For a lot of people, the coffee they drink at home just can’t seem to compare to the coffee that is available at their local coffee shop. If you don’t seem to be able to ever make your coffee taste all that great at home, you’ll be going to that coffee house a lot.
An easier solution to this, is to figure out how you can actually brewing your coffee. Here’s the kicker too, it is pretty simple if you approach it in the right way.
Your local coffee shop seems to be able to work magic when it comes to your usual order. Maybe it’s the equipment, or the well-trained staff, or some magic beans? Well, all of this helps, but a lot is just down to method.
Your coffee shop makes their coffee taste great as they brew it the same every time. This coffee recipe has gone through a lot of work and refining, to find the way to brew that is perfect for their beans and equipment. Following this recipe is what makes it taste great. Consistency and work to find that perfect recipe, then sticking to it.
Thankfully, you can recreate this. It all comes down to measuring what it is your doing. If you take a more methodical approach to brewing your coffee, you can easily brew it just as good as your local coffee shop.
To make great tasting coffee at home, you’ve got to understand what affects the taste of your coffee. Controlling these elements lets you make better coffee. These are the things you’ve got to keep track of.
All of these factors can make a big impact on the way that you brew up coffee. To make great coffee though, you’ve got to understand how they all work.
The grind of your coffee is its physical consistency! This is the size of your coffee particles. Grinding your own coffee fresh will make it taste quite a bit better than pre-ground coffee. However, it also needs to be exactly the right size.
French press coffee needs a coarse grind, pour over needs a medium-coarse, Moka pots and drip filter machines need a medium grind, Aeropress needs a medium-fine grind, and espresso machines and Turkish press’ need a very fine grind! This guide covers all of this in a lot more detail.
When your coffee is brewing, flavors are dissolving from the grinds into your coffee. Certain temperatures of water are needed to do this correctly. 200 degrees is the perfect temperature for brewing coffee.
This temperature can be achieved by using a cheap laser thermometer to check the exact heat of your coffee. A less exact method is to remove your kettle from the boil around 30 seconds before use.
While your coffee is soaking in water, flavors and oils dissolve into the water. The longer you leave it in there, the more flavor it will extract from the beans. This isn’t a simple ‘more time brewing = tastier’ equation though.
Over-extracting is where you leave the grinds soaking for too long, and the flavors overpower the water leaving just a bitter finish. Equally, under extracting by not steeping long enough is going to result in a watery coffee.
The ratio of water to coffee in your brew is a bit more complicated than it initially seems. It can affect how long you need to steep your grinds for and change how the coffee comes out. This one has to be adjusted in small amounts since most brewing methods only allow for a slight alteration of this.
There is a lot to get your head around there, so how does it actually make your coffee taste good or bad? Well, balance is important.
Since each of those elements impacts the taste, they’re all important for your end result. A coffee shop will have each of these elements worked out. They know exactly what to do for each to result in a great cup.
For your coffee to taste this great at home, these are the things you’ve got to experiment with. Each needs to be altered gradually until you find the perfect cup for you.
Now that you know what it is that affects the taste of your coffee, you’ve got to figure out how to actually make it taste better. There is one key thing that you need to do, is approach it methodically.
As we detailed above, there are a lot of factors that change your coffee’s taste. If every cup you make has a completely different set of these, it is difficult to work out where that good taste or bad taste is coming from. If you, one day, happen to make the best cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted, you’ll be unable to repeat it!
To improve the taste of your coffee you’ve got to approach it a bit more scientifically. Alter one thing at a time, be completely consistent otherwise, and watch to see the results.
Start with how you typically make coffee or a good standard recipe. From there, take notes of how long you steeped the beans, the setting of your grinder, the water to coffee ratio, and water temperature. Then, you can set about trying to improve on this recipe.
If your coffee is too bitter, then there is a good chance that it has been over-extracted. To address this, you can look at your grinder or your steeping time. Steeping your beans for a shorter amount of time should make it less bitter. Once you think you’ve gotten the results you want there, keep everything else about your recipe the same and address the ratio. This will determine the strength of your coffee, tweak it until it is perfect.
This system is going to be time-consuming! However, it is by far the best way to improve the taste of your coffee. This method gives you more control over how your coffee taste. The important thing is to be consistent.
How do you guarantee that your coffee is going to have an amazing flavor every time that you brew it? How do coffee shops guarantee their coffee has that same great flavor every time? The keyword to both of those questions is ‘every time’. Achieving great coffee once is a fluke, every time is something special.
Consistency and the time to find the right recipe is essentially all you need to get great tasting coffee. Of course you also need great beans that are freshly ground, but consistency in preparation is vital. Once your experiments yield the perfect cup of coffee, repeat that recipe.
Every time you brew make sure the water temperature, steeping time, grinder setting, and ratio of coffee to water is the exact same. If everything is measured correctly, you should get the same great tasting coffee each time.
Guides like this covering how to make great coffee often focus on just water and beans. The black coffee that results from it is treated as all you’re ever going to need. Black coffee is great, but what if you want some extra flavor in there?
