16 Surefire Ways To Improve Your Coffee Brewing Game
After reading these tips, you should have a better understanding of how to improve your coffee brewing game and make a killer cup o’ joe.
It’s trite, but true: you should not be paying hand over fist for a good cup o’ joe (that is why we call one of the most ubiquitous coffee chains Fivebucks, is it not?).
You know this is a poor use of your funds, but let’s be honest here: you do not have time to brew an eight-minute cup of coffee in the morning (which is the recommended brew length for a French-pressed coffee (eek!)) and still make it to the office on time.
Nor do you have the equivalent of a small fortune to purchase a proper espresso machine. Besides, how else will you get a chance to finally work up the nerve to ask out that barista if you don’t frequent the local shop at least every now and again?
All that said, what is one to do if he or she can’t stand for one more day of instant coffee?
Read on to discover 16 easy ways to get your caffeine fix, protect your wallet, and have fun, all at the same time!
1. Buy better beans!
While you might be left wondering why we recommend spending a little on supplies upfront, considering we just cautioned against the Fivebucks, hear us out and take these first, few easy steps now to get a better product in the future:
Know your bean: While there are seemingly thousands of choices when buying coffee grinds or beans at the local grocer, there are only two types of coffee beans: Robusta and Arabica. Buy the latter to up your game, regardless of their current state. Here’s why:
Know your source: Just as no two beans are the same, growing regions differ and you will want to find beans grown in the coffee belt and in certain elevations. Here’s why:
⸙ Barista Tip: Think about coffee like you would think about wine: don’t grab the least expensive option, don’t buy based on ‘cover art’, and don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time—there are plenty more options the next time you find yourself at the supermarket!
Know you’re on the right track: Coffee brewing might seem more science, than art at this point; take heart that you will experience a better cup of coffee tomorrow just by considering your source!
2. Tweak what you’ve got
Perhaps you have an old 12-Cup Mr. Coffee Pot lying about, or, still further, you unearthed a Keurig from when you were still at uni. Regardless, and no judging, you can use whatever you’ve currently got to improve your caffeine fix.
NOTE: Same goes for soft filters, steel filters, and lil’ coffee bags—check the count!
⸙ Barista Tip: Again, try not to get too overwhelmed or change too many variables all in one go. Try to tweak one item, measure (by mouthfeel and taste) the results, and tweak a little more next time; remember: This should be a fun science!
I know, I know, we said the ‘S’ word (i.e., S-C-I-E-N-C-E). But when you stop to think about coffee and wine and food, it really, very simply, is a fun earth science. Having just a bit of respect for chemistry can also help you achieve a strong flavor and mouthfeel tomorrow morning, by considering the following:
⸙ Barista Tip: Try not to overthink the water-to-coffee ratio initially, but begin to wrap your mind around grind size using this analogy: finer grind, like sand, will gum up the water and slow the extraction process with the potential for more sediment (think a poor pour-over (NO PUN INTENDED!)) versus a larger, pebble-like grind, which could cause the water to pass quickly over the coffee with a weaker finish (coffee at the petrol station)
⸙ Barista Tip: When heating water and using kettles, do take care to ensure your safety first! Thermometers aside, temperature is important…but keeping you safe is our primary concern
4. Equipment: Every little helps!
Speaking of the grocer, and, yes, we know that the above is a ‘Tesco thing’, but it truly applies in the world of coffee, too. Just hear us out when it comes to purchasing a few critical tools that will improve all of the soon-to-be discussed brewing techniques:
⸙ Barista Tip: Think about coffee like you would think about wine: don’t grab the least expensive option, don’t buy based on ‘cover art’, and don’t worry if you don’t get it right
Now that you are appropriately kitted out with clean equipment, let’s consider various brewing techniques so that you are able to finally kick that chain-coffee habit and, simultaneously, impress your friends!
5. Pressure Brewing 1: Espresso
Investing in the espresso machine might be a long-term goal and something that will not immediately up your coffee game tomorrow morning, there are still a variety of aspects to appreciate with this method that will immediately get you thinking about how to make your cup o’ joe better day over day.
⸙ Barista Tip: The espresso machine, while intimidating, is a lesson in the absolute versatility, power, and depth of the coffee bean. This little seed can take grinding, pressurization, open flames, hot water, and more whilst still packing a potent punch of caffeine. On that note, a double-shot of espresso has less caffeine than a 12-ounce cup of coffee, but will taste sharp not bitter!
6. Pressure Brewing 2: The Moka Pot
While we discuss some of the pains of traveling with your favorite coffee equipment below, this little pot might actually be the exception to the rule as all it requires is an open flame (perfect for the caravan).
⸙ Barista Tip: You may need to experiment over the course of a few days if you experience a weaker brew (i.e., you need a finer grind) as the resultant brew should be espresso-like in its sharpness
7. Pressure Brewing 3: Aeropress
As with all espresso, the yield from this process will not come out to a standard looking cup o’ joe. That said, and done right, you can still achieve a big bang for your buck.
