As a coffee lover, you might have often wondered if there’s something you could do to make your coffee better every morning. Maybe you’re used to grabbing a coffee while you’re out and don’t have much experience brewing your own, or maybe you’re just looking for that little something extra in your otherwise perfect process. Either way, there’s always room for improvement and everyone deserves to drink a better cup of coffee.
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the things our team thinks are most important to keep in mind when brewing your own coffee. These tips will not only help you to brew better coffee at home, once you instill the best habits in yourself, you’ll be enjoying your premium brew every morning with breakfast!
Find the right coffee
The old adage “Trash in, trash out” couldn’t be more true when it comes to coffee. If you’re starting with low quality coffee beans, then you can only expect low quality coffee as a result. For great coffee, you want high-quality beans, a fresh roast and the perfect brew. While the brew is on you to get right, the beans and the roast are likely to be brand-dependent.
Ideally, you’ll want the freshest roast possible. The over 800 fragile oils in coffee will start to become stale (due to exposure to oxygen) as soon as five days after roasting. This means that you want your coffee roasted fresh - not sitting on the shelf at a store for weeks on end! In the United States, 95% of coffee sold to the consumer is already stale when purchased.
Keep out the air, moisture and heat
Coffee is perishable. We wish it weren’t, but the truth is the way you store your coffee matters - a lot! As mentioned previously, exposing your coffee to oxygen after roasting will gradually degrade its quality over time. Keeping your coffee away from air and other degrading factors such as moisture, heat and light, can preserve the freshness of your coffee for longer. This doesn’t mean to store your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer though! Too much cold can be a bad thing as well.
Too much moisture can cause your coffee to develop a sour taste. Storing coffee in the freezer can introduce moisture as the air condenses and expands. Taking your coffee in and out of the freezer is sure to introduce enough moisture to sour your coffee over time. Your best bet is to store coffee in the bags it comes in (most bags have a valve to release pressure but not let air in) or kitchen canister that is opaque and air tight. This will ensure you are storing your coffee in the safest way possible to extend its freshness.
Store as whole beans
Coffee is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture, odors and flavors from the surrounding air. Depending on how often you enjoy a cup of coffee, you may want to consider storing your beans whole and grinding them yourself as part of the brewing process. Storing whole beans can decrease the amount of moisture and outside aromas that your coffee may absorb. Additionally, some people claim that grinding your coffee right before you brew it brings out more flavors than preparing it ahead of time - this could be due to the degradation of the grounds in the latter scenario.
When deciding whether to store your coffee as whole beans or grounds, you may want to consider a few things. How often do you buy coffee? If you are buying in bulk only a few times a year, definitely store your coffee as beans. If you pick up a 12oz bag every week, then you can probably get away with pre-ground. You should also consider your patience. For many of us, grinding coffee beans in the morning before we’ve had coffee might be too much to handle :)
Use a scale
Consistency is king. If you want a perfect cup of coffee every time, you need to lay off the guesswork. Many people use scoops or spoons to measure out their coffee, but this can lead to drastically different results depending on how “heaping” the spoonfuls might be. Some days the coffee may taste weak and watery and other days it may taste like gritty sludge.
The best way to avoid this is to keep a scale next to your coffee equipment. Sit a cup on the scale and tare it. Then measure out the same amount of coffee into the cup each day. If you fill your coffee maker up to the same line with water, you should start getting consistent results immediately. Play around with different ratios and take note of the varying flavors and textures to find the perfect combination of water and coffee ground for you.
Find the right grind
It’s important that you use the right grind for your coffee machine. Using too coarse or fine of a grind can have drastic impacts on the flavor and texture of your coffee. If you are using a coffee maker or french press, you should go with a standard grind. This will be fairly course and is what you’d generally find in the supermarket.
If you are doing a pour over or making your own espresso, then an espresso grind would be preferred. When making espresso, you’ll be tamping down the grounds so having a fine powder will allow you to increase your compression and squeeze out more of that great flavor.
Use better water
A cup of coffee has 2 main ingredients - coffee grounds and water. You can have the best coffee beans in the world and if you use sub-optimal water to brew them, you will get a sub-par end result. Water is actually the most prevalent ingredient in coffee, so it's super important you use the best water you can get your hands on.
Buying spring water from the store is a great option if you have patience and funds to do so. Otherwise, it would be a good idea to invest in a water filter. There are many brands available but activated carbon filters work the best. Filter your water before making your coffee and you’ll be surprised at the difference in taste. Tap water, straight from the faucet, will never make the best coffee, but using a good filter can make up for it.
Check your temperature
Most people like their coffee hot. Of course iced coffee is very popular as well, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll be discussing finding the perfect temperature for hot coffee. So how hot is hot enough? And how hot is too hot? There’s a lot of debate around this topic so you’ll have to find what’s right for you, but, generally speaking, 205°F is a great temp to start with.
When overheated or under heated, the coffee can’t ever reach its optimal flavor. Even if you enjoy your coffee warmer or cooler than this, you should brew around this temperature to ensure you are getting all the good stuff out of your beans. Then you can adjust the temperature after the brew is complete. Brewing too hot can strip away oxygen that is vital during the brewing process, leaving your coffee with a bitter taste. Too cool of a brew and you are slowing down the reactions so your coffee will end up more watery and less flavorful.
There’s no shortage of methods to improve your coffee brewing. The best thing you can do is experiment and find what works for your beans, equipment and taste. Eventually you will find the sweet spot and brew the coffee of your dreams. However you brew your coffee, hopefully these tips can help make it taste a little bit better.