Tahoe top 5: How to make a great cup of coffee | SierraSun.com

Tahoe top 5: How to make a great cup of coffee

Cassandra Walker
cwalker@sierrasun.com, @snow1cass
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in Truckee roasts pesticide-free coffee beans daily, in-house.
Courtesy Sean Field |

For many North Lake Tahoe locals the day hasn’t “officially” begun until they’ve had their morning coffee.

In the interest of doing your roast-of-choice the most justice, local coffee experts have shared their top 5 tips for brewing the perfect cup of coffee to start your day on the right foot or have the smoothest after-lunch, pick-me-up possible.

Drew Taylor is the owner and roaster of Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in downtown Truckee’s historic Brickelltown district.

“Everyone’s preference is different and you should make coffee the way you like it,” Taylor said.

“Here at Dark Horse we opt for the pour-over or French press methods; today we’re going to demonstrate the pour-over method for a really crisp, clean cup of coffee.”

Taylor was the first employee of the Dark Horse shop owner in San Diego, and has since partnered with his former employer to open the location in Truckee. Dark Horse Truckee upholds the in-house roasting mission as its sister locations in San Diego, but offers guests a unique, laid-back vibe.

Jocylynn Breeland is a coffee expert and judge of brew competitions featuring roasters from around the world.

“Jocylynn was the first girl to teach me to pour coffee,” Taylor said.

She has recently moved to Truckee and is at Dark Horse to stay, bringing immense knowledge of growing, roasting and extracting coffee to the local shop.

“There’s so much detail you can get into when brewing a cup of coffee,” Breeland said.

“The pour-over method reduces sediment you’ll get from a French press, for example, it’s the most precise extraction method. It’s also a great way to customize your drink; right now we have five roasts to choose from.”

Taylor and Breeland briefly explained the depth of strategy people implement to create the ultimate cup of coffee.

There are theories on everything from which minerals are in the water you’re brewing with, to the exact size that coffee beans should be ground.

“I tell everyone the same thing,” Breeland said. “Enjoy your coffee, play with the ratios, but don’t go ‘Best in Show’ dog competition crazy with it.”

Before preparing competition-grade coffee, they’ve shared their top five, easy-to-follow tips that are sure to enhance your next at-home java experience.

To compare your concoction to the real thing, head to Dark Horse Coffee Roasters on West River Street, where guests are welcomed to the coffeehouse with delicious aromas, perfectly prepared drinks and a fun atmosphere — you might even be lucky enough to catch some live, local music like the Dead Seagulls on Sunday, May 21, at 6 p.m.

Foolproof Coffee Steps

1. Freshness & Quality

Dark Horse’s pesticide-free coffee is roasted in 5-pound batches, every other day, to ensure the beans’ freshness.

Immediately after roasting there is carbon dioxide buildup that releases from the beans.

Allow at least one to two days after roasting before you brew; even five to seven days after roasting will yield a delicious cup of coffee without the gassy flavor.

Keep in mind: Coffee has a long shelf life but will begin to lose flavor and taste less alive after about two and a half weeks.

2. Proper Storage

Coffee’s biggest villains are time, oxygen and heat. Keeping whole or ground coffee beans in the bag they come in works perfectly, just be sure to close it after each use.

Your best bet is to store coffee beans or grinds in an airtight container. It’s important to clean the container frequently to keep the natural oils from spoiling and ruining the coffee.

Keep in mind: Direct sunlight and heat fluctuation will degrade the flavor of your coffee. Baby your coffee; keep it out of direct light, heat, and air for best flavor.

3. Grind Size

There is much debate on whether one should grind coffee directly before brewing, or in advance. Grinding coffee beans each morning becomes ritual and certainly yields a fresh cup of coffee.

The important piece is to be sure that whenever you grind, the beans are crushed consistently.

The best type of grinder is a burr grinder because it will pulverize the beans for optimum extraction. Blade grinders slice the beans at different sizes, which will change the flavor profile of the brewed coffee.

Whether you grind just before brewing or weeks in advance, be sure you’re getting the most consistent grind possible.

Keep in mind: Have the coffee shop grind your beans, simply store the ground coffee as previously mentioned and you’re good to go.

4. Temperature

When using an electric coffeemaker you don’t have control over the water temperature, an important part of making the perfect cup of coffee.

Water boils at 212 degrees, which is too hot for brewing coffee – you’ll end up baking your ground coffee beans after they’ve already been roasted.

In higher elevations like Truckee, water boils at closer to 200 degrees, so Dark Horse keeps their water at a steady 198 degrees to keep from over-cooking the beans.

Keep in mind: When perfecting your at-home pour-over, be sure to let boiling water sit for two to three minutes before pouring it over your grounds.

5. Slow & Steady

Soak the filter prior to brewing and discard the water to remove any paper flavor that could interfere with your coffee. The filter will also adhere better to the dripper for a cleaner pour.

Once you’ve added your grounds to the soaked filter, Dark Horse recommends a 1:13, 1:14 or 1:15 ratio, which translates to four tablespoons of ground coffee to every 12 ounces of water.

If you’re using a ceramic cup for your freshly brewed coffee, heat the cup with your warm water before pouring coffee into the cup.

Once it’s time to pour the water over your grounds, level the grounds in your dripper and use a narrow-spout teapot, if possible, to control the water’s flow into the dripper (otherwise, prepare to pour a small stream over the next three minutes).

You’ll want to pour a slow, steady stream directly in the center of the grounds instead of around the dripper or French Press, for optimum extraction. First add a small splash of water and wait 30 seconds to prime the grounds for infusion.

After 30 seconds has passed, pour a slow, steady, small stream of water directly in the center of the grounds for about three minutes of total brewing time and enjoy.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.

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