Coffee from a coffee shop is certainly delicious and convenient, but it can get pricey and properly home brewed coffee can be just as tasty. Brewing and even grinding your coffee beans at home is easier than you may think. With a few fundamental skills, even the most simple coffee making method can produce an artisanal and flavorful cup of joe.
Know the Basics
Learning just a few of the basics about coffee can help your home brewed coffee taste a whole lot better. The size of your coffee grinds plays a major role in the taste of your coffee. If the grind is too coarse, your coffee will be weak and flavorless. If your grind is too fine, the flavors will be over-extracted and taste bitter. For maximum freshness, grind your beans as close to brewing time as possible. As soon as coffee beans have been ground up, they begin to lose flavor. A standard blade grinder works for at home grinding, but it does not always produce the most evenly sized grinds. To achieve perfect grind consistency, use a burr or a mill grinder.
The brewing temperature of your coffee is also important. Ideally, the brewing temperature is between 195°F and 205°F (around 45 seconds off a full boil). When the water gets too hot, the coffee can “burn” and create an unpleasant taste. If the water never reaches 195°F, then the coffee flavor will not be fully extracted and will taste flat. Most new coffee makers automatically regulate the brewing temperature or have a manual temperature adjustment, but older or cheaper models may not. Keep in mind that cold brew coffee does not have any temperature requirements.
Another thing to consider when brewing your coffee at home is how much ground coffee to use. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), the golden rule is a ratio of 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water. Coffee drinkers each have their own taste and strength preferences. Start with the golden ratio and make adjustments to suit your personal taste.
High Quality Ingredients
A delicious cup of coffee starts with fresh, high quality coffee beans. The best option is to purchase coffee beans that have been recently roasted (as opposed to sitting on a store shelf for months). It is also highly recommended that you buy whole coffee beans and grind them at home instead of buying pre-ground coffee. Never refrigerate your coffee beans as they are porous and will absorb the moisture and odors of other foods. To keep your coffee fresh for as long as possible, always store the beans in an airtight container such as glass canning jars or storage containers with rubber gasket seals. Not only should your coffee beans be fresh, but the type of coffee is also something to consider. Look for 100% pure Arabica coffee beans and specialty coffees that specifically define the region or country where they were grown.
As the second most important ingredient, the quality of water that you use to brew your coffee is crucial to the end flavor of your cup of joe. Most often tap water has either a chlorine or minerally odor and taste to it. Hard water will also leave lime deposits and build-ups in your coffee equipment requiring it to be cleaned more often. For the perfect cup of coffee, start with cold, filtered water; avoid distilled or softened water. Bottled spring water or a water filter pitcher works well. There are also activated charcoal/carbon filters that can be attached to your tap.
Coffee Brewing Methods
The home brewing method that is best for you depends on your personal taste, technique and amount of time you want to spend. For example, the drip and press methods take minutes while cold brew coffee needs to steep overnight. The most common and easiest method is the classic household favorite of a drip coffee maker. Simply place the medium to finely ground coffee into a filter, pour water into the back of the machine and press the on button. As the water heats up, it drips onto the coffee grinds and once saturated, gravity will cause the brewed coffee to drip into the coffee pot below. As soon as the coffee is done brewing, turn off the machine to avoid a burnt coffee taste.
Similar to the drip method, yet more hands on and consistent, is the pour over method. Rinse your filter with hot water, then place it in your pourover brewer. Add coffee grounds to the filter. Bring water to a boil in a kettle, wait one minute after removing from the heat and then slowly and steadily begin to pour over the coffee grinds. Starting from the middle, pour in a spiral motion outward. The first pour is called the bloom pour and should be just enough water to evenly saturate the grounds, but not yet dripping through. Wait 30 seconds for the carbon dioxide to escape and then continue to slowly pour the rest of the hot water.
The plunger or press method is commonly used in Europe and has recently become quite popular in the United States. This method does not require any filters, but it does require a French press. Add coarsely ground coffee to the press pot. Boil water, wait one minute after removing from the heat and pour directly onto the coffee grinds. Stir the mixture around and allow to brew for about 4 minutes. Next, gently press down on the plunger to strain and separate the grounds from the coffee and you’re ready to serve. Something many home brewers overlook is the maintenance of their equipment and supplies. Before and after brewing, make sure to thoroughly clean your coffee maker, reusable filter, bean grinder and any other tools you might use. Rinsing and drying your equipment clears out leftover coffee grinds and prevents the buildup of caffeol (coffee oil) which can diminish the taste of future cups of coffee. If you use paper filters in your coffee maker, look for dioxin-free and unbleached or oxygen-bleached filters for maximum flavor.
Remember that coffee is a personal experience and it is up to you to determine how you like it best. Experiment with different grinds, roasts and brewing methods. Try new flavors of coffee beans. Most importantly, have fun with brewing coffee at home.