Austin

So, You Want To Learn How To Make Better Coffee At Home? Here’s How

11.09.17

You currently make your morning cup of coffee in a Keurig or an easy-peasy coffee machine. And it works. I mean, it won’t win you a gold medal at the World Barista Championship, but it gets you caffeinated and happy.

The coffee world is fascinating to you, and you’d like to know how make a more complex cup of coffee with higher quality beans, but the words Aeropress and V60 and Chemex make you nervous and cause your heart to beat too fast…but not in that good, caffeinated sort of way.

The coffee world looks like fun, but you have no clue where to even begin.

Coffee shop in Austin!

So, you want to learn how to make better coffee at home….but you have no clue where to start. I was in the same boat four years ago. I liked the idea of being able to brew a complex, delicious cup of black coffee, but I had no idea where to start. Someone gave me a french press, but I didn’t have a gram scale or a coffee grinder, so wasn’t able to produce a very good cup of coffee. The amount of resources overwhelmed me, and I didn’t know which ones to trust.

Thankfully, I married a coffee geek. In the past four years, I’ve gradually learned how to appreciate the process of making my morning pour-over. As I slowly learn how to appreciate the complexities of coffee, I enjoy sharing it with others!

I sat down with Gregory Alford and Steven Eggert, co-creators of the new coffee book, Grounded. They gave me all sorts of tidbits that I can share with you, my coffee-curious friend!


1. For starters: add this book to your collection.

Grounded Coffee Book is the best of its kind. If you want instantly make a better cup of coffee at home, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Co-creators Gregory (Head Trainer at Houndstooth Coffee) and Steven (graphic designer and at-home coffee appreciator) wrote a book that is smart and approachable. I sat down and read it cover-to-cover, but you can also use it as a reference book. In it, the authors talk about everything you need to know to make a delicious cup of coffee at home. They also include recipes for 7 different types of coffee brewers:

  • French Press
  • Mizudashi
  • Aeropress
  • Clever
  • Chemex
  • V60
  • Wave

Pre-orders are available, and shipping begins Nov 13. It’s available to order here. Hello, Christmas present!!


2. The most important step is to invest in the right equipment. 

If you don’t have a good coffee grinder or a gram scale to weigh your water, you’re going to become frustrated with the coffee brewing process. (I know this because I was, too.) Spending just a little bit of money to get the right tools will help you get the results you want!

  • A gram scale. This one is less than $20 and will work fine.

I started with the one I linked above, and since then I’ve invested in the Acaia Pearl Digital Scale with Bluetooth. Nate likes it because it connects via bluetooth to the iPad, so he can measure his pours and keep a record of his best cups of coffee.

And I like it because it’s pretty.

  • A coffee grinder. Again, you don’t need an expensive one. Just be sure to get one with burr grinders instead of blade grinders. This is the first one I ever bought, and it’s less than $40. This one is even cheaper and would work great for $14!

As you develop your coffee skills, you might want a more expensive one down the road. (Nate and I have this Baratza grinder at home right now…it was a big investment, but we love it!)

The problem with using a blade grinder? These grinders chop up the coffee beans inconsistently. You’ll get some big pieces and some small pieces. As the water passes through the coffee, some beans will get over-extracted, and some will get under-extracted. This might seem like a small, technical issue, but it actually makes a HUGE difference in taste!

  • A good hot water heater. A gooseneck kettle, like this $21 option, will work best, but you can start with whatever hot water heater you already have.

 

  • A coffee brewer. There are so many to choose from! Grounded goes through all the options and talks about the best place to start. I began on a Clever, but in the past 4 years I’ve also learned to brew on an aero press, wave, v60, and french press. But I always have my favorites. 🙂

When I asked Gregory what I should recommend to a first time coffee brewer, he said a French Press. It’s simple to use, you don’t need to buy filters, and you can use a regular hot water heater instead of having to buy a gooseneck kettle. The French Press is a simple place to start.


3. Find Some Good Coffee Beans!

Honestly, when I first got into coffee, I made this part way too complicated. I was trying to research beans on the internet, read reviews, mail order them to Austin, and I truly didn’t know what I was doing. I got frustrated.