It doesn’t have to just be from milk and sugar. As far as coffee additives go, milk and sugar might be classic but they’re not the best. Adding a raw taste of rich cream or pure sugar doesn’t do much to enhance its flavor profile. It is like chucking sugar on pancakes, it tastes good but it’s a bit boring when there’s a world of more complex flavors out there.
These are some ways you can add an extra kick to your coffee, without having to just load up on sugar:
This stuff is great for baking and it goes really well with coffee too. You only need a very small amount and most vanilla extract manages to avoid the chemically taste that comes with mass-produced coffee vanilla syrup.
Cinnamon and similar spices are natural additions to coffee. They bring sweetness and a more interesting flavor that you would find with sugar. Try adding a little first and see how it tastes, it can be easy to over-do these!
Mint is a great way to get more flavor in your coffee. Peppermint syrup for coffee is basically just sugar though, so what can you add for that same taste without all the E-numbers? Peppermint oil works great; this is a more natural version of syrup. Leaving some peppermint to diffuse in your coffee while it cools can also get you great results. A handy tea strainer can help you out with this.
While you’ve got a tea strainer handy, you can try out other herbs that add to your coffee’s palate. Lavender or basically anything that smells good can make your coffee a little less bitter.
Sea salt coffee; it might seem like complete overkill but in the right ratio it can actually taste very good. Salt numbs the taste buds responsible for bitterness, which gives your coffee a much smoother taste and can allow you to appreciate its flavors that might normally have been overpowered.
Take it easy with this stuff though, you won’t normally need more than a quarter of a tablespoon. Too much and your coffee is going to taste like seawater.
Like salt, this is another one that helps with bitterness. Leaving some lemon in while your coffee brews and cools will soak out a lot of the natural bitterness to your beans, and give it a pleasant citrus taste.
This is an odd one. There is a growing trend for sticking butter straight into your coffee. This act used to be so gluttonous that it was a punchline for Homer Simpson, now fad dieters swear by its energy-boosting effects. It apparently aids slow digestion which helps to give you longer lasting slow-burn energy from the coffee rather than the initial rush.
The downside is butter doesn’t taste great melted in coffee unless you really like the taste of butter. Not just like the taste of butter, but you would have to like it enough to eat whole sticks at once.
Making coffee can be a complex act, but a lot of the factors for your cup’s taste are actually pre-determined based on what brew method you use. That experimentation phase discussed above isn’t going to take all that long since the grind and brew time are pretty much decided for you. There is some room for experimentation though.
The brew time of coffee is how long you keep the beans submerged or moving through the water. Different grinds of coffee take longer or shorter amounts of time to bring out an optimal amount of flavor. Too long and it becomes too bitter, too short and you’ll get brown colored water from the coffee. This is what you need to know:
These timings are just guides, and not strict rules. If you’re trying to experiment to find the exact right brew time for you like your coffee, adjust these times by around 10 seconds at a time. Remember to keep everything else the same while you change this so you can be sure what you difference in taste it has made. Steep for longer to increase the extraction, and shorter amounts of time to cut down on it. The right timing will give you a delicious cup of coffee.
All that is a lot to take in. The art of brewing good coffee is half a methodical approach and half art, so it can take some time to get things right. Outside of the various elements that need to be carefully adjusted, there are some overall tips you can use to get better coffee. These are a few ways that can improve your next cup of coffee, without any delicate tinkering with ratios or grinds:
Using freshly ground coffee is probably the biggest thing you can do to improve your cup’s taste quickly. Try to grind your beans as close to use as possible. The taste of coffee degrades over time, with old grounds tasting really quite sour.
If you can’t grind once a day you can store your grinds better to make sure they taste great for longer. Keep them in an airtight container, protected from heat and light. If you can do this, you should see an improvement in your coffee’s taste.
Water quality counts for a lot. Different streets in different cities can actually have drastically different water. Since you can’t do all that much about having water that is too hard or soft, using filtered water can make for a big improvement in your coffee’s taste.
From your standard recipe for coffee, only change one thing about the brew at once. This helps you keep track of how it actually affects things. It might take slightly longer to figure out what it is that you need, but eventually you’ll get the perfect recipe for your coffee.
When you’re changing things around in your recipe, get the grind right first. This is because it is difficult to change later. If you get your water ratio and brew time just right for you, then change your grind, you’ll have to start again! Use the right grind settings for your way of brewing before you start making changes to timings.
While you’re adjusting your coffee to try and find that sweet spot, it can be easier to taste it black first. This gives you a full taste of your coffee without an addition. Trying to figure out what difference 10 seconds in your steeping time has made once you’ve put in cream and sugar isn’t the best way to do it. Taste it black first to help you find that perfect taste for you.
Making great coffee can be done really easily at home. This is a lot of information to process at first, but it actually just comes down to thinking through making your coffee. Each step can be adjusted to perfectly fine-tune the taste of your coffee. Adjusting it is relatively simple once you know what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to recreate that consistently tasty coffee you’ll find elsewhere.
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The Perfect Water Temperature for Coffee Brewing
How Brewing Technique Affects Taste
Should You Be Adding Cinnamon to Coffee?
Bulletproof Coffee: Is Adding Butter to your Brew a Step Too Far