Alright. You are making coffee at home before starting your day and for this we salute you!! But, you know your coffee could taste a bit better. If you are unsure of where to start, here are a few basic boxes you can check off prior to doing a real deep dive into the art and craft of brewing specialty coffee.
1) Filter your coffee
That cup of coffee in your mug is mostly water and the makeup of this water will impact the taste of your coffee a great deal. If you wouldn’t drink the water on its own, then that water will probably not make for a good cup of coffee.
As a starting point, the goal should be water that is odor and chlorine-free. You might be tempted to use distilled or reverse-osmosis water, but as counter-intuitive as it may seem, you actually do need some calcium and magnesium in your water in order to make a cup of coffee that is not flat. Where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us with filtering your water. A carbon filter will remove impurities as well as chlorine and is a good base with which to begin improving your morning cup.
You can go deeper down the rabbit hole and make your own water or use a product like Aquacode (which we will do a deep dive into in future articles), but you can immediately improve your cup of coffee by filtering your existing tap water. Your cup of coffee will have clearer and more articulate flavour notes and you will get more consistent-tasting cups. It is a necessary first step that you need to take before tweaking other variables to improve your coffee.
2) Invest in that grinder
There is no simple way to sugar coat this truth, so here it is: if you want to improve the quality of your morning brew on a real level, then you need to invest in a solid grinder. We admit that this is a tough topic to talk about in large part because all of us in the specialty coffee industry want to ensure good coffee is accessible to as many people as possible. Thus, telling people that they should drop serious coin on a grinder can come across as off-putting and pretentious. But think of a solid grinder as a buy once, cry once investment that will get you closer to a consistent cup of coffee.
A good grinder will ensure a more even size of coffee grounds (think fewer small ‘fines’ and large ‘boulders’ in your ground coffee) which will give you a more even extraction which in turn gives you tastier, fuller cups of coffee. A more consistent grind will also make it easier for you to replicate the cup of coffee you made yesterday, which in turn allows you to learn how to improve upon that same cup.
The other added benefit of a solid grinder? You will enjoy it! A good hand grinder is easy and fast to use. If you have used a cheap hand grinder, then you know the nuisance it can be to grind coffee for multiple cups of coffee. At its best, it drives you on to purchase a better grinder. At its worst, it turns the ritual of making a cup of coffee into an annoying and tiresome ordeal that you give up on.
A good grinder on the other hand? It’s a game changer. We literally tell that to people who purchase one. It will change how you approach making a cup of coffee and it will enable you to take that next step in terms of quality. That’s all there is to it – save up and invest in something that you will love and use daily for years, and the quality of your morning brew will improve immediately.
3) Ratio, ratio, ratio
With clean, filtered water and a solid grinder, it is now time to grab a scale. Unlike the grinder, you do not need to drop serious cash on this. Any scale is better than no scale and will immediately allow you to use a ratio for your morning cup of coffee. A good place to start is a 1:15 ratio of coffee to water. This means that for every 1 gram of coffee you are going to use 15 grams of water for your cup of coffee (for example, 22 grams of coffee to 330 grams of water). It does not matter how you make your coffee – pour over, batch brewer, French press, moka pot – using a ratio for your cup of coffee will allow you to consistently improve your brew.
The good news is that once you start weighing out your coffee you will begin to look at your brews differently. Improvement comes fast and it is a journey worth taking. In our books, there are few things better than that cup of coffee that puts a smile on your face before you start the day.