It might seem obvious, but you’ll get the best cup of coffee by starting with quality beans.
Fresh roasted whole bean coffee is a better investment than buying in bulk or on sale and have a much longer shelf life. The beans you’re buying off the shelf can already be several months upwards to a year old.
Whenever possible, you should buy coffee from a local roaster. You may have to spend a little more money, but the freshness is worth the tradeoff. Most local coffee shops partner with a local roaster, which is why the coffee at a coffee shop usually tastes superior to your coffee at home.
Just make sure they’re not too fresh. Fresh beans are usually at their prime right around 3 days after roasting.
If buying from a local roaster isn’t an option, buying whole bean coffee online is an excellent alternative to guarantee freshness. Consider a coffee subscription service that will deliver fresh, quality coffee to your home while saving you money in the long run.
2. Store Your Coffee Beans Properly
Coffee Gator canisters—perfect for keeping your pricey beans fresh.
Oxygen is the sworn enemy of coffee, which is why you should always store your coffee beans in an airtight container.
Airtight containers are not only great at keeping oxygen out but also light (if they’re opaque) and moisture. For even more preservation, keep your coffee canisters in a cool dark place like a cupboard or pantry.
When I realized this, I invested in two Coffee Gator canisters and have never looked back. They have a valve in the center of the lid that serves two functions. First, it releases the co2 gases the beans naturally put off. Second, it keeps oxygen from getting in and destroying your beans.
Also, be sure to never store your coffee in your refrigerator (especially ground coffee). Just like baking soda, coffee acts as a deodorizer and will absorb any odors that are present in your refrigerator. Things like onions or the meal you had the night before.
Similarly, storing your coffee beans in the freezer can also have a detrimental effect on your favorite beans. When frozen, moisture molecules in the bean expand and cause tiny fractures, ultimately exposing them to their worst enemy, oxygen.
As with any recipe, how you measure your coffee can spell the difference between a great cup and a dud. Using a reliable scale is the best way to get consistently excellent results. If you’re a coffee enthusiast and don’t own one, consider investing in one to ensure that you are using the right amount of coffee every time.
Read our scale buying guide to choosing the best type of scale for your home coffee bar. Spoiler alert: there’s an excellent scale in there for around $10.
Scales are even more important when using an espresso machine, so don’t cheap out.
4. Use a Burr Grinder To Grind Your Beans
Quality burr grinders can also be found in handheld models.
Using a burr coffee grinder rather than a blade grinder will provide you with very consistent ground coffee (for the best tasting coffee at home). Burr grinders use gears to grind the coffee beans, which are way better at producing consistent grinds when compared to blade grinders that chop the beans into uneven pieces.
A burr grinder will also produce less heat than a blade coffee grinder, which can have adverse effects on the taste of your finished product. Burr grinders will be your best bet at achieving coffee-shop-quality coffee at home for many years to come. Here, we did a product comparison of the best coffee grinders on the market to date.
We’ve discussed the importance of consistent grinds, but how can the coarseness of your ground coffee affect the taste? Well, how coarse or how fine you grind your beans directly affects how quickly the water extracts the flavor from your beans.
When coffee is ground to a fine level, there’s effectively more surface area of the beans for the water to do its thing. Conversely, when ground very coarse, the beans have much less surface area and therefore take more time for proper extraction.
You should grind your coffee dependent upon your brewing methods. Medium coarseness for drip coffee, fine for espresso and AeroPress, coarse for French press coffee and cold brew, etc. Check out this helpful guide that provides the suggested coarseness for each brewing method.
6. Use Filtered Water and a Good Quality Filter
Coffee is nearly 99% water, so naturally, the quality of water you use will directly affect the taste of your coffee.
If you have chlorinated city water or other odors present in your tap water at home, strongly consider a good filtration system if one isn’t present on your coffee maker.
Proper mineral content is also another important factor to consider with your water quality. Having the proper minerals in your water will facilitate proper extraction, allowing you to experience all the flavor notes from your coffee drinks.
In addition, a filtered water will see that your coffee gear doesn’t get destroyed from scale buildup.
If you really want to get nerdy with it, check out the SCA’s specifications on the perfect water for brewing the perfect cup.
7. Nail Your Coffee/Water Ratio
3.14 Pie - Math is hard
Sure, there are a lot of variables that play into how much coffee to use when brewing.
