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Be Your Own Barista: 5 Tips for Making Great Coffee At Home

Be Your Own Barista: 5 Tips for Making Great Coffee At Home

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tips for making great coffee at home

In America, an average of 64% of adults admit to drinking coffee every day. Those who do usually depend on that first cup in the morning to get them going for the day. And then maybe a couple (OR TEN!) more cups later on just to make it through the rest of it. That much coffee can really affect your budget. Your budget or time might not allow you to head to a coffee shop every time you need a cuppa. And if your at-home-brewing techniques are uninformed, it’s possible you’re drinking a lot of bad coffee. Maybe nothing can take the place of your favorite brew at your favorite coffee shop. But with just a few tips for making great coffee at home, you can be your own barista! 

If you know how to make coffee-shop-quality coffee at home, you can really stretch your coffee budget. And maybe make it a new hobby while you’re at it. 

Here are 5 tips for making great coffee at home that will make you feel like a barista: 

1. Choose a brewing method.

2. Buy fresh, high-quality coffee beans.

3. Store beans correctly.

4. Grind beans fresh.

5. Use good water at the correct temperature.

Let’s look at these tips in more detail.

1. Choose a brewing method.

One of the most important tips for making great coffee at home is to understand and carefully select a brewing method. There are many different brewing methods and types of equipment out there. The most common and popular methods for daily coffee brewing are: pour-over, french press, and a drip coffee maker.

Each brewing method has its perks depending on functionality, timing, and the actual brew that results.

Pour-over

The pour-over method involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds in a filter into single cups or a larger carafe. Probably the most common and efficient equipment for a pour-over would be a Chemex. This unit is also helpful if you like to have more than one cup.

Since the brewing is done by hand, the timing takes attention. Hot water is poured over the grounds in phases as the coffee drips through the filter at its own pace. Some people look forward to this manual brewing as a morning ritual, others simply do not have time for it. Since the filter catches most of the coffee oils, a pour-over results in a clean and smooth cup of coffee.

French press 

The french press method is an immersion brewing technique using a piece of equipment of the same name. Hot water is poured directly into the coffee grounds and extracts the coffee while immersed all together. After letting it sit and brew in this way, a plunger is slowly depressed. This pushes all the grounds to the bottom, leaving the coffee separate and ready to be poured.

It is important to pour the coffee into a separate carafe if all the coffee will not be used immediately. If the coffee remains sitting on top of the grounds it continues to brew and results in bitter over-extraction. 

Many people enjoy the french press method for its simplicity. All you need is a hot water kettle and the french press itself – no extra pieces or filters. It takes less time and attention than a pour-over, so it is more time-efficient. Also, there is no filter involved to separate the coffee oils. So this method results in a more robust and complex cup of coffee.

Drip coffee maker 

This brewing method is the most efficient method of the three. It requires only that a person puts the water, filter, and grounds in proper compartments. Then the coffee maker is simply turned “on”, and it automates the drip process on its own.

Also called “batch brewing”, this method is better for making larger quantities of coffee than the manual methods. The quality of the brew is not quite as optimal as the manual methods. But many people find the ease and efficiency of the coffee maker to be its most important feature. Many machines even have timers on them and can be completely hands-free in the morning if time is an issue.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you regularly clean your equipment! Coffee oils can build up and tamper with the flavor of your brew. If you use a drip coffee maker, mineral deposits from the water can also accumulate and negatively affect your product. Running vinegar through the brewing cycle once a month can help with that.

2. Buy fresh, high-quality coffee beans.

One of the most fundamental tips for making great coffee at home is to buy fresh, high-quality coffee beans. It seems obvious to say, but if you want good coffee, you have to buy good coffee. 

So stop buying mass-produced coffee in generic grocery stores! Likely that coffee has been on a shelf for months. Once roasted, coffee should be consumed within no more than 30 days. After that amount of time, the fullness of the flavors and complexity is lost. The peak time is between day 7 and day 14 after the roasting date. 

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So when buying coffee, make sure to check out the roast date. Buy in small batches that can be consumed within that optimal time period. Most generic grocery stores do not carry freshly roasted coffee, but some local or independent ones do. Alternatively, you can go check out a local roaster and buy directly from them. They can also help you choose which beans might match your personal taste.

3. Store beans correctly.

Spending a little extra cash to buy freshly roasted coffee beans is only worth it if you keep them fresh! So next in our tips for making great coffee at home is to make sure you store your beans correctly.

Never put your coffee beans in the fridge, as they will absorb all the odors and ruin the flavor. It is also not advisable to store them in the freezer. It provides the opportunity for moisture to accumulate, and moisture is the enemy when it comes to storing your beans. Much of the complex profile of coffee comes from its oils. When you freeze coffee beans it breaks down these oils and affects the flavor of your brew.

It is best to store your coffee beans in an airtight container in a dark, cool area. If you cannot find a place out of direct sunlight, make sure that the container you use is not clear.

4. Grind beans fresh.

Buy whole coffee beans and freshly grind them before every brew. If you usually buy pre-ground coffee, this is one of the most game-changing tips for making great coffee at home.

Grinding the coffee beans increases the surface area allowing for the extraction of the flavors and aromas. But increasing the surface area also exposes it to more air, hastening the oxidation process towards becoming stale. 

It might be convenient to buy pre-ground coffee or to grind larger batches of beans at a time. But the cost of that convenience is tons of flavor complexity. You can avoid this loss by waiting to freshly grind only when you are ready to brew.

5. Use good water at the correct temperature.

One of the tips for making great coffee at home that might surprise you is that the water you use is critical. But it really makes sense. Coffee is 98% water, so the water used to brew the coffee definitely impacts the flavor.

Water that is too soft or distilled with no minerals in it will give the coffee a sour or bitter taste. Alternatively, water that is too hard or tap water that contains contaminants will do the same thing. Coffe experts generally agree that bottled spring water is best. Other acceptable options include activated charcoal/carbon filters on your tap and filtered pitchers.

The temperature of the water is also just as important. Water needs to be hot to draw out the flavors and aromas of the coffee beans. But the temperature of the water impacts the balance of the extraction that occurs. If you use water that is too hot it will over-extract and your coffee will be bitter. If the water isn’t hot enough it will under-extract and you will be left with a weak brew. 

The proper temperature range for optimal extraction is 195°F – 205°F. A temperature within this range can be reached by waiting 30 – 45 seconds after your water boils to pour it. Drip coffee machines are usually programmed to brew at this temperature. 

We hope you start implementing some or all of these tips for making great coffee at home today! Soon you will be enjoying satisfying brews without ever having to leave your house. Or your bathrobe.

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