People want to learn how to make good coffee at home for a variety of reasons – and whatever your reason is, I’m here to help.
You might be tired of drinking Folgers, fed up with paying for Starbucks, or want to adventure into the world of coffee like I did when I first started home brewing to seek that higher quality coffee.
Either way, let’s break it down it down into an easy to digest recipe for success for making great coffee at home each time.
How to make good coffee at home: The ingredients
What goes into a cup of coffee? Let’s break down the ingredients so we can see what makes up the perfect cup.
Of course we’re starting off with…coffee! You can’t make your delicious cup every morning without it. When you open up a tin of Folgers – how do you know when it was roasted? Or when the beans were ground? The first step to making great coffee at home is buying FRESH beans, and grinding them yourself.
Keep your beans sealed air tight
Not all coffee bean bags are created equally, keeping your beans in the original bag will work if you’re using them within a short amount of time – but storing them in an air tight container where the gases, aromas, and therefore flavor is kept in will be your best bet.
Use a grinder!
If you get your beans fresh, keep them whole until you’re ready to brew. Grind the amount you need for the specific brew method. This keeps your coffee fresh in bean form where the aromas and flavors are preserved. As soon as the bean is ground it starts to lose its characteristics which is why pre-ground coffee isn’t for making fresh coffee every day.
Specifically you should be using a burr grinder for the best results. Burr grinders create a small amount of heat with low torque as to not prematurely release any aromas or flavor from the coffee.
The next reason using a burr grinder is so important is grind consistency. Almost deserving a subsection of its own, grind consistency is essential to great tasting coffee. Imagine frying up a bunch of onions. You have some finely chopped, some medium size, and some really large onions. The small ones will burn, the medium sized ones will cook perfectly, and the big onions might still be a bit raw. This is how I like to explain coffee extraction when you have different grind sizes, the coffee grounds will have different flavors extracted from them depending on the size.
If your water tastes funny, your coffee will probably too. If you have water that’s too hard or soft, or has any sort of chemical taste you’ll either want to solve the issue or use another water source. Your coffee won’t be spot on until you have a consistently good tasting water source – so taste test your water and take action from there!
On the topic of water, we need to discuss water temperature. Depending on your brew method and grind size you’ll want to select a temperature. Most guides I’ve read and the settings I use are between 195-205F which is a pretty standard starting point.
Water to coffee ratio
So we need coffee and we need water, but how much of each? Whenever testing out a new bean or brew method, I start out at a ratio of 15:1. So for every 15 units of water, I use one unit of water. Water converts at roughly 1ml to 1g so for every 15ml of water that would be 1g of coffee. Using the AeroPress for example, I use 225g of water to 15g of coffee which satisfies the 15:1 water to coffee ratio.
Knowing what we know about extraction, using more coffee or less water will produce a stronger, more extracted coffee. Less coffee or more water would produce a less extracted or ‘weaker’ coffee.
Like I said these are basic starting points and depending on your beans and brew you’ll want to make adjustments from here.
Okay I’ve got this 15:1 water to coffee ratio, but how do I know how much water and coffee that is? Well that’s where a scale comes into play. A scale for weighing grounds and water is one of the most useful tools when it comes to fine tuning making great coffee, repeatably, at home.
A simple food scale (digital) with 0.5g increments is sufficient for coffee purposes. In another guide I wrote I go over a few scales available that are suitable for coffee, you can read more about that here.
The scale I use is by Hario and it’s made specifically for pour over coffee. It’s an accurate scale with easy to use touch controls that also has a built in timer.
A scale will allow you to exactly weigh out your coffee. For your water you can either measure it by weight or volume before using it to brew your coffee, or during the brew process by brewing on top of the scale depending on your method.
We don’t just want to make great coffee once, we want to be able to make it how we like it every time, and that requires consistency. Consistency comes in the form of consistency, and dialing in your methodology for each bean type.
Using the AeroPress again for my example, you would want to record your water to coffee ratio (how much coffee you use, how much water you use), your grind size, how long your bloom time was, if you stirred, what you used to stir, when you added the rest of the water, and what your total brew time was. Other things you might record include if you preheated the cylinder, filter, or mug with hot water.
What this gives you is a repeatable formula that works with your gear, and the specific bean you’re using. From here you know exactly what you did last time and you can adjust as necessary to alter the taste of the coffee to your liking.
Dialing it all in
With all of these parameters to control it can get confusing on how exactly you’ll change the flavor of your coffee to taste great and to your liking. Let’s go over a few ways you can troubleshoot the taste of your cup:
- If your coffee tastes watery, try changing your water to coffee ratio to either including more coffee or less water
- If your coffee is too strong tasting for your liking – do the opposite and add more water or less coffee to your brew
- If your coffee tastes ‘burnt’ or similarly, it might be over extracted. In this case we can either increase the grind size, decrease the water temperature, or some combination of both.
- If your coffee tastes weak or too mellow for your liking, decrease grind size or increase water temperature
Of course any of these changes will be after your initial brew with the standard settings from above. Any changes should be documented in your notes and have you working towards a tasty cup every brew. When you’re first starting out you’ll have notes and data for a variety of beans and roasts of different varieties. Say you dial in a tasty brew method for an African bean that’s been dark roasted. If you ever purchase that some bean, or a bean with similar origins or roast you’ll have a baseline to start with.
This is the path of how to make good coffee at home with consistency! Start with a basic recipe for your brew method online or by word of mouth, tweak parameters to your liking, record your results, and utilize the power of your data to make that delicious cup every time.