There’s no better feeling than sipping on an amazing specialty coffee in your favorite café – but what if you could enjoy that same cup of coffee at home?
Learning how to make coffee will take your love for this beverage to whole new heights. You’ll not only be able to enjoy delicious brews whenever you want, but you’ll also be able to explore more of the intricate world of coffee: why do Costa Rican honey processed beans taste different from Rwandan washed beans? Why does a French press taste different from a pour over? And why is grind size important?
There’s a lot to learn, but I’ve got good news for you: today, we’re here to help you out. I spoke to several coffee professionals and asked them for their tips for beginner home brewers. Let’s take a look at what they had to say.
French press for two. Credit: Postales de Cafe
How to Start Making Coffee at Home
The first thing you need, of course, is your device. But out of the many different home brewers available, which is best? Here are some of the ones our experts recommended. Not only are they all easy to use, but they’re also all affordable.
The French Press
Patrik Rolf of April Coffee Roasters tells me, “I would argue Press Pot (French press). It’s a great way to get started. A very consistent brewer that usually makes a great cup of coffee. You just need to make sure to have a grinder (of course) and dose 60 g/L using some sort of bottled water that you brought up to the boil. Steep for four minutes, press, and serve.”
The French press/Press Pot is a classic immersion brewing device: you simply combine ground coffee and hot water before filtering (or, in this case, plunging).
The Clever Dripper
Polish Barista Champion Agnieszka Rojewska also advocates the French press – depending on your palate. “I would start with something that is easy to control,” she tells me, “like the Clever Dripper if you like some clean coffees, or the French press for something more dense and more intense.”
The Clever Dripper is an immersion method, but it has many of the same features as a pour over/drip brewer. For this reason, some consider it the best of both worlds.
The Clever Dripper. Credit: Cafezerno
Noon NutRada, CEO of BlueKoff, also recommends an immersion method – but she skips the traditional brewers and goes straight to cupping. This is a method normally used to analyze a coffee’s quality and flavor profile, and involves pouring water directly onto ground coffee in a cup.
She explains, “From my experience, I would start with cupping. Grind your coffee, pour water, wait a few minutes and drink. It is pretty easy, you go with immersion instead of percolation – very fundamental.
“You should start brewing your coffee with a simple 1:15 ratio (1 gram of coffee for each 15 grams of water). After pouring your water onto the coffee grounds, you wait for four to six minutes and then drink. However, if it’s too hot, lower the water temperature and experiment with that.”
This may seem unorthodox when it comes to your morning coffee, but it’s a way of training your palate to distinguish between different coffees and coffee flavors. Moreover, there’s no skill required. However, be careful not to accidentally drink the grounds! This method has no filtration system.
Of course, there are many options out there and the best beginner home brewer method is the one that you find most interesting. However, these recommendations from the experts can guide you into selecting one that is easier to use, no matter your knowledge level.
Do You Need Any Extra Equipment?
Once you get into your home brewing, you may find yourself tempted to buy all kinds of equipment: different filters, different brewers, kettles… but how much do you really need as a beginner? Not much – especially if you start with one of the immersion methods above.
Patrik tells me, “It is pretty self-explanatory. Use a scale and grinder and you will be fine. Perhaps remember to stir the coffee after about one minute brewing time to make sure the brewing gets´a bit more even.”
Noon also believes that the simpler it is, the better. “It’s easy to get a complicated recipe wrong,” she emphasizes.
Decanting AeroPress coffee into a glass. Credit: Aaron Moxley
Tips for Improving Your Brewing
Now that you’ve decided on your brewing device, it’s time to start experimenting with your technique to get the best coffee. In the end, brewing coffee is science – and just like with science, changing different variables will get different results.
“Grind size is always good to play around with,” Patrik tells me, “since you can adjust the strength and extraction of the coffee very easily with that. Then you can also try pouring different amounts of water. Just make sure you only change one variable at a time.”
Similarly, Agnieszka tells me, “Small changes in the amount of coffee used or how coarse your grind is will affect the final result. Those two are very easy to change.” Once you’ve mastered this, she explains, you can “learn how turbulence, temperature, contact time, and brew ratio affect taste and intensity. But it is very important to change just one thing at a time! Not more! If you change too many things, you lose control.”
So there you have it: the key to improving your brewing is to play with one variable at a time. In this way, you can test different parameters and discover what you really like in your coffee.
Polish Barista Champion Agnieszka Rojewska. Credit: Coffee TV during World Latte Art Battle
Ready for More Advanced Brewing?
Let’s say you’re starting to feel pretty comfortable with your chosen beginning brewing method. You’ve experimented with variables and come to understand how grind size, brew time, and more affect it.
Now, you’d like to experiment a little more. You want to try a new brewing device. Well, if you’ve realised that you prefer a particular coffee profile – clean or full-bodied, say – that might give you your answer. Pour over coffee tends to be cleaner while immersion is more full-bodied, for example.
But if you’re not sure, you could also listen to one of these tips from our coffee professionals. “I would recommend the AeroPress,” Noon tells me. “It is a hybrid between immersion and percolation (drip coffee), pretty fundamental.”
The great thing about the AeroPress is its flexibility. You can craft the coffee you really want with this easy-to-use device. Oh, and it’s both portable and affordable!
On the other hand, Patrick suggests a pour over method. “I would probably go for a V60,” he says. “It’s usually my go-to method at all times. It makes the best cup of coffee.”
The V60 is known for its clean, consistent flavor profile – and, as a drip brewer, it will open the door to all kinds of new concepts such as pulse pouring.
Either way, you can’t make a bad decision. Remember that coffee is always a matter of our own personal tastes. It’s not about which device makes the best brew but rather which one makes the best brew for you.
Brewing coffee at home – it’s not magic, but it feels like it! Credit: Robbie Lynch
What Else Should Beginner Brewers Know?
Whether you choose cupping, the French Press, Clever Dripper, or any other brewing method with which to begin your adventure, I have one more piece of advice: fresh, good-quality coffee beans are essential.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to brew a bad coffee with great beans – but it’s impossible to brew a great coffee with bad beans. You can master coffee brewing but, without quality coffee, you’ll still prefer your local coffee shop to your own drinks.
Coffee poured into glass after being brewed on a Chemex. Credit: Pedro Glez.
When you get that craving for an amazing coffee, challenge yourself – try to brew it at home. That cup of coffee will taste so much better knowing you’ve crafted it. As Agnieszka says, when you begin brewing, “this is where the real fun starts.”
Written by Julio Guevara.
Perfect Daily Grind
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