⸙ Barista Tip: Espresso can prove frustrating at first, but always remember to change one variable at a time. Be sure to check the grind size as too course a grind can make for a filter-type brew (i.e., weak and watery cuppas). Then consider trying to pour a bit faster being careful to ensure safety, but simultaneously avoiding any pooling of water. Finally, and for fun, consider investing in a glass mug until you get the colouring, taste, and mouthfeel just right
8. Steeping 1: The French press
As you’re likely to have gathered, the equation is fairly simple: water + grinds = coffee. Notice, however, that taste, mouthfeel, and enjoyment are not factored into that particular formula. That’s why it is so important to take care when steeping coffee and employ a rough water to grinds ratio. That said, we’ll get you started, but let you dabble in the confines of your own lab, er, kitchen!
9. Steeping 2: SoftBrew
Not big on the bougie brew? Then these next two methods are for you!
⸙ Barista Tip: This method was established in 2010 and is the everyman’s French press in that the itty-bitty filter holes can withstand any size grind and still produce a servable cup o’ joe
10. Steeping 3: Coffee Bags (like tea, but not!)
In keeping with the ‘tea theme’…
⸙ Barista Tip: While not a great method, or even a method at all, this process will, at the very least, up your game away from instant coffee granules that come in glass jars
11. Steeping 4: Siphon, or: Vacuuming
So, here, we kick things up a notch and return to the lab, er, kitchen! Beware, however, that with this method the buy-in and upfront investment means you have fully committed to upping your long-term coffee game.
⸙ Barista Tip: With this high-tech method, you will need a butane burner and prepped filter that has been cold-stored; NOTE: when bearing in mind safety, be sure children are not at foot as a slip could result in quite a bit of glass cleanup
12. Drip/Pour Over 1: Percolator
This method might seem similar to the Moka Pot, but with just two chambers, this little guy will result in an actual cuppa versus an espresso-like shot.
13. Drip/Pour Over 2: The Chemex
Not quite ready for the rig that is the Siphoning method? Then up your game tomorrow with this cute, chemistry-like bulb and filter device.
⸙ Barista Tip: Consider using a fitted metal filter to reduce day over day waste!
14. Drip/Pour Over 3: Drippers, drippers, and still, more drippers, or: Hario, Kalita, and Clever
Regardless of how, or what, you call your dripper, you should be thinking of a funnel that can be seated above your waiting mug.
⸙ Barista Tip: Drippers can be overwhelming at first. Try a simple pneumonic to get you started: Hario has a large Hole and, so, will require a conical filter whilst the Kalita will have three holes and require a Cupcake (looking, not literal) filter; finally, a clEVEr is just as the name implies with a sort of truncated, winnowed funnel and, so, will require a flat ENVElope filter
15. World Tour
We understand that there may be times when you must travel and aside from the few drip methods we previously discussed, many coffee methods and brew equipment do not travel well. Just imagine trying to secure ceramic pieces with fragile handles or, worse, entire assemblies that might not look so harmless passing through airport security.
Holidays do not necessarily mean that you have to forgo a good cup o’ joe, though, and can be just the opportunity you need to up your coffee game by learning from the locals. Oh, and if you’re like us, learning about coffee can also prove reason enough to plan your next trip abroad!
⸙ Barista Tip: Be warned that this method will require a specialty coffee pot and specialty grinder as the grinds will need to be almost like sand. Additionally, this method does not work very well at home, and as you’ll see with the Cowboy Coffee below, works best with an open flame, which can prove quite dangerous—so do take care!
⸙ Barista Tip: While we recognize that Italy is considered the birthplace of the third place (between work and home) as well as coffee culture as we know it in the West, there are other hidden gems the world over in which to enhance one’s understanding and respect of the bean. Still, we can learn a lot from the Italians, especially when it comes to implementing the 5M’s in our own homes, or: Miscela (blend), Macchina (coffee machine or brewing equipment), Macinino (grinder), Manutenzione (care for the equipment and maintenance), and Mano (brewer skill).
⸙ Barista Tip: When studying the flavor wheel, do just that: study it! Start at the center and slowly work your way out, taking time and care to notice the gaps between flavors. And, most important of all: taste some coffee and have fun trying to describe what you experience and feel. Oh, and watch out for ‘rubbery’ or ‘burnt’ as you may need to rush to the Tesco to get a higher quality coffee.
16. Time Travel
We get it, traversing the world isn’t for everyone, but you can still channel Doctor Who and take a trip back in time!
⸙ Barista Tip: Coffee predates the 1600s with origins all the way back to c. 850 AD! The first beans were discovered in Ethiopia and, get this, were first enjoyed by goats and, eventually their herder, Kaldi.
Improve Coffee Brewing At Home - Conclusion
Getting a start on the ideal cup of coffee is just as easy as (1) going to the grocer and reading a bit about what type of coffee you plan on buying, (2) cleaning the equipment you’ve already got, (3) taking some chemistry into account the night before you need that caffeine fix, and (4) maintaining the equipment you’ve got before you embark on the journey that is coffee brewing!
That said, brewing is as much or as little as you make it and can lead to a world (literally) of discovery as well as a step back in time.
And even if you just want to ensure a more consistent brew morning after morning, trust that you are growing in knowledge and wealth by avoiding those chains and their oh-so convenient locations!
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Kate began her professional career in the US Air Force. She rediscovered her calling, however, through freelance consulting, project management, and writing. She is a Lean Six Sigma consultant and has worked for various organizations such as GE and Amazon, solving challenging operational bottlenecks. When she is not doing any of the above, she calls Glasgow home (for now) and continues to investigate the latest and greatest in caffeine throughout the world at CoffeeGrindGuru. Follow her journey online and feel free to drop her a note, question, or suggestion!