At-Home Coffee Shop: Tips for Quality Coffee

Photo Credit: flaivoloka

Have you ever made a pot of coffee at home and wondered why it didn’t taste as good as the brew from your local coffee shop? Here are six things to consider before you start brewing.

Choose your source. If you’re just drinking coffee for caffeine and want to cover it up with a flavored creamer, it probably doesn’t matter what kind of coffee you get. However, if you enjoy the flavor of coffee (or think you might if you got to drink the good stuff), you’ll want to think about your selection a little more. I recommend getting your beans from a local roastery. These coffee shops will likely sell arabica beans, which are grown at a higher altitude and are more flavorful than the robusta coffee beans that make up most bargain-priced grocery store brands. There are two types of roasting that a local roastery might use–hot air (or fluid bed) roasting and drum roasting. We prefer drum-roasted coffee because it allows the roaster to have more control over the roast, so the nuances of the different types of beans can be highlighted. Drum roasted coffee also has more body. Read this article for more information on the two types of roasting. The drum roasting process is explained here. Coffee tastes the best when brewed 3-7 days after it’s roasted. Frequently buying small quantities of fresh beans will result in the best tasting coffee.

Choose your country of origin. Everyone has a different favorite source for coffee. I like Brazilian coffee, because I think the beans smell like chocolate. I also really enjoy Mexican Chiapas. Dexter prefers Peruvian and Tanzanian coffee. Some people consider Sumatran beans to be the height of gourmet coffee, while others think it’s unrefined. Talk to your roaster to find out what they recommend. Ask questions, sample everything you can, and pick your favorite. You may want to consider the political and economic condition of where your beans are coming from and choose fair trade coffee. To learn more about the coffee farming industry, I highly recommend JavaTrekker by Dean Cycon. It contains a lot of information, but it is a quick and interesting read.

Choose your roast. The lighter the roast, the more acidity the coffee will have. Lighter roasts also contain more caffeine and allow more nuances of the beans’ flavor to be tasted. Darker roasts will have less acidity, less caffeine, and a bold coffee taste.

Choose your grinder. The less time between when your coffee is ground and when it is brewed, the fresher the flavor will be. You can have your local coffee shop grind their beans for you, but you may notice a difference in flavor. If you grind your coffee beans at home, you have three types of grinders to choose from. Blade grinders are cheap and widely available. However, heat from the machine can burn the beans and the grind will not be consistent. Burr grinders provide a more even grind by crushing coffee beans between a rotating wheel and an unmoving surface. There are two types of burr grinders. The first, which Dexter and I own, is a wheel burr grinder. They are reasonably priced and quick, but can be loud and messy. Conical burr grinders grind more slowly, which produces an even grind with less noise and less mess. We’d love to own one of these, but you’ll shell out at least $80 and could spend much more. (source) I recommend starting with a wheel burr grinder and saving for a conical while you develop your coffee palate.

Choose your water. It’s best to use filtered water or good-tasting tap water. Bad tasting water will result in bad tasting coffee. Experts recommend avoiding softened or distilled water because they may diminish some of the flavor that is heightened by minerals naturally found in water. Water temperature is also important. Water that is too cold will result in coffee that lacks flavor, whereas water that is too hot could result in a burned taste. Coffee should be brewed with water that is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. We bring water to a boil and let it sit for a minute to cool before using it to brew. (source)

Choose your brewing method. I’ll be posting about this soon!

What are your tips for a quality cup of coffee?

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5 thoughts on “At-Home Coffee Shop: Tips for Quality Coffee

  1. Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and have been enjoying learning about coffee through your recent posts. I got curious when I read that you shouldn’t use distilled water for coffee. My family has a large counter-top distiller that we use for all drinking water, since our tap water is known to be some of the worst in the nation for suspected farm run-off and other nasty stuff. (Not that I’d never drink it, I’m just more comfortable drinking from our distiller.) Anyway, I always make my coffee with distilled, so I Googled around to see what I was doing “wrong.” From what I read, it sounds like it’s simply a question of taste; most people are used to minerals in their water and can taste the difference. On the other hand, I’m used to distilled water and I like my coffee that way. But do you know of any reason other than taste for not using distilled water for coffee?

    • You’re right, Elizabeth. I think it is just an issue of taste. I haven’t done extensive research on this part, but I’ve been told by a coffee shop owner that the minerals in water grab onto or highlight certain flavors in the coffee. However, in my opinion, if you like the taste of what you’re drinking, you should keep drinking it!

      • No problem. I changed the wording in my post above to be more accurate. Sometimes, when you spend to much time with serious coffee drinkers, you pick up some “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that make matters of taste sound like matters of ethics! Thanks for catching it!

  2. Pingback: At-Home Coffee Shop Series: French Press Coffee « Mrs. Dexter

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