The number one thing to keep in mind is that coffee is different for everyone! Every person has different ideas of what the best coffee is. Taste preferences and even levels of convenience or available time also factor in when making coffee at home.
For some people, they want great coffee at home but don’t have the time to commit every day to watching and pouring for five minutes in the morning while juggling kids, breakfast, getting ready for work, etc. Besides convenience and time, there is also the difference in taste and mouthfeel (how thick or full the beverage feels). Some may prefer darker, chocolatier brews, while some prefer brighter, more fruit-forward coffees.
For all these reasons, no single brew method can be considered THE ONE to make the best coffee. They each have their own pros and cons. However, there are many other factors that go into making your home brew taste amazing. In this post, I’m going to share the factors that go into making sure your coffee game is on point every time.
Use a quality burr grinder! Having a quality burr grinder will ensure a consistent grind size and even flavor extraction. This ensures you will brew the best coffee every time. I’ll talk more about extraction towards the end of this post but the more consistent in size each ground is, the more flavorful the brew will turn out.
Different brew methods need different size grounds. A French press needs a coarse ground, like sea salt, while a V60 pour over needs a medium ground coffee, like granulated sugar. Also, the optimal time to grind coffee is immediately before brewing, this way it is freshest when brewed. Check out grinders from Baratza or Mahlkonig. The automatic grinders will run up a bit in price, but a nice hand grinder will work just as well.
The standard coffee to water ratio is 1:16. This, of course, varies with taste. If you’re using a scale, it’s easy enough to weigh out the beans and water, but if you are going by volume, begin with 1 to 2 tablespoons for every six ounces. A rounded tablespoon of coffee is ~8 grams. Adjusting this ratio will affect other factors in ways both obvious and subtle, so pay close attention. A standard 12oz cup will need 2-4 tablespoons of coffee. In the shop, I use 20 grams of coffee with 320 grams of water. Going back to flavor extraction, there is a sweet spot with coffee that you want to hit every time. Using too much coffee may give you a sour brew, while using too little, and you may end up with a weak, bitter brew.
Coffee is about 98% water! Use the best water you can get to make the best coffee. It is amazing how much good water can make a huge difference in the final taste of the coffee. You want to use thoroughly filtered water. For the best results, use water that is 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. The flavors from the coffee extract best at this temperature. Though it can vary a bit from one bean or roast to the next, it should be somewhere in that range. Water is important and often overlooked as essential to brewing the best coffee!
A slow-pouring gooseneck kettle is essential in pour over brewers (I love this one); it lets the pourer evenly distribute the water at a consistent rate over all the grounds. This way all of the coffee grounds have a consistent amount of water running through them. A gram scale and thermometer will also help keep your brew consistent. I mentioned earlier how you can use weight to determine how much coffee and water to use. If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, you can bring your water to a boil and remove it from the heat for 30 seconds. At this point it has usually cooled to 195-205 degrees.
A timer is fundamental to brew methods like French press or aeropress, where you are letting the water sit in coffee grounds while brewing. When coffee beans are roasted, they begin to let off gases and degrade. The best time to use beans is less than one month off roast. Beans can last up to a week when kept in an air-tight storage container.
Coffee has many different possible flavors. When the grounds come into contact with hot water, these flavors are extracted. Flavor extraction works like a bell curve. If it is under-extracted (not enough contact time) your coffee will taste more acidic and sour, if it is over-extracted (too much time in contact) your coffee will begin to taste bitter. There are over 200 different flavor notes approved by the Specialty Coffee Association that can be used to describe coffee. Depending on the bean, roast, and brew method, the perfect extraction may end up tasting fruity, chocolaty, sweet, or many other different flavors.
Ah, yes. The beans. Everyone’s favorite thing to talk about. Trust me, using the best beans is important! However, what goes into making the best coffee is 80% water, 20% grind, 20% beans. If the water doesn’t taste good, you’re going to end up with bad coffee. Having locally roasted beans that are only days off the roast and ground with a high quality burr grinder is still going to yield bad coffee. Good beans are locally roasted and bought from a local coffee shop or the roaster themselves. Check the roast date on the coffee bag; ideally, it should be roasted less than a month ago. Light, medium, or dark roast all comes down to taste preference. That goes the same for country and region.
I hope this post has been helpful to you and have a better understanding of how to make the best coffee at home. If you want to learn more, check out our other blog posts or stop by our shop and talk to any of our wonderful baristas, or sign up for an upcoming class.