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The beginner's guide to making better coffee at home

It’s not often everyone gets the chance to go to coffee school to learn how to make a delicious cup of coffee. For that reason, we have here some for the best tips which can raise your game and help you make the very best cup you can at home.

If you follow this guide, you’ll see a vast improvement in your morning cuppa.

coffee beansWith only two ingredients, quality is key
The first step is to choose the best coffee beans you can afford. But don’t head for the large tubs of pre-ground coffee in the grocery store — you need actual whole beans. These might be found in specialty coffee shops or higher-end groceries.

Freshness is critical, and you might spend that little bit extra, but the difference will be noticeable. The closer you can find beans to their roasting date, the better. Coffee is at its best within two weeks of the roasting date, so try to drink it within the next week or so after purchase.

Coffee begins losing its flavor almost immediately after being ground. Once you have found the ideal source of freshly roasted beans, only grind them as you need them. And make sure you're grinding the beans to the proper consistency: Grind them too fine and the water takes ages to drip through the coffee, and if they aren't ground fine enough, the water runs through too fast for a flavorful cup.

One final bean note: Heat and moisture are things which can ruin your coffee beans. It might seem logical, but never place your beans in the refrigerator or the freezer. Direct sunlight is also a killer. Keep them in a dark, airtight jar at room temperature.

And don't forget about the second ingredient in a great cup of coffee: water. Ditch the tap water and use filtered spring water if you get the chance. Tap water has lots of trace elements and cleansing agents in it, and although subtle in taste, it does make that difference.

pour over coffeeUse proper brewing technique
You might not be in the market for a new full-on coffee machine, but this doesn’t matter. There are other methods you can use. Even if you have no equipment, and want to get into barista-level coffee, you can still brew gourmet coffee with just a tiny investment.

There are two types of brewing: immersion and pour over. Beginners are best sticking to an immersion brewer.

The French press is the most common immersion brewer. These are super cheap and take around four minutes for you to make your coffee. Spoon in the required amount of ground coffee, fill with water, let it sit and then slide down the plunger to hold back the coffee grounds.

Pour over brewing methods take a little more involvement, but for connoisseurs, this is the ultimate aim. The set-up is simple: A coffee pot with a filter on top. The filter will hold your coffee grounds, and then when your water is just off the boil, you drizzle in the first lot of water. After almost a minute of watching your coffee bloom, you can slowly pour over the required amount of water in stages.

Read more about pour over coffee here

Crucial coffee equipment
Electric blade grinders are quick and easy, but they produce unevenly ground beans. Instead, aim for a burr grinder if possible because these give consistent results. The better the grinder, the better the flavor of your coffee.

coffee scaleTimers and kitchen scales
For immersion brewers, a timer isn’t super crucial, but for the pour over method, you need to follow proper timing when it comes to pouring in water. There are many brewing guides around that show the optimum times for pour over brewing.

The weight and proportions of coffee and water are critical for consistent, high-quality coffee, no matter your brewing method. You need the exact amount of coffee grounds and water depending on the number of cups you're looking to make. Luckily, digital scales are not expensive. Look for one that will read in 0.1-gram increments.

Depending on your coffee brewing method, you will need various-shaped filters. But no matter the filter choice, you always want to rinse it with water before use. This gets rid of the chance of any paper flavors making it into your cup of Joe.

If you are going the pour over route, try to find a gooseneck kettle. These are the best way to distribute your hot water. One with a thermometer built in is even better.

Coffee brewing water should always be just below boiling temperature. Coffee will be extracted into the water when it is between 195 and 205 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, bring the water to a boil and then let it sit for 30 seconds before you start brewing.

Two final tips that go a long way are to pre-heat your brewing equipment and your coffee mug. Also, once you’re finished, clean your equipment thoroughly — stale coffee can ruin your equipment.

Now, go forth and brew that barista quality coffee at home.

Photo (beans): Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Photo (pour over coffee): Mike Marquez/Unsplash
Photo (scale): Tyler Nix/Unsplash