Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Every morning, you wake up and roll out of bed. You might go straight into your coffee-making routine. Some people prefer their coffee brewing before they reach the kitchen. Others take a more methodical approach. And then there are those who let their local coffee shop do all the work. (We're not judging, we swear!)
No matter what anyone says, there is no right way to have coffee. The best coffee is the coffee you like.
With this in mind, we’ve created a two-part series on the various ways you can brew coffee at home (Part I) and brewing tactics that can affect how your home-brewed coffee tastes (Part II).
OK, let’s dive into the ways you can brew at home, starting with the simplest method.
This is the most basic and straightforward system since you add the grounds and water then the machine does the rest. We recommend a ratio of approximately 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds to 6 ounces of water or 1 gram of coffee grounds to 17 grams of water if you have a scale. Amend that based on the strength you like.
No matter the brewing system, how the water interacts with the beans plays an important role on how your coffee turns out. Here’s a simple trick with a drip machine. When water first hits dry beans, CO2 is released. That’s the bubbling on top, otherwise known as the bloom. When the beans are just getting wet, but not fully saturated, take a spoon and stir the grounds for about 15 seconds. This agitation will allow for more extraction.
The immersion method is simply letting water sit in ground beans for a period of time. This method probably goes back to when coffee was first cultivated. A lot of people like this because it’s not as involved as the pour over method, but still feels more refined than a drip machine.
For a french press, here’s one tactic to take it up a notch: don’t plunge your coffee when you’re ready to pour. It sounds counter intuitive, but when you plunge, you’re actually causing the fine grinds to violently puff up and flow into your mug. Instead, when you’re ready to pour, place the plunger just below the pouring line and slowly pour it into your mug.
True espresso machines, even for at-home use, are pricey (we’re talking a minimum of $500). Even if you’re willing to invest in one, making a high-quality shot of espresso is hard to do. It’s easy to think that baristas rely on the automation of the machines in the coffee shop, but most of them spend hours training to ensure consistent perfect shots of espresso each time. The freshness of beans, grind size, tamping on the grounds all affect the end product. It can be done, but it’s something to keep in mind. This is also why it can be so hard to replicate espresso drinks at home to taste the same as your favorite coffee shop. (More on that in Part II).
Two inexpensive options to make espresso-like beverages are the Bialetti Moka Pot or an Aeropress. These options are called espresso-like because to be considered an espresso, a small amount of hot water passes through a tightly packed puck of coffee at roughly nine bars of pressure. Neither of these devices can produce the pressure needed for this result.
The moka pot is more closely related to a percolator. If you want to improve the result from your moka pot, add hot water instead of room temperature or cold water before brewing. This decreases the time it's on the stove preventing the beans from being overcooked.
While a little less known, the Aeropress is a very popular option amongst coffee enthusiasts. You can do the traditional method explained in the Aeropress instructions,or if you want to up your game, try the inverted method. Insert the plunger into the chamber without the filter, add the coffee, then pour hot water and let it sit for a set time before adding the filter and flipping it on your cup to plunge.
Pour overs can be the most involved when making a cup of coffee. You’ll want to grind the beans right before you start for the freshest results as well as a food scale to measure accurate water to grounds ratio. We find it to be a meditative process in the morning. It’s relaxing and the end result feels extra rewarding, but it’s not for everyone.
We recommend investing in a food scale to measure out coffee to water ratios, no matter which brewing system you use. They range in price so you can get an affordable option like this one or invest slightly more in one like this (we own this one). We’ll cover why more thoroughly in a future blog post, but essentially, it will give you the most accurate measurements than scoops/spoons/cups.
If you currently use a Chemex or V60, try a small swirl left and then right when you pour the last bit of water and it’s still filtering through. This will even out the beans for a more even extraction as the last bit of water drips down.
Which brewing system appeals most to you? If you’re coffee curious, don’t be afraid to try each one out to see what you like best. Better yet, mix it up from time to time to keep things interesting.