The Full Geek
Brew the Perfect Cup in Four Steps
One: Weigh the beans. Here's why you need a scale: Plastic scoops measure volume, which is unreliable — a light-roasted bean grown at high altitude will be denser than a dark-roasted bean grown in the lowlands. A scale, while geeky, is precise. Start with 25 grams of coffee to 400 grams of water. That's a 16-to-1 ratio. (You can adjust it later if you want a stronger or weaker brew.)
Two: Fire up the kettle. You'll extract the best flavor from water that's between 195 and 205°. "If your water's cooler than that, you'll under-extract, and if it's hotter, you'll over-extract," says Jenny Bonchak, founder of Slingshot Coffee and eastern-division champ of the U.S. Brewer's Cup.
Three: Start the grinder. Do this as close to brewing as possible, says Bill Ristenpart, a chemical engineer and co-founder of the Coffee Lab at the University of California-Davis. "That fresh-ground coffee smell? That's flavor that's no longer trapped inside the cell walls of the bean."
Four: Initiate the brew. Set your brewing device directly on the scale, reset the scale to zero (hit the "Tare" button), and then pour slowly to saturate the grounds evenly. Remember: You're aiming to hit a specific amount of water (400 grams, per the example above). So once you hit that number, you're done. Drink up.