How to make amazing coffee at home. Part 1.

Lots of people come into our café asking for tips on how to make better coffee at home. Everyone knows how to make coffee, but not everyone is satisfied with how it turns out and many are disappointed and frustrated with expensive makers and gadgets.

This is a blog series about how you can make a great cup at home using affordable, simple, manual methods. We’ll talk about pourovers, such as Chemex, Hario V60, Bee House, Kone and some lovely Costa Rica methods; and also cover French Press, Moka Pot and Walkure. Most of these “makers” are under $40, beautiful, transportable and make wonderful coffee to suit many tastes.

Before we get into the different methods, let’s hit on the basics that apply to all:

  1. The sweet spot. In general, when 20% of soluble solids are extracted from the coffee grounds, the brew has the best flavors. Too much extraction (too fine grind, too long brew time, too hot water, too much ground coffee) and the brew tastes bitter. No enough extraction, and you get a thin, weak, sour cup. To find the right proportion, weigh your coffee and your water at first (see “Nice to haves” below). I’ll go over the right proportions for each method of home brewing in the posts that follow, then you’ll adjust to find your own sweet spot.
  2. Size matters. A finer grind means more surface area of the bean is exposed to the water. For a brew method that uses a longer brewing time such as French Press, you’ll want a coarser grind. No matter what method you use, you want a nice, even grind. It’s really nice to have a grinder at home for the freshest coffee (see “Nice to haves” below).
  3. Coffee likes it hot (but not too hot). The ideal water temperature is 195-205 f, since water is a better solvent at near-boiling temperature. No need to measure your temp, just wait about 30 seconds off the boil before pouring.
  4. You get out what you put in. Water is the main ingredient in coffee and bad tasting water makes for bad tasting coffee. Also, do not use distilled water. You need some mineral content to properly extract the good stuff from your coffee. If you filter your drinking water at home, use this!
  5. Keep it clean, kids. Old sediments that get trapped in your coffee maker eventually make for rancid flavors in the cup. This is the main reason we love manual methods. You can get to every part of the maker and clean it thoroughly. With more complex machines, this is either a major production or impossible.

Nice to haves:

We’re not into talking people into a lot of fancy equipment. These are some things that will make for a better coffee and that you can use for other kitchen projects as well. They’re not absolute necessities, they just make it better.

  • Kettle with a slow-pouring spout. If you’re doing pourovers (Hario V60, Melita, Kone, Bee House, Chemex, etc.) this makes your life so much nicer. I use the BonaVita kettle with a gooseneck spout that heats the water as well. Super easy, fast and clean.

  • Scale (make sure to get it with grams. It’s just easier than dealing with ounces). Once you get your amount right, you can just mark your coffee scooper and no need to weigh every morningJ
  • Grinder. Here you can go big and expensive. If making espresso at home, you will want to spend twice as much on your grinder as you do your espresso maker. Yes, really. But, we are dealing with simpler methods here which require larger grinds and you can get away with a less expensive grinder. This is a topic worthy of its own blog (which I will write!).
Stay tuned for the next post where we talk about one- or two-cup pourovers. We’d also love to hear from you about your successes and challenges in making a great cup at home.
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1 comment

OH MY GOODNESS, Love my Indian Coffee…. I stopped in yesterday and you were so kind in offereing me a sample of the Indian coffee that you just roasted…. I love it and it will be at the top of my list when I run out….. Also, I must pass on that your cafe has the most comfortable environment I have ever experienced. The wait staff always smiles and pays attention to you. You know what you are doing when it comes to service, quality food and most important THE BEST COFFEE around. Stay around for a long, long time. I will always stop when going to Boston for that great cup of coffee.

Sincerely, Mary Leary

Mary Leary

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