How do you like your coffee? Whether it’s a hot, steaming mug of robust Colombian for breakfast, a pick-me-up cappuccino in the afternoon or a dessert espresso after dinner, how you brew it will determine how it tastes. To optimize the quality of every cup of coffee you prepare, fine-tune your brewing routine by incorporating these suggestions from the National Coffee Association.

The Equipment
Thoroughly clean your coffee-making equipment after each use by rinsing it with clear, hot water and drying it with an absorbent towel. No residual coffee grounds should remain.

The Coffee
The quality and flavor of your coffee is not only determined by the brewing process you prefer, but also by the type of coffee you select. Purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted as possible. Fresh roasted coffee is essential to a superb cup of coffee.

The Grind
If you purchase whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible. A burr or mill grinder is preferable because all the coffee is ground to a consistent size. A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest.

The Water
The water you use is very important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or imparts a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine. If you are using tap water let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Be sure to use cold water. Do not use distilled or softened water.

The Ratio of Coffee to Water
Use the proper amount of coffee for every six ounces of water that is actually brewed, remembering that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods. A general guideline is one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.

The Water Temperature During Brewing
Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not over boil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.

The Brewing Time
The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a plunger pot, the contact time should be two to four minutes. Espresso, as the name implies, means that the brew time is short–the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds.

After Your Coffee Has Been Brewed
Brewed coffee should be enjoyed immediately. Pour it into a warmed mug or coffee cup so that it will maintain its temperature as long as possible.