The best place to start is at your local, trustworthy coffee shop. Talk to your barista. Tell her what you use to brew coffee at home, and she’ll help you find the right beans to buy]

A good coffee shop has knowledgeable baristas, freshly roasted coffee, and a friendly, helpful atmosphere. Here’s the list of trustworthy Texas coffee shops that Steven and Gregory gave me:

Austin

Houndstooth Coffee

 Fleet Coffee

Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors

Patika Coffee

Café Medici

Machine Head Coffee

 

Dallas

Houndstooth Coffee

Cultivar

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters

Houston

Blacksmith

Catalina Coffee

Siphon Coffee

Southside Espresso

The Honeymoon Café and Bar

 

San Antonio

Local Coffee

Brown Coffee


4. Make Your Coffee With A Recipe

Most coffee frustration comes from not using a recipe. If you’re guessing weight, measurement, and time, you’re going to end up with an inconsistent cup of coffee. It might taste fine one day, and be crappy the next. Don’t guess….use a recipe!

I don’t have every recipe memorized. The ratio of coffee to water is around 1/16, but it varies a bit by brewing apparatus.

I’m in the habit of keeping my Grounded book on the kitchen counter for a quick reference. It’s made to lay open flat, so I don’t have to worry about pages flipping closed. Every recipe has been tested and re-tested to perfection, so I know it will taste great.

There are also lots of online resources for recipes! Stumptown is one of my favorites. Their website provides loads of cute, free video guides about brewing coffee on a V60, Aeropress, Chemex, and more. I’ve gotten great results from these recipes.  The only thing I don’t like about this is trying to scroll through my phone while measuring coffee, pouring hot water, and watching the timer.

The Grounded book is honestly just easier for me to follow because all of the instruction are on one page. It’s sturdy, stays open by itself, and I don’t have to turn pages or scroll through my phone while I’m making coffee.


5. Play! 

You get to geek out as much as is fun for you. Some people find one way of brewing coffee and stick with that forever. (I didn’t venture past the clever for the first 18 months or so.) Others can’t wait to dive in and try everything!

The most important part is that it’s fun for you. If trying to learn how to brew coffee on 7 different devices sounds exhausting, don’t do it.


FAQs

I seriously love it when y’all message me on instagram and ask coffee questions…makes my day! I’m still pretty new at brewing coffee, so I don’t always have the answers to your questions. But here are a few common questions I get. I ran these by Gregory and Steven, the Grounded co-creators, and these are the answers they have for you:

What type of water should I use?

Simple answer? Water that is tasteless and odorless. A basic water filter, like a Brita or Pur, works for starters. Down the road, you can play around with different filtration systems, but it’s not necessary for newbies.

How do I know if I’m buying good coffee beans?

Buy beans from your barista! You’re not only guaranteed to get a great bag of coffee…you’re also supporting your local coffee shop. See the list of recommended Texas coffee shops above.

Can I just buy pre-ground beans? 

Coffee starts to lose its aroma quickly after being ground. For the freshest cup, you should grind the coffee right before you pour water over it. If you’ve been using pre-ground beans, try making this one change and notice what a difference it makes!

This all seems so expensive… Is it worth it? 

Depends on what you’re looking for in your morning cup! Brewing coffee can be a meaningful morning ritual that adds happiness to your day. It’s a hobby, a conversation, and a community. Some folks are 100% happy with their current set up, and others want more complexities and deeper flavors. Only you get to decide.

As far as cost goes, brewing coffee at home is a cost effective way to make great coffee, especially when you compare it to certain brands of expensive coffee pods! After the initial investment of getting coffee equipment, buying beans is a fairly cheap way to enjoy a complex, quality cup of coffee.  It all comes down to this: if it brings you happiness and enriches your life, it’s worth it!


A big thank you to Gregory and Steven for sitting down and answering all of my annoying questions! If you want to learn the fundamentals of brewing a delicious cup of coffee, order a copy of Grounded. You can place a pre-order here!

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