5 tips to getting the perfect cup of coffee

michele mcdonald for the boston globe/file

For many of us, a morning cup of coffee can set the tone for the rest of the day. But what about a really, really good cup of coffee? We asked Boston’s Gracenote Coffee founder and director Patrick Barter for his five tips on how to turn a cup of joe into something extraordinary.

1 Get the grind down: An underestimated piece of equipment in your brew arsenal is a proper coffee bean grinder. Barter recommends the Baratza Encore, a pricy (approx. $129), but entry level burr grinder that “lasts for a long time.” Cheaper versions, he says, will leave you with “quickly diminishing returns.”

2 Every drop counts: Barter says it’s important to pay close attention to the breakdown of your blitzed blend. “You’re trying to control the amount of extraction,” he explained. “If you have boulders and sand in a spectrum of grind particle sizes, the small ones will get over extracted and get bitter, and bigger ones will seem sour and watery. And then you’ll have ones in the middle that are sweet, detailed, interesting, and delicious. The more uniform the grind is the more uniform the extraction will be.”


3Make it hot: Barter says the ideal starting temperature for water for coffee is 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It falls in line with the standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Coffee Quality Institute.

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4 Weigh it out: Another tool to try is a scale. Barter says being as precise as possible in your coffee and water measurements and ratio makes a world of difference. “Think of it like baking, if you’re not exact, you don’t get the results you want.”

5 Trial and error: Barter makes his coffee using a Chemex, with 45 grams of coffee, 750 milliliters of 202-degree water for 4 minutes and 45 seconds. He swears by it. He also knows you can only get to an exact formula you like by experimenting with the equipment you have. “It’s a process everyone needs to go through to feel like they’re participating,” he said. “You can make meaningful and specific changes, and taste the results. Even if you only do it one time, you can understand how things work and enjoy your coffee interaction even more because it doesn’t feel random anymore.”

Rachel Raczka

Rachel Raczka can be reached at