Food & dining


The secrets to a perfect cup of coffee

Erik Modahl of Beantrust
TEDx Cambridge
Erik Modahl of Beantrust

For Erik Modahl, it seems the best part of waking up really is the coffee in your cup. The craft coffee service entrepreneur says his goal is to “revolutionize culture through old-world hospitality. ” As the owner of Beantrust, Modahl designs customized coffee programs for Boston-area workplaces like Somerville’s Greentown Labs and Cambridge Innovation Center. Modahl also provides coffee, and conversation around the beans, at local events.

For Modahl, something as simple as enjoying a great cup of coffee allows us to “pause, have conversation, and actually listen to one another.” He believes this ritual is an antidote to our “fast-paced, data-driven world.”

A passionate connoisseur, Modahl has some advice for brewing at home: First, he says, you must start with fresh beans from a trusted roaster: “There are about 1,000 volatile smells. It’s incredibly complex.”


You’ll be able to judge the freshness for yourself when you put that first splash of hot water over the ground beans to let them bloom. “If you get fresh coffee — within two weeks [of roasting] — then it will bubble up. It’s just a signature of what you are looking for. So the visual is all the bubbles, even more so than pancakes when they are ready to flip,” says Modahl.

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And he says adding the hot water yourself is important. He recommends using a pour-over method — like Chemex or Clover — rather than a drip machine. “You have control over extraction. Control over temperature of water. You have control over producing an excellent cup, and it’s also involving you in the experience. It’s not: Push a button and go away.”

Modahl says 190 degrees is the best temperature for your water, and 1:16 is the appropriate ratio for coffee to liquid, which is the equivalent of about 20 grams of coffee for a strong cup.

It might sound precise, but Modahl assures the process is not difficult. “It becomes habit. And it’s very . . . accessible and very easy to do. My promise is that everybody can do a pour-over and brew an excellent cup of coffee that will start their day off right.”

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Catherine Smart can be reached at

A previous version of this story misspelled Erik Modahl’s last name.