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Coffee (Recipe: how to brew the perfect cup of coffee)


Guest post and photos by Sarah in Boston

Like every dad, mine gave his opinion freely, but there were some things he considered life skills. He couldn't understand how you would ever be able to get through life without them.

These included: how to drive a car while shifting between gears so you could glide through curves and down hills instead of using the brake; staying at a consistent speed on the highway to conserve gas (in the days before cruise control); parallel parking in three turns of the wheel. 

He also felt very strongly about his coffee. This wasn't about buying expensive coffee or the perfect coffee pots -- just the basics on how to brew a strong cup of coffee. And whether you planned to use the brewed coffee in a recipe or drink it straight, the method was still the same.


How to brew the perfect cup of coffee

One saucepan. (My dad preferred a dinged-up aluminum one, but I like my Revere copper bottom pan.)

Measure one scoop of coffee for the pan, and then one for each cup, although I find no more than two at a time works best.

Dad used A&P's Eight O' Clock coffee, but I prefer Bustelo. I stumbled on it when I moved to Boston in 1974. It is a smooth espresso coffee that can serve as either a medium afternoon coffee, or can serve up an espresso punch. Artists love it for its affordable price and colorful cans; many a studio is decorated with the cherry yellow of Bustelo cans filled with paint bruches and supplies. I use them to store small sculptures. I must have hundreds of them in storage. At the time, many of the artists I knew used the cans for decoration or as paint cans and brush holders. In 1974 a pound of Bustelo cost $1.80 or so. Even though the can is now 10 ounces, you can still buy it for $2.50.

Use a cup of water for each cup being prepared. He used tap water, and I do, too, since Boston City water is considered a very good-tasting cup of water.

Pour the water into the sauce pan to boil. Once bubbles start to form on the bottom of the pan, slowly add in the measured coffee. Let it come to a rolling boil for one minute, then remove from the heat.

You will see coffee grinds floating on the surface, so add a small amount of ice cold water. This will force the grinds to the bottom. You can either pour it directly into cups for drinking, or pour it through a small tea strainer into your cup for sipping. The addition of the cold water will make it the perfect drinking temperature.

My recipe is much simpler. I use the efficient one-cup drip method. By varying the amount of coffee between one level teaspoon or one heaping teaspoon, I can tinker with the strength of the cup.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Espresso sorbet
Coffee spice cake
Barefoot Contessa outrageous brownies
Chocolate truffles

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I use a Bunn coffee maker and drink starbucks italian blend.....4 sccops for 10 cups. Since I dont use milk or sugar, the coffee taste is very good. The problem with your 'recipe' for the 1-2 pot a day drinkers is that its too time consuming. If one really wants a cup of 'real' coffee one needs to start with a green bean....if not it hardly makes a difference how you brew it

I'm all about the coffee maker too -- I find that one of life's cruel tricks is making coffee before you've had coffee.

But I like you're dad's technique when making coffee concentrate -- for either baking or having iced coffee at the ready.

Ahh! Though I can't stand coffee, its taste or smell, I am entertained by the rituals coffee drinkers live by. Your's sounds like a melding of memories and taste which, in my opinion, makes for the best brew! Enjoy!

I love this...he's right about life skills...I would like the parralel parking lesson please!

I grew up in Colombia, South America so I've been drinking coffee since I was conceived. I remember drinking coffee as a small child, my favorite was a 'Cafe con Leche' that they make, it's so delicious.

My favorite coffee recipe now that I'm all grown up and living in the U.S. is to tell Mr Chiot's (my husband and personal barista) that I'd like a latte or a cappucino. About 15-20 minutes later I have a delicious cup of coffee.

We actually like to use freshly roasted espresso beans either from Whole Foods or our local coffee house (they roast their own). We also use raw milk from a local farm. I prefer my coffee with some milk and a tiny bit of sugar. MMMMM, now I think I need a second cup this morning.

Thanks so much for the great comments, as you can tell I don't drink volumes of coffee anymore so one cup in the morning and possibly in the afternoon is about it for me. Although I'm finding just mentioning the word coffee makes my nose twitch - I think I need a cup now.

My brother would love this post! He can't get enough coffee but it has to be good. I like your method.

Cowboy coffee!
We like our Bodum for regular coffee, with a dark, oily roast. And have an espresso machine for a quick hit.
Hubby is quite the coffee fanatic, grinds the beans at 5am every morning. Now he wants a roaster!

