Whether you prefer an automatic drip coffee maker or the meditation of a perfect...
Whether you prefer an automatic drip coffee maker or the meditation of a perfect hand-pour, what you do before you brew is the real secret to making amazing coffee at home. This guide highlights coffee equipment that will help you brew coffee like a master.
Coffee has two ingredients: water and coffee beans, but bringing those two ingredients together into a cup of joe is a process that takes many steps. You can step into the process at any point along the line, though growing your own coffee plants and processing the coffee cherry is probably further than most people want to go. Thanks to today’s technology and the interest of specialty coffee lovers the world over, it’s not difficult to start with the roast. Here are 10 steps to preparing amazing coffee at home, without busting your budget.
For those who like specialty coffees, each step up the ladder is another layer of complexity. There are roasters with national distribution, such as Rogers Family Coffee, who offer a huge variety of specialty coffee roasts, as well as smaller coffee roasters who offer their blends and single origin coffees online. And for those who really like to dive in, there are now dozens of companies that sell unroasted coffee beans that you can roast at home.
This can be as simple as knowing that you prefer Folgers to Maxwell House. Buying coffee you like is the first step to making great coffee (For the purposes of this article, “great coffee” is coffee that you love. No coffee snobbery allowed.) Do you like your coffee mild or bold? Do you like smooth coffee or coffee that makes you sit up and take notice? Knowing the answers to those questions will help you pick a coffee that you really enjoy.
The flavors in your coffee cup are determined by a bunch of different factors, including the region where your coffee was grown, what kind of coffee plant they grew on, how the coffee cherries were processed and how the beans were roasted. You don’t need to carry all that information in your head, though. Many coffee roasters now guide you through finding a coffee you’ll like by asking you questions just like the ones in the last step. .)
It’s becoming more and more common for people to roast coffee at home. While it’s not for everyone, it does give you more control over your coffee – and a lot more ways to get creative with it! Because of the growing popularity of home coffee roasting, it’s a lot easier to buy unroasted coffee beans than ever before Check with your favorite coffee roaster to see if they sell green coffee beans, or look for unroasted beans at Amazon.
Coffee starts losing its flavor from the moment it’s finished roasting – and grinding the coffee beans accelerates the flavor loss. Invest in a decent coffee grinder so that you can grind beans for your coffee just before you brew. It only adds a minute or so to your morning coffee routine, but the difference in flavor is purely amazing. For best results, use a burr coffee grinder rather than a bladed one. While you can spend a fortune on one with all the bells and whistles, there are now many affordable coffee grinders on the market.
Whether you use whole coffee beans and grind your own or buy coffee pre-ground, proper coffee storage is important. Air and light degrade the flavors in your coffee, so an opaque, airtight container is your best bet. Most specialty coffee roasters deliver their coffee in bags that are designed for storage, as long as you’ll be using the coffee within a week or so. If you buy more coffee than you’ll use up in a week, the current recommendation is to freeze the excess in an airtight bag, and only take out as much coffee as you’ll use in a week.
Different brewing methods call for different grinds of coffee. When you grind coffee, you’re creating more surface area for water to come into contact with. The finer the grind, the more flavor you can extract in less time. That doesn’t mean you should always use the finest grind, however. It’s more important to fit the grind to the coffee brewing method. For more information about grind size, check out our article Five Steps to Better Coffee.
Any off flavors in your water will translate to off flavors in your coffee. You don’t have to use spring water or bottled water, though, or invest in a separate water filter. Many drip coffee makers include a water filter to trap minerals and impurities that can make your coffee taste nasty.
Water temperature is an important element in brewing good coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) recommends brewing coffee with water between 192 F and 205 F – just below boiling. If you’re making hand-dripped coffee or pourover coffee, a good kettle will help you get in the right zone. If you prefer an automatic drip coffee maker, look for one that’s SCAA certified. The SCAA stamp of approval guarantees that the coffee brewer heats water to the right temperature for brewing and maintains it at that temperature through the brewing cycle.
Cold brew coffee has also enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. Brewing coffee with cold water takes longer, but if you enjoy smooth, rich coffee with very little acid, cold brew might be the perfect brewing method for you. It’s easy, requires very little in the way of special equipment, and makes amazing coffee. Learn more about How to Cold Brew Coffee in this article.