We live in the Seattle area, which means that there are practically more coffee shops than people. Maybe it’s to make up for the overcast weather and rain, or maybe we’re just on to something– coffee is an essential part of life! As convenient as all the coffee shop locations are, they are no substitute to making amazing coffee at home. I love sitting down at a cozy little coffee shop and ordering a latte in a large mug, going by the nearest coffee stand on my way to a friend’s house, swinging through the Starbucks drive through in the morning, or grabbing a cup of coffee at the Starbucks inside of Target. But all that can’t replace a cup of coffee at home. Whether you are entertaining guests, having breakfast at home, or just need a quick pick-me-up without leaving the house; knowing how to make amazing coffee at home is mandatory!
Coffee and I go way back…it’s what got me through my college years, fueled all-nighters, kept me going through student teaching, gave me energy to face the day as a teacher for five years, and basically sustained my life in those first few months of motherhood. To say that I love coffee may be an understatement. At one point I actually took on a barista job at Starbucks just for the coffee. It was a blast and an incredible learning experience. This post is going to combine all my experience and love for coffee to teach you how to make awesome coffee at home, every time.
4 Steps To Making Amazing Coffee At Home
Step 1: The Beans
A great cup of coffee starts with the very basics–fresh, properly ground coffee beans. Now I’m not going to try to sell you on a particular brand, but simply give you some guidelines to get you started. Whether you like a really bold dark roast or more mellow light roast, big batch or small batch roasted beans, theses are things to look for:
- coffee beans that are NOT pre-ground
- this helps with the freshness and will result in better tasting coffee if ground right before brewing
- arabica coffee beans (it should state this on the packaging)
- Arabica coffee beans are better tasting and have more complex and diverse flavors. Check out this article to read more about the differences between arabica and robusta coffee beans.
- fresh coffee beans
- How can you tell? Many smaller batch roasters will actually have a date stamped on the packaging. Also, when it comes to darker roasts, the coffee beans appear shiny or oily while they are still fresh an dull as they become stale. (Lighter roast coffees won’t necessarily look oily even when fresh due to the roasting process so this may not be the best indicator.) Once you have opened a package of coffee beans, you should try to use them up within a week.
Step 2: The Grind
Aside from freshness, the reason you want to avoid pre-ground coffee is because the method you choose for brewing coffee will determine how it should be ground. Here is a breakdown of the most common methods of brewing your coffee and the corresponding grind for each:
- French press: coarse grind
- automatic drip: medium grind
- espresso: fine grind
Most pre-ground coffee beans sold at stores are ideal for automatic drip machines, but not for French press or espresso. If you don’t have a coffee grinder at home, you can get one for about $20, (like this one on Amazon) it will totally change your coffee making experience!
Step 3: Brewing and serving
As obvious at it may seem, make sure that the equipment you use for brewing your coffee is clean and well maintained. Coffee oils and residue can build up quickly and affect the freshness and taste of the coffee. (There are different cleaning agents you can use aside from dish soap for automatic drip coffee machines and I recommend that you do this kind of deep clean regularly.)
If you are using an espresso or automatic drip machine, fill it with fresh, filtered ice cold water. Grind the coffee beans to the required coarseness right before brewing. Make sure that you have the correct proportion of coffee grounds to cups of water (2 tablespoons for every 6oz. of water for drip coffee). If you make your coffee too weak or too strong, it won’t be as enjoyable. All these little details will help to greatly improve the taste and quality of the coffee you brew at home.
Once your coffee is brewed, it is best when consumed within the first 30 minutes or so. As it sits (even if it’s keeping hot on a warming plate) the acidity and flavor change significantly (that’s why reheated coffee never tastes all that great). One of my favorite tricks for serving coffee is to first heat the coffee cup with boiling water. Just fill it up with the hot water, let it stand for about thirty seconds, then dump out the water and pour your hot fresh coffee in. This way the cooler temperature of the mug won’t make your coffee lukewarm, it will keep it hot longer, and adds a nice restaurant quality touch which is great if you’re trying to impress some guests.
Step 4: Add-ins
If you’re not a big fan of drinking black coffee, this is probably the part that you have been scrolling through to read. There are some great options to elevate your cup of coffee that don’t require you purchasing twenty different syrups or artificial coffee creamers. My opinion is that the most simple, natural ingredients taste best. Half & half or whole milk are my favorite options to add creaminess. When it comes to adding some sweetness and flavor to your coffee, think outside the sugar cube! Some sweeteners to try are; brown sugar and cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, or even sweetened condensed milk (my personal favorite)! You already have most of those ingredients in your kitchen, so why not use them to make your coffee delicious?
French Press Hack
To make it extra fancy, try serving your coffee with frothed milk or cream. You can achieve the perfect, dense micro-foam (that is similar in texture to whipped cream) even if you don’t have a milk steamer. Don’t waste your money on the little battery powered milk frothers, they wont give you the same results (and are constantly breaking down). Instead, you can use your french press! I know it sounds hard to believe, but you have to try this:
- fill the french press with desired amount of warmed milk or cream (keep in mind that the milk will expand so don’t fill it to the top)
- pump the press up and down quickly until the milk doubles (even triples!) in volume and the foam becomes dense
- let it sit for about a minute so the foam and milk separate
- add the milk to your coffee (holding back the foam with a spoon until you have poured the desired amount of milk in) then spoon additional foam on top
If you don’t own a french press, I would highly recommend you pick one up! It’s fairly inexpensive and is so versatile! I love to use it when I’m making one or two cups of coffee so I don’t need to use the huge coffee pot and deal with cleaning all the parts. It’s also one of the best ways to actually taste the coffee because you get more flavor from the coffee grounds with this method of brewing. And of course, you can also use it to froth milk.
Making amazing coffee at home doesn’t have to be hard, just keep these tips in mind and you are on your way. Try out the French press hack next time you have guests and get the satisfaction of serving an incredible beverage that will be sure to impress!
What are some of your favorite ways to brew and enjoy coffee at home? Have you tried any sweeteners other than sugar? Which turned out the best? I’d love to hear all about your favorite flavor combinations!