Coffee. Admit it, we all depend on it to some degree. Some of us only like it for the energy it gives us. Others like it more for the taste. No matter why you drink it, we’re always wanting to have the best tasting coffee, but you never know why the coffee always tastes better at the coffee shop than at home. How can we make it so that our coffee may even taste BETTER than the airpots at the cafe? Actually, it’s not that hard. The truth is, you don’t have to be a dreamy barista with thousands of bucks to spend in order to bring your coffee game to the next level. Though I am always pro-manual brew methods, here are a few tips for better coffee that will improve even the simplest automatic drip coffeemakers!
1. Use fresh coffee. I feel like this is America’s downfall when it comes to at-home coffee brewing. Using old beans makes a huge difference in the taste of your coffee, but so many people still choose to drink coffee from the pre-ground cans they keep stored in the fridge for months (gross, guys, we’re better than this). No, technically coffee doesn’t spoil, so you’re not going to die if its May of 2016 and you decide to try out the 2014 Christmas Blend, but trust me, you don’t want to (we definitely tried this at work as an experiment, so just take our word for it). It may require a little bit more effort to get your hands on it depending on where you live, but there is a huge taste difference in freshly-roasted coffee than older coffee. If you don’t have a local roaster near you, a couple of great roasters you can buy from online are Blue Bottle and Counter Culture Coffee! Another tip: Try to consume all your coffee within two or so weeks from the roast date (normally found on the bag) for the best-tasting coffee!
2. Use better water. Since 98% of your coffee is water, it makes sense that you shouldn’t just use any old tap water if you really want a good brew. Without getting into the chemistry of the water, the better the water, the better the coffee. Try not to use distilled water or mineral water (both are on either extremes of the water spectrum) as they both will affect your coffee taste. If you have a filter at home or can use bottled water, that’s definitely a step up and you will notice a difference in your coffee’s taste. And this should be a given but it’s worth saying: If you wouldn’t drink the water you’re brewing your coffee with, you shouldn’t be using it at all!
3. Store your coffee properly. Like I implied in point #1, don’t refrigerate your beans! The temperature fluctuation between taking it out of the cold fridge and having near-boiling water immediately poured over it deteriorates your coffee and makes for a pretty gross cup. Roasted beans hate oxygen, the killer of all good coffee taste, so store them in an airtight container (preferably ceramic or glass) in your kitchen in a cool, dark place. This should make a tremendous difference in the taste of your coffee if you’re one of those Folgers-in-the-fridge people.
4. Clean your coffee maker. If you haven’t done this yet, you could be brewing a delicious cup of bacteria with your coffee. Whether that means your french press, Keurig, or your good ole Mr. Coffee automatic drip, make sure you regularly clean your brew method of choice! And contrary to popular belief, the boiling water is not enough to clean out all that grossness. For french press coffeemakers and other manual brew methods, gentle soap and water will suffice, but for any automatic coffeemakers, mix equal parts water with vinegar (apple cider vinegar will also work) in the water chamber and run it all the way through. After that’s done, do it again, but this time with only water to make sure your next cup of coffee doesn’t taste nice and vinegary. Repeat as many times as necessary and do this about once a month if you drink coffee every day.
5. Grind your own coffee. Pre-ground coffee loses all the delicious oils that the beans store up in them, so embrace the whole bean and invest in a good grinder for your coffee. It only takes an extra minute in the morning to grind the coffee you’ll be using, and it’s 100% worth it. I would recommend a conical burr grinder for the most consistent grind (which is arguably one of the most important parts of brewing a good cup), but since those can get pricey, hand grinders like my personal favorite, the Hario Ceramic Manual Grinder, are great for coffee lovers on a budget who want killer arm muscles (holla!). This will also come in handy for if you ever decide to explore alternate brew methods which require various grinds depending on your method.
Do you have any extra tips for brewing better coffee at home? What’s your favorite brew method? Let me know in the comments!