December 17th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Wheels up for the weekend! We're fixin' to clock out, re-swaddle ourselves in approximately eighteen layers of clothing and bust a move to a slew of holiday soirees this evening. And tomorrow? We’re going to need a big cup of coffee.

To help us get our optimal weekend brew on is Lucy Valena, the owner of Voltage Coffee and Art in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now - where'd that other mitten go?

Five Things You Need to Know to Make an Awesome Cup of Coffee: Lucy Valena

1. Making not-so-great coffee is easy, fast and cheap.
"Making awesome coffee costs a little more, takes learning and practice. There are no short cuts. However, like fine wines, beers, cheeses, and other gourmet food products, the cost and time is always always always worth it."

2. Great coffee starts with great beans.
"The fresher the beans are, the better the resulting cup. Look for coffee that was roasted within seven to ten days from the day you buy them, and try to limit your purchase to what you can consume within a week. The best place to look for fresh beans is your neighborhood locally owned, quality-driven coffeehouse. Talk to the baristas - anyone serious about coffee is always excited to talk about it. If you don't have one in your area, buy directly from a roaster online."

3. Coffee is best prepared within minutes (or better yet, seconds) after grinding.
"You're never going to be able to make a great cup of coffee if you have those beans ground at the store when you buy them. Spend a little money on a good quality grinder. Look for an adjustable burr grinder - there are plenty of relatively cheap, effective ones on the market."

4. To make a truly awesome cup of coffee, you're going to have to lose the automatic drip machine.
"If you have to use an automatic drip, get one that brews directly into a thermal carafe instead of a heated pot. Allowing coffee to sit on a heater after it's been brewed will only burn it. If you’re not married to your automatic drip machine, there are plenty of exciting manual brewing options to choose from, and there is an endless supply of information online. Pour-over, Chemex, and French press are all great methods that can yield great results."

5. And serve!
"To get the most flavor out of your coffee, drink it mid-morning, before lunch, when your palate is at its most sensitive. In the end, you are the only person who can decide whether a coffee is delicious or not, it's all a matter of personal preferences."

Watch Your $$$$$ Saturdays at 1 p.m.  and Sundays at 3 p.m. EST

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Business and Farming News • Coffee • News • Sip • Small Business • Think

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Shell

    Once you go high quality espresso machine, you never go back.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  2. VegasRage

    To make a truly awesome cup of coffee, you're going to have to lose the automatic drip machine? That's a lie! All you need to do is get a swiss gold filter and lose the paper filters. Then add Peet's Coffee and you can have a perfect cup, 90% of all other coffee's are píss water in comparison.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  3. coffediet

    Gotta have my Bunn drip coffe maker :-D And good quality water–I use the bottled stuff instead of tap water for my coffee. Use any quality bean roasted to your preference, I grind my own–just what I need for a pot, REMOVE THE BASKET WHEN IT'S DONE, and viola–wonderful coffee. Especially if I can get beans from Coffee Heaven in Cave Junction, OR :-D

    December 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  4. MAVVV

    I like it hot and black.....just like my women. Anything white and sugary and creamy makes it ruined.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  5. old school

    7-11 coffee after it's been there for a few hours ..... anything else is just playing around ....

    December 17, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
    • sharug

      lol...loooove it!

      December 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  6. fob

    I used to visit my inlaws once a week after mass and have a cup of the worst tasting coffee ever. Well, I finally figured out why when I lived with them for a year. If there is leftover coffee at the end of the day (from 6am in the morning) my MIL saves it and then reheats it, pretty much until scalding on the stove the next day and will add it to what is left of the coffee that was brewed that day. Really, very bad.

    December 17, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  7. JBJingles_from the humble abode

    They gave us a coffee press in our cabin on a cruise ship once, and I made an absolute mess of it, still don't know how to use one, so I stick to a regular drip machine, works fine for me but I am not picky, but I do love Starbucks coffee from the store, too strong in the store...

    December 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  8. Starbuxsux

    What AM said at 7:18 pm.

    December 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  9. AM

    1) Don't buy Starbucks. Totally over-roasted. Coffee tastes burnt before it's even made.
    2) Yes, lose the automatic drip coffee maker but you don't need anything fancy. Get a percolator – Hamilton Beach makes them, and occasionally you'll find them in places like Target. They're only slightly more expensive than automatic coffee makers.
    3) If you put anything in your coffee, avoid non-dairy creamers or anything like "Coffeemate." Please.

    December 17, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
    • Shell

      percolator, you have got to be kidding, talk about burnt tasting. Those things over extract.

      December 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  10. Dorothy Swithenbank

    If you really want fresh beans, roast your own. I buy high-quality green coffee beans over the internet. It only takes about 5 minutes (depending on the darkness of the roast) to roast the beans. Coffee bean roasters are readily available and cost less than $100.

