Insider spoke with experts to find out how to improve your coffee at home.
Buying fresh, whole beans makes a big difference in the overall quality of your final brew.
They also said water quality is important for making good coffee.
Ordering coffee from your favorite café can be a treat, but it’s not the most budget-friendly option.
Making a cup at home is a cheaper alternative, so Insider spoke with coffee experts about their best tricks for at-home brewing.
Read on for some easy ways to step up your coffee game.
Start by cleaning your coffee maker regularly
One way to improve your cup of coffee is to clean your coffee maker regularly, Josh Zad, founder and creative director of popular café chain Alfred, told Insider.
“Make sure to get into the nooks and crannies of each part, especially where the coffee drains through the filter,” he said. “The taste and aroma of old coffee really muddles the flavor of freshly brewed coffee.”
The best way to clean those hard-to-reach stains is by tossing in a dash of baking soda, a splash of vinegar, and some water. Then, let it sit overnight and it’ll scrub right off the following day, according to Zad.
Consider trying out a new brewing method, like French press or moka pot
If you’re ready to venture further into the world of craft coffee, there are so many fun ways to brew at home, Selina Viguera, café leader of Blue Bottle Coffee’s Abbot Kinney location, told Insider.
Moka pot, French press, AeroPress, Chemex, and a variety of pour-overs are just the beginning.
If you don’t know where to start, Viguera said there are plenty of online resources, and most coffee-roasting companies have tutorials on their sites.
Best French presses and Moka pots
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For a fun and unique coffee experience, invest in a pour-over carafe
If you’re looking for a specific brewing recommendation, multiple experts agreed that pour-over — which involves slowly pouring hot water over coffee grounds — is their favorite.
With proper technique, it can produce a really delicious cup of coffee, according to Viguera.
Once you understand some of the variables for brewing coffee (grind size, water temperature, agitation), you can create different cups from the same bag of coffee, she added.
Switch to buying whole coffee beans instead of pre-ground
“To make better coffee, buy better coffee,” Viguera told Insider.
Whole-bean coffee is fresher and has a more vibrant flavor than pre-ground varieties, according to Alex Azoury, the original founder and CEO of Home Grounds, a community for coffee hobbyists.
Brew fresh coffee within its first 2 weeks after roasting
“Coffee is a natural product (it’s the seed of a fruit), and while it will never spoil, it will lose a lot of flavor if it sits around too long,” Zad told Insider.
Coffee flavor peaks within the first two weeks after roasting, according to Viguera, so it’s important to make sure the coffee you’re buying was recently roasted.
In order to maintain your coffee’s freshness, proper storage is also important. Zad suggested keeping it away from heat, light, moisture, and the freezer.
Invest in a good coffee grinder that suits your bean preferences
Once you’ve purchased quality beans, it’s also important to invest in a good grinder.
“It’s a good idea to get a grinder that will grind coffee in the amount and coarseness you want,” Azoury told Insider. “A good grinder will give you both grind and amount options to suit your taste.”
Best coffee grinders
We tested the best coffee grinders you can buy online. Here are our picks:
Make sure to adjust your grinder to the right size
Coffee that’s ground too fine will cause overextraction and grounds that are too coarse lead to under-extraction, according to Viguera.
Over-extracted coffee can taste dry and bitter and under-extracted coffee can taste watery or sour.
To avoid this, Viguera told Insider it’s important to “dial in” your coffee. Baristas use this term to describe the act of adjusting your grind setting to find the right coarseness/fineness to brew a balanced cup.
Coffee has a sweet spot — a perfect grind setting — that produces a balance of bitterness, acidity, and sweetness. That sweet spot can vary with the origin of the coffee, roast level, and age, according to Viguera.
Only grind the beans you’re planning to brew right away
You should only grind the amount of coffee you’re going to make.
“If you’ve pre-ground all your coffee, but aren’t going to brew it all right away, then you’ve drastically sped up how quickly the rest of the coffee will lose its delicious complexity,” Zad told Insider.
A cup of coffee can taste different depending on the quality of your water
Another important factor to consider when making coffee at home is your water, which makes up about 98% of your brewed cup of coffee, according to Viguera.
“As the main solvent for extracting the flavor and aroma from your ground coffee, your water needs a certain level of hardness/minerality and alkalinity for a quality extraction,” she told Insider. “Depending on where you live, your tap water may be too hard/soft to bring out the best in your cup.”
Light and dark roasts require different brewing temperatures
Water temperature is another key variable when brewing coffee.
“You want to use water heated to 198 degrees Fahrenheit to 202 degrees Fahrenheit to make a properly extracted cup of coffee,” Viguera said. “Lighter roasted coffees can take more heat (202 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas darker roasted coffees taste better brewed with water closer to 198 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Try preheating your mug before pouring the coffee
If you’re pouring hot coffee into a cold mug, it’s just making the coffee colder the second it hits the ceramic.
According to Zad, a preheated mug will increase the length of time you can enjoy hot coffee in the morning.
Switch things up by making cold brew at home
Another way to mix up your coffee routine is by making your own cold brew at home.
To do so, simply grind your beans coarsely and add water, Zad said. Next, pop it in the fridge overnight to extract all the rich sweetness from the coffee.
Add spices to make your own flavored coffee
According to Zad, flavored coffee can be full of artificial ingredients that don’t complement the natural flavor of the beans.
Instead, he suggested adding the actual ingredients behind the flavors you like to your coffee.
“Try adding spices to your coffee grounds when you make your cold brew,” Zad told Insider. “Throw in cinnamon sticks, crushed roasted hazelnuts, cardamom pods, anise, cacao shells, or even savory elements like caraway to steep overnight in your cold brew, and you’ll have natural spicy goodness in the morning — nothing artificial.”
Use a scale to achieve the right coffee-to-water ratio
Knowing your brew ratio — or coffee-to-water ratio — and using a scale can help you brew consistently good cups.
“For reference, the industry standard is 1:18 (one part coffee to 18 parts water), which typically produces a cup that is light in body but a greater clarity of flavor,” Viguera told Insider. “If you prefer a bolder, fuller-bodied cup, try a 1:14 ratio.”
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