Too often, I sell a bag of coffee to someone, only to have them come back and let me know that it doesn’t taste as good as it does when I prepare it for them. I get questions like: “Why doesn’t my coffee taste as good at home?” “How do I know if I am making my coffee too strong or too weak?” and “How much coffee should I be using when I make it at home?”
There are multiple factors that can help you make great coffee at home. We will take a look at the variables that can turn a subpar cup into an excellent cup of coffee. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, but it will give you some basic things to consider when brewing your coffee at home.
Below is a list of the things you will need to control to make great coffee wherever you go:
Coffee Quality and Freshness
Starting with freshly roasted coffee is essential to brewing a good cup. Coffee is perishable and should be drank within 3 weeks of being roasted.
Coffee to Water Ratio
The ratio of coffee to water should typically be 1:15 to a 1:17 ratio of coffee to water. To achieve this ratio it is ideal to use a scale, which you can purchase relatively inexpensively. Simply measure out the amount of coffee you wish to use. A typical coffee pot can usually hold around 4 oz. of coffee, so for a 1:16 ratio you would measure out 64 oz of water.
The optimal brewing temperature for coffee is 195°F - 205°F.
Many automatic coffee brewers do not produce water that is within range for ideal brewing. The Specialty Coffee Association has a list of coffee pots available that have been tested and proven to keep the water temperature consistent and within the 195°F - 205°F range. For a list of these coffee brewing devices, click on the following link:
If your tap water doesn't taste good it will not likely produce a great cup of coffee. There are plenty of water filtration devices and tests available, but if you have noticeably bad tasting water where you live and do not feel like going to the effort of changing your water at home you may at least want to start with some bottled water at the store. For ideal coffee brewing water specifications, follow the link below:
Turbulence, or the force of that water against the coffee, will determine how much of the coffee is washed into the coffees liquor; or final cup of brewed coffee. Controlling the turbulence while making a pour over is important, but more important than how hard you pour is your consistency.
For manual coffee makers, making sure the shower head that the water comes out of is attached and clear of grounds is something that should be done regularly.
Brew time matters. If you brew too quick or too slow your cup of coffee is going to be negatively affected. Here are the ideal times for a couple different brewing methods:
French press: 3-5 minutes
Hario V60: 3-4 minutes
Automatic Drip Machines: 5-8 minutes
Grind size is not easily determined by what setting you grind is set to per say, as different grinders will be calibrated differently and the sharpness of the burrs or blades will play a major role in the size of the coffee particles produced. As a general rule of thumb, coffee that is too course will taste sour or grassy and coffee that is too fine will taste bitter.
If you can afford it, I recommend getting a burr grinder for better consistency when you grind. Blade grinders cut the beans into a variety of different sizes. This creates an uneven extraction. The very fine dust-like particles at the bottom of the grinder will produce an undesirable bitter taste.
I recommend getting bleached filters from a reputable company. Bamboo filters can add an unpleasant taste when hot water is added. To test this for yourself, simply soak a filter in hot water, let it cool and then see what taste remains.
Metal filters are also great and reusable. They allow for more body in the coffee, so if you prefer a coffee with a lot of body they may be the way to go.