    December 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  11. Xelapaul

    I am amazed that they didn't mention the quality of the water you use. It took me years to figure out that a certain awful tasting coffee (found in many states) results from making weak coffee with tap water. The chemicals kill germs but will overpower all the good suggestions above.

    December 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  12. wendy

    i have a grinder and starbucks beans in the freezer for me ole percolater for when my friends come over. i dont drink coffee myself – only when hunting – but my friends say my coffee is most delish! i do happen to love the smell of it tho!

    December 17, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  13. runinguy

    if everyone will have a different opinion on what exactly constitutes "good coffee" how can you give specific recommendations on how to achieve "good coffee'?

    December 17, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • Pamela

      So very very true. Hate French roast and Starbucks. But fresh beans and fresh grinding is kind of common sense.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  14. Lisa

    The only way to make a great cup of coffee is one at a time with a coffee cone. Forget those Kuereg machines, they're terrible. Cones are the way to go.

    December 17, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  15. MarshallM

    Something the author left out: For a smoother cup of coffee, if you do use a drip coffeemaker, be sure to remove the grounds basket as soon as it is finished brewing. Leaving the grounds basket in place allows the coffee's oils to drip into the pot, making it taste more bitter.

    December 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • coffeenerd

      Wait– that's what the people who (wrongly) think a french press is the way to go say is the best thing about a french press. Get all those "essential" coffee oils unfiltered...

      I actually agree with you... this is part of why french presses are so beloved by faux coffee nerds. The French press was invented because the French historically only had access to awful coffee, and the press was the way that they could get the most bang for the franc, as opposed to making good coffee.

      Again, no harm done– enjoy your french presses. I just think that it's funny that the french press somehow became fashionable among europhiles the US as a sign of good coffee when it is really a sign of crummy coffee.

      December 18, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  16. Tazer

    Great article! I actually purchased a grinder for my parents for Christmas. I'll give them this article too so they know what to do with it, ha.

    December 17, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  17. Thurgood Jenkins

    I recently purchased a Keurig K-Cup coffee maker it makes great coffee! For real for real!!!

    December 17, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  18. Dave Wittekind

    A few more coffee tips, and a mini poster to download-

    December 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  19. The Witty One

    Not sure if this will get me beaten or not....but I like weak coffee. Not like clear weak but when there is a cup or two left in the carafe, it is a nice dark brown. About 4 tablespoons for 10 cups.

    December 17, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • ApeZoo

      I hope you are kidding. You have to treat yourself better.

      December 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
    • The Witty One@ApeZoo

      Nope....I can do strong coffee...espresso is great, just not my preferred.

      December 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • Starbuxsux

      Just use an 8th of a teaspoon of Folger's instant. It's double d-lish.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  20. Tazer@Wendy

    Left you a candy recipe on the Klatsch

    December 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • wendy

      got it, thanks!! :)

      December 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  21. wendy

    and this is as early as i was able to get here!

    December 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  22. dalis

    Many people still swear by the MokaPot. Easy, quick, economical.

    December 17, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  23. coffeenerd

    It always amuses me when people think that french press makes "excellent" coffee, just because it is European and, well, French.

    December 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
    • kysthrnbelle

      Well, not exactly, it is because it actually DOES make excellent coffee. I wouldn't trade mine for any $200+ machine, ever.

      December 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
    • ApeZoo

      French press is better because you can monitor to temperature of the water. Also, when you plunge, essential oil is forced out of the coffee and circulated through out. Expert roasting and absolutely fresh beans are essential.

      December 17, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • Starbuxsux

      French press coffee is good and easy to make.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
    • Whoa There

      French press is the way to go. Nothing gets filtered out.

      Bring the water to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and wait a minute to a minute-and-a-half before pouring it over the coffee.

      Four minutes later, heaven awaits.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  24. J.B.Jingles@RH

    Thanks and curties politely...

    December 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  25. J.B.Jingles

    LOL – I was lazily hitting refresh and it appeared...funny I can't even see the pic, but I looked her up on another browser, so my answer stands! LOL Have a great weekend, I'm outa here.

    December 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • Dave the 1st@JBJ

      Yeah, I was in a meeting too, was expecting 5:30 again.
      She's testing us. Bet they are laughing their azzes off!!!

      December 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  26. Skottikins

    Darn meetings. I thought for sure id be back to my desk in time!!!

    December 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  27. The Witty One@Kat

    What the?!?!?

    I was expecting 5:30 again!

    And no here as well. Way to go JBJ!!!

    December 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  28. Kat Kinsman

    You're late, folks!

    December 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Hesitated juuuust a sec there...

      December 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
      • Tazer@Kat Kinsman

        You must be doing this on purpose. Admit it!

        December 17, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Warms my heart to see all parties involved these days. Also warms my heart at the attempt to cheat and Kat still loses to her minions. LOLz

      December 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  29. J.B.Jingles

    No, no, and um no.

    December 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • RichardHead

      I knew it. Damn West coast time. Well played.

      December 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
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