How to Make Better Coffee at Home

There is a myth among the public that goes something like this: it is very expensive, or very difficult, to make better coffee at home.

Either, drinkers will spend lots of money on apparatus (and still get a bad tasting brew), or they just accept that a cup of coffee at home is for fuel and waking up, not for taste.

The fact is, making good coffee doesn’t have so much to do with expensive machinery or the type of brewing method. There are some simple hacks that every home brewer can employ to dramatically improve their coffee game. We are going to share these hacks with you today, and if you know more than half of these tricks, you can declare yourself a master home barista.

coffee cup on wooden table

How to Make Better Coffee at Home

Freshly ground beans, grind size, brew temperature, water quality, and brew time are all factors that will really improve your cup of coffee at home.

Use a Burr Grinder

Possibly the single greatest thing you can do to improve your home brewing experience is to switch from buying pre-ground to freshly ground coffee, and invest in a coffee grinder.

You can learn more about the best grinders here. We recommend burr grinders on this site, as they create far more evenly ground coffee. It is very possible to find a grinding solution that will cost less than $50 or so, if your budget is really tight.

Use Whole Beans

It is so important to fresh grind whole beans, rather than buy pre-ground coffee. My parents always brew their coffee using a French press. For years, I thought that a French press just made bad coffee. Then one day I used fresh coffee from whole coffee beans, instead of pre-ground. I couldn’t believe the difference. The answer was fresh beans, not a different brewer. As soon as coffee is ground, it starts to go stale. Therefore, whenever you buy pre-ground coffee it is going to be stale by default. Buy a grinder and fresh grind your whole beans for a totally different home coffee experience.

Adjust Your Grind Finer and Finer until the Cup Muddies

The next step to great homemade java is to adjust the grind size to your coffee brewing method. For example, Turkish coffee requires a really fine grind size. Drip coffee, on the other hand, requires a medium fine grind. It is very easy to find a grind size chart with a simple google search.

The best strategy is to keep experimenting with your grind size and adjust it finer and finer until the drink starts to mussy and change appearance. That is when you know the brew is starting to over-extract.

This strategy is also great to use in reverse, if you like a clearer cup, adjust your grind coarser. I contributed to an article posted on Porch.com, where I explain on how to make your coffee taste stronger. The bit of advice I gave there is a detailed explanation on the grind size adjustment.

Rinse Paper Filters

On the topic of drip coffee, it is also a really good idea to rinse your paper filters before you use them to avoid having a paper taste in your brew.

Use a Scale (Digital)

A cheap hack for how to brew better coffee at home is to weigh your coffee beans with a scales. Lots of people will use a spoon to measure their coffee. It is far more accurate, however, to weigh out your coffee beans properly. Different beans will have different weights, even if they have the same volume. This has to do with how they were grown and roasted.

Pre-heat Equipment and Cups

A great tip for making tastier drinks is to pre-heat your cups and your equipment beforehand. When you do this you will have a hotter end product. This means that you don’t have to use boiling water or burn the milk in order to get the drink hot enough for your tastes.

Bloom Coffee and Saturate with Water

ground coffee blooming during brewing

An important step for a successful pot of coffee is to ‘bloom’ or pre-infuse your bloom. To do this, we simply need to pour a small amount of our water onto our prepared coffee grounds and then leave our brew for 30 seconds before finishing the pour.

When water comes into contact with ground coffee, the beans release CO2, which isn’t a tasty addition to our drink. Therefore, we add a bit of our water and wait for the gases to be released before our main pour.

Filter your Water

The water hardness of your tap water will vary depending on where you live. Hard tap water contains lots of minerals, which aren’t good for taste. Therefore, we should filter our tap water for better quality drinks. Water hardness is an important factor in brewing. If you don’t want to use a water filter but you have hard water where you live, try using bottled waters.

Check your Water Temperature

For an ideal brewing process, you should use hot water, but not boiling. This means we shouldn’t use the water right after the kettle has boiled. Ideal water temperature can vary depending on your roast. Dark roasts will need cooler water than lighter roasts, for example.

The exception, of course, is cold brew. As the name suggests, this is made using cold water that hasn’t been heated at all.

Measure your Water

You should also use your scales to measure the amount of water you use. A standard coffee to water ratio is 1:16 which is roughly one tablespoon of coffee to 6 ounces of water (15 grams of beans to 250ml of water). The amount of water will determine how strong or weak your brew is, and how long the total extraction time will be, which brings me to the next tip:

How to Make Better Tasting Coffee by Timing your Brew

Brew time is one of the main variables in coffee making. This also varies depending on your brewing method. If you are making your cup of coffee with a Chemex, for example, the total time should be around 4 minutes. Good espresso, on the other hand, takes between 20-30 seconds because of the added pressure during extraction.

Try to Make Better Coffee at Home – Buying Tips and Beans Quality

Buy Specialty Coffee

coffee beans various roasts 1

Most of the coffee that we buy at the grocery store is sourced from various locations and roasted by multinational companies.

To really improve your home brew, try switching to single origin coffee from specialty, batch roasters. Beans grown in specific locations have very particular tastes and were grown under certain conditions. If we blend beans from different locations that were grown in different climates, we lose those delicious subtle flavors of the origin. For this reason, it is a much better idea to buy single origin coffee.

Having good quality beans is so important for the taste of your final cup. It doesn’t matter what machine you are using, or how much milk and sugar you add. If the foundational ingredient isn’t good, your cuppa won’t be good.

Coffee Storage

Apart from being pre-ground, commercial coffee is also sold in big 5 pound bags. If we don’t store this coffee properly, it will start to go stale.

If you are buying commercial bags of coffee in bulk, make sure that the pack is vacuum sealed or packaged using nitrogen flushed packaging. These methods of storage keep the coffee beans fresher for longer.

To take your brewing game up another level, make sure to buy freshly roasted beans and consume them within a few weeks. The best way to store your beans is in a vacuum sealed container.

For unopened bags, they can be kept in the freezer. To defrost them, simply take them out the night before you need them and let them defrost on the counter. Don’t refreeze opened bags of coffee. If you need to refreeze, divide your coffee into portion sizes and freeze them in airtight bags. Otherwise you coffee beans will get freezer burn and have that awful freezer taste.

As a side note, there is even some research to suggest it is more beneficial to grind coffee beans directly from the freezer, without allowing them to return to room temperature. This is because cold coffee seems to grind more evenly.

Troubleshooting

How to Make Black Coffee Taste Better

Many people don’t like the taste of black coffee because it has been poorly extracted. Then they need to use milk or artificial flavors to make their drink palatable. If you can incorporate some of the methods above, I think you will find you actually like the taste of black coffee, when it is done right!

How to Make Coffee Taste Sweet

It can be tricky to know how to make bitter coffee taste better. However, coffee normally tastes bitter due to over extraction. You can extract less from your beans by grinding your beans courser and shortening the brew time, or brewing with cooler water. This will result in a sweeter tasting java.

Use Gooseneck Kettles for Manual Pour-Over Brewing Methods

You will notice in coffee shops they use a kettle with a long neck to make pour-over coffee, such as the Hario V60. The long spout of the gooseneck really helps the user to pour accurately.

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Dorian Bodnariuc

My name is Dorian and I am a former barista. I consume coffee in any form, as a beverage, in savory recipes and desserts. My favorite caffeinated beverage is the espresso. I love to share my coffee brewing knowledge and my geeky coffee research. This blog is one of the places I write about coffee. More about Dorian... If you want to learn more about this site and how I started it, check our About Me page, where I explain all about it.