Every coffee blend is different, every roast is different, there are different grinds (from very fine to very course), etc. But it’s really not that complicated.
A good rule of thumb for a standard drip coffee maker falls anywhere between a 1:18 ratio (weaker) and a 1:15 ratio (stronger).
This means you simply divide your amount of water by your ratio. For instance, if you want a stronger cup of coffee and you know you want a 16oz drink, divide 16 by 15 (16÷15=1.06) and this will give you the amount of coffee you need in ounces. If you need to make any conversions, just Google “ounces to grams” or whatever unit you want to convert to.
For an “easy as pie” method of calculating your ratios for drip coffee, check out our coffee to water ratio calculator. It gives you the exact amount of coffee needed by weight in grams (or by volume, in tablespoons, if you must) for the amount of water you’ll be brewing.
Keep track of your ratios (and finished product) by taking notes. This way, you can eventually dial in the perfect cup at home.
8. Brew at the Proper Temperature
Unboxing the Fellow Prismo AeroPress attachment
The water used to brew your perfect cup of coffee should fall between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one of many variables SCA approved coffee makers ensure.
Water temperature largely determines the coffee’s speed of extraction, and the flavors that come of it.
When water is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, it will extract only pleasant flavors from the coffee without the unnecessary, bitter ones. Too cold and you’ll end up with a weak, sour tasting cup. Too hot and you’ll experience bitter flavors that weren’t meant to be there.
It is important to brew in this “sweet spot” temperature to bring out optimum flavors in the coffee without under or over-extracting it.
While a thermometer is ideal for checking temperature (the Fellow Stagg kettle even has one built in), water that is about 30 seconds off boil usually falls right within the desired range.
9. Preheat Your Brew Equipment
You should preheat every piece of equipment on your manual brew device or drip brewer that’s affected by the brew process. This includes your coffee mug, brewing device, filter, pouring vessel, portafilter (espresso), etc.
Why? Because when you do this, the temperature of your brew water (195 – 205 F) won’t drop dramatically during the brewing process.
Also, different materials have different thermal masses. This means some materials will soak up more heat energy, and at different rates, than others. Ceramic, for instance, has a high thermal mass and will absorb a lot of heat before it levels out.
If your brewing equipment absorbs too much heat from your water, your coffee will be under-extracted and may even end up too cold to serve.
The “bloom” of your coffee refers to how you properly prepare the ground beans for extraction.
To do this, add just enough hot water to cover your ground coffee and wait for about 30 seconds. The beans will release much of their carbon dioxide gas as they soak in the water. You’ll often see these gases escape the grounds as bubbles.
Blooming releases the best flavors locked in the ground coffee for your taste buds to enjoy.
A good rule of thumb is to use twice as much water as ground coffee. For example, if you are using 25 grams of coffee, use 50 grams of water for your bloom.
11. Fully Saturate Your Coffee
For proper extraction, make sure your water comes into contact with all your coffee grounds at the same time. This ensures an even extraction for optimal taste.
This is understandably difficult to accomplish on standard home coffee makers, but a good coffee machine will do this for you.
One of the easiest ways is to accomplish this is to give your grounds a gentle stir right after adding your water during the bloom phase.
12. Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
The cleaner you keep your equipment, the better tasting your coffee will be. The last thing you want is to drink the remnants of yesterday’s caked-on grinds, or worse, the culmination of years’ worth of calcium and lime buildup in your water reservoirs.
Cleaning your implements and regular descaling of your equipment (if applicable) will prevent nasty residual flavors from building up. It’ll also help save your equipment in the long run.
13. Be a Coffee Scientist!
Experimenting with different origins of coffee and the countless ways of making it are half the fun!
Coffee is an incredibly complex beverage and baffles even some experienced home brewers.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with how much coffee you’re using (your coffee to water ratio), your grind size, water temperature, etc., for the perfect “coffee house quality” brew at home.
Brewing coffee is as much an art and as it is a science. Science, because there are so many variables that come into play in how you prepare your coffee, how you measure your ingredients, and how long to let the coffee brew. And art because it’s all about how creative you can get with those variables to achieve the perfect coffee at home!
Good luck in your quest for the perfect cup!
Clint Doerfler is the founder of Coffee Gear Gurus® and has been obsessed with everything coffee since a very young “growth-stunting” age. He is passionate about helping fellow coffee lovers make amazing coffee at home, no matter what their level of experience.