Before I started my professional coffee journey, I would brew my morning cup with a simple, inexpensive 10-cup coffee maker. I would stumble, eyes drooping, into the kitchen, portioning my canned pre-ground coffee by tossing a handful into a paper filter, adding more if I wanted an extra boost. I would fill the countertop machine to the brim with water from my sink, seeking to maximize my morning elixir. And I would hit the start button, worn down to a cracked grey patch of broken rubber. The maker would churn violently, drawing water through the old plastic pipes and onto the beans, filling the room with a pleasant-ish aroma. What, I thought, could be any better than this?
If you’re reading this, perhaps you already know. Or maybe you’re reading to find out. But the truth of it is this: I was wrong. It took me making a career change and entering coffee professionally to understand it. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the routine I outlined above (coffee is subjective, meant to be enjoyed however you like to enjoy it), there was a much more pleasurable experience waiting to be tapped. And the best part? You don’t need to make a career change. I’m here to share what I learned with you. And it’s neither more difficult, nor more time consuming.
I still use a 10-cup coffee maker at home. It’s perfect for brewing plenty for my wife and I to get going in the morning. Don’t mistake my intentions. Please, by all means, continue to use the drip coffee maker. This old standard is a perfectly acceptable way of making coffee. But the coffee it holds can go from semi-liquid-bitter-brown to silky-flavor-packed-liquid-gold by following these 5 simple steps to better coffee at home.
Before you say, “of course an advertisement comes first,” let me explain. There is an enormous difference between pre-ground non-specialty bulk coffee and the good stuff. Making the switch to specialty coffee will monumentally change your mornings. This truly is the easiest way to improve your daily coffee. There are an infinite number of options, each roasted uniquely by your favorite roaster to highlight the bean’s inherent flavors. Not only this, but a quick conversation with the roaster will help you determine a coffee perfectly suited to your tastes. You’ll immediately notice a difference and you’ll never want to turn back. The only part of your routine that changes? The enjoyment you take from it.
While it seems like a larger step, storing and grinding coffee at home can be incredibly simple. These two small changes unlock subtle, unique characteristics of the bean for you to enjoy in contrast to stale, weak flavors of old, poorly stored coffee. Buy only what you can consume in 1-2 weeks, grinding the coffee for each individual brew. Store the whole bean coffee away from excessive air, moisture, heat, and light to preserve freshness. This can be done by keeping the original coffee packaging in the pantry, rolled tight or zipped closed after squeezing out the excess air. Keep in mind that the grind level needs to change depending on how you are brewing your coffee. Use a coarse grind for a French press, a medium grind for a drip, and a medium-fine grind for a pour over. If you’ve never ground your coffee at home, look for a burr grinder. Burr grinders give you the most versatility and consistency. But if you’re just starting out, an inexpensive blade grinder will do!
A dirty or moldy coffee maker can change the game entirely. In fact, the coffee pot is one of the dirtiest appliances in the kitchen. Not liking the taste of your morning brew? This could be why! No matter how you brew, make sure to clean everything, especially the removable parts, after each use. Don’t let the wet grinds sit in the filter all day (feeling guilty, aren’t you?), and consider leaving the lid up to allow the machine to dry. To clean a drip coffee maker, fill the water chamber with a vinegar and water 1:1 mixture and brew half of it. Let the combination sit for 30-60 minutes, then finish the brew cycle. Rinse by brewing clean water twice. Repeat if you can still taste the vinegar! Experiment with different coffee brewing methods. I already said that the drip brewer is a fine and easy way to start the day. I’ll stand by that. But there are many other methods of brewing coffee, each with its own unique flavor. While it’s easy to assume that the water and coffee mixture wouldn’t change much depending on the brew style, it’s an incorrect assumption (and you know what assuming does…). Give the pour over and the French press a try. These two methods of brewing are incredibly simple and will produce some of the best coffee you’ve ever had!
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) states that 1.63 grams of coffee (whole bean) should be used per ounce of water. While this is only one standard of brewing and may vary depending on how you prefer to brew your coffee, there are plenty of resources online to help you determine the correct coffee weight for you. While you may think that measuring your coffee every morning seems like overkill, it is a simple way to improve the taste and consistency of your morning routine in a massive way. And the effect has been experienced personally. I never knew that I was over-brewing until I measured! Purchase a small tabletop electric scale or use the kitchen scale you already have.
Nathan Jones is the owner of Canyon Coffee Roasters in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has extensive experience (10+ years) in the coffee industry, both as a roasting professional and barista. Nate’s love of coffee, people, and community inspire him to share his knowledge with others with the aim of demystifying the rapidly expanding world of specialty coffee and create meaningful relationships along the way. Nate’s favorite way of drinking coffee is either as a latte or from his Moccamaster, shared with his wife Kate. Nate enjoys spending time with his friends and family when he’s not posted up at the roaster.