. Coffee machine) and have three minutes, you can drink coffee at home that's just as good what you can get from specialty shops. "If you follow the directions precisely and use good raw ingredients, you can replicate those fancy coffees right at home," he says.

While there are a variety of ways to brew at home — Chemex, French Press, the V60 pourover – Rubinstein breaks down the pourover method exclusively for The Daily Meal. Click to the next page to see his method of homebrewing. 

This is Rubinstein's method for brewing the best cup at home:

1. Invest in the right products. If you’re not using a Chemex (a glass carafe that was born out of the 1950s), you’ll have to get a dripper for your pourover. The other essentials: a kettle, a gram scale (to measure the coffee grounds), and paper filters. All these tools can be bought at a coffee enthusiast shop, much like the Joe location in Manhattan.
2. Boil your water in a kettle; Rubinstein doesn’t give a specific measurement, as you’ll be pouring the water directly into your mug.
3. While the water’s boiling, grind your coffee beans. This is by far the most important step, he says: grinding the beans right before you use them ensures the freshest cup of coffee possible. "Coffee starts going stale two minutes after you grind it," he says. It’s the same as bread — on day one, it tastes great, by day 14, it’s a dramatically altered taste. If you can’t grind before every cup, Rubinstein recommends getting the smallest amount possible of ground-up coffee (1/4 pound) and get a new bag every three to four days.
4. Arrange your dripper with the filter, and pour the boiling water through the filter — with no coffee. What it does, Rubinstein says, is it preheats the filter and makes it stick to the dripper. It also gets rid of that paper taste that can plague your cup.
5. Measure your ground coffee on a scale; depending on how strong you like it, between 20 to 24 grams of coffee.
6. Add the coffee to the filter, and then place the dripper — filled with the filter and coffee — on the scale. Reset the scale back to 0 grams.
7. Let the water you’re boiling cool for about 30 seconds, so it’s just below boiling.
8. When your water is ready, "saturate" the coffee with water until the scale hits about 50 grams. What that does, Rubinstein says, is help the coffee "bloom." You’ll see the coffee start to bubble, meaning the chemical reactions are up to speed and the coffee flavors are rounding out.
9. Let the coffee bloom for 30 to 45 seconds.
10. Continually pour the coffee in small, concentric circles until the scale hits about 340 grams. Do it slowly for about one minute, he says. It will taste much different than if you dumped all the water in at once, as the water extracts the flavors.
11. Remove your filter and dripper, and voilà — you have your cup of coffee.

Lots of little steps, but very little time — the whole process takes about three minutes, Rubinstein says.

The best tip Rubinstein can give for manual brewing newbies? The right product can make or break your cup. Avoid buying beans from the grocery store (as they tend to sit on shelves for weeks) and try a local coffee shop. Ask your barista what beans they have, where they’re from, and what they taste like — if you’re lucky, you might be able to taste them before taking them home. A house blend is a good starter bean for those looking to replicate that coffee shop taste, but are new to brewing. And if your tap water tastes a bit funny, don’t be afraid to use filtered water — as water is 90 percent of the cup of coffee, it’s important it tastes right.

For more coffee demonstrations (including latte art, coffee cuppings, and more), be sure to check out Joe: The Coffee Book.

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