Another synchronicity: This week, a local tv station, KOFY, pulled my name out of a hat & sent me a bag of coffee [KOFY-coffee, get it? ;)] I was psyched because I don't usu. drink coffee but it's been so hot, iced coffee would be a nice change from iced tea & cold water. But, the blend has a good portion Ethiopian which is too wine-y for my taste. It's ok hot, but just can't use it iced. Anyways, cold brew is definitely the way to go for iced coffee: stir grounds into a bowl of cold water until completely saturated. Let sit a couple days (in the fridge because the heat encourages mold) then, either strain or ladle out. I like the clean cup of filtered coffee, but some folks think the particulate matter enhances the experience. Either way, about a million times better than cooling off hot coffee!

PS to Natashya: If you've got the patience, roasted to order is the best! I used to work for a roaster. Wow! In fact, having to go back to beans from the store/coffee house is the main reason coffee is no longer my beverage of choice. A guy I met in college, learned to make authentic Turkish coffee, which includes roasting the beans. If you've got a good fan in your stove hood, you can roast beans in a heavy pan (keep the beans moving!) There's a knack to it, so DH'd have several batches of mediocre to unusable beans before he becomes proficient. But then he'll be a java god. :0

Such a great topic! There is nothing like a delicious, fresh cup of coffee!

I really, really want to try that coffee now. Wonder if I can buy it in Nashville? May have to order it online?

Bustelo - our very favorite coffee and we use it everyday. We also have the stove top Italian espresso maker that I see in your pantry.

Sometimes we'll sprinkle a little bit of sugar and anise seeds in the grounds before brewing. Gives it an interesting flavor.

I'm actually glad you posted this. I suck at making coffee and therefore always go out for it. My parents bought me a really nice maker and it just sits there.


You're a hoot!


Wouldn't you know it? I'm a tea drinker!

Wow! This is so cool. I have never heard of making coffee this way. I will give it a try and hats off to your dad for teaching you a very important and needed recipe!

I do french press coffee - boil water in a kettle, pour in half the water, stir then add the second half of water, wait 5 mins and you got coffee. The other thing is that I only buy estate (please don't hate me). The reason for this is that with estate coffee the growers get all the profit rather then the coffee brokers.

Thanks everyone for all the great comments, its true, I do love coffee. And, yes I to have an expresso machine, I bought it with my first big art grant - its about 20 years old but still makes a great cup of coffee. And Maris/Nashville, if you can't find Bustelo let me know I'll be glad to send you a package --

I have never tried coffee this way. On the weekends I am a french press type of guy and during the week I am a late screaming at the coffee maker to brew type of guy.

I will have to look for Bustelo but it is going to be hard for me to switch from my local favorite place for coffee since they do an amazing job of roasting and blending.

I love the ritual around brewing coffee. A Irish poet friend of mine used to bless his French press in Latin. Bustelo is new to me- we'll have to look for it. I used to love Madalla de Oro back in art school. Thanks for the memory.

Yummy Bustelo!!! I Love making Cafe Con Leche!!! The Aroma WOW !!!

Thanks for the memory. My father boiled his coffee with milk in a pan.


Love the manner in which you make coffee. I guess I've probably had it when visiting but never knew that's the way you were preparing it. One coffee experience I'll never forget and that I'd like to share. and that was on a visit to Cuba, in a small village on the western coast. While waiting for our lunch at a private home that served meals, we had just finished a delicious lunch and were asked if we wanted a cup of coffee. "Oh yes, we replied!" The owner's sun climbed a bush/tree on the patio where we were sitting, got some beans, went in and roasted and ground them and made us the best tasting coffee I've ever had. Within an hour we, I swear to the gods, tripping from coffee. What a rush. And clean and smooth, no bad crashing there.

I live in southeast Florida and where I work is 95% Cuban. They have a specific method that only slightly varies depending who's brewing. They use Bustelo too. They take a small metal urn looking mini pitcher, heat some water with a scoop of Bustelo in a small brewer, usually found in the supermarket's near the coffee. They put a small amount of dry coffee in the little pitcher with about a tablespoon of sugar, depending on taste some use less, teaspoon maybe, wait for the rest of the water to steep over into the top part of the brewer. Than they pour a bit of the brewed hot coffee water into the metal mini pitcher with the dry scoop in that one and stir it vigorously, I mean ferociously, for a good 2 minutes. This makes that portion foam up with air bubbles, the sugar helping as well as it dissolves taking the edge off the pot of coffee. They take the lid off of the brewer and slowly steadily pour the frothed part back into the brewer, allowing it to lay on top of the rest. Once it completes brewing, they pour it off into small cups like the doctor gives your meds in. "Vasolitos" little plastic thimble cups, serve 'em up till they run out. They do that automatic as soon as they're in the door, again at break, none at lunch, again at midday break, and once again when second shift us about to start. If you're new to it, they go out of their way to accommodate you first. Hmm, its quite good and potent, but the frothed helps. Even the nonsmokers suggest nothing goes together like Cuban coffee and a cigar or cigarette...it's quite good.

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