Making a great cup of coffee – whatever brew style is your jam – doesn’t come easy.
And even members of the “café quality coffee at home” tribe, who are invested in making a good brew, make mistakes that seriously impact the quality of what you end up with.
Fear not, there are ways to address this. And the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Let’s take a little look at mistakes that might be happening without you realizing it.
Do any of these mistakes sound familiar? If they do, don’t worry – there’s no principal’s office in coffee. All you need to do is not make them anymore and you’re golden.
Forgetting To Log Your Brew (record the details)
Think of making coffee as one long, never-ending science project, where you have an exam every time you make a cup of it.
While that might sound terrible (like a nightmare flashback to high school), it is, in fact, completely awesome.
Great coffee is a product of consistency.
You know that old adage: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Well, flip that on its head. Great coffee comes from doing the same (right) thing over and over again.
To do that, you need to know what works.
Get a coffee log or journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You could just get a notebook and use that.
In your coffee log, record the specifics of each brew: brew type, bean, grind size, water temp, brew time and the taste of it.
This takes some trial and error – and I suggest that when you are adjusting, do so one element at a time.
This method is much more effective than randomly changing a few things and then not knowing what really works and what doesn’t.
The beauty of this: once you have good recipes (because different brews require their own information) – then you’re set.
You can make kick-ass coffee every single time.
Trusting Your Coffee Grinder
We all know that burr grinders are great tools in the quest for the perfect cup of coffee. And I strongly encourage you to get one if you don’t already have one.
There are some good models on the market and I believe that every kitchen needs one.
And you shouldn’t put all of your trust into your burr grinder.
Yep. That’s right. I said it.
Even with a really good burr grinder, you need back-up.
You see, coffee grinders (even the good ones) are like humans – they are imperfect. You just don’t get a completely uniform grind every time – and for an optimized brew, getting rid of the particles that are too big or too small is crucial.
Enter the hero of this story: the coffee sieve.
So what the heck is a coffee sieve?
It is a work of genius, as far as I’m concerned. You see, it is a small device with metal screens designed for coffee grinds and it is very precise.
Using a coffee sieve is a game changer.
Let’s be clear though – it won’t make bad coffee better, but it will make good coffee great.
And isn’t that the holy grail that we are all chasing? Great coffee?
Using unfiltered Tap Water To Brew Coffee
There are times when I say this and people give me the look.
You know the one… where they are thinking, “Are you are kidding?” (or worse… “Have you lost your stinkin’ mind?”).
Yeah, that look.
I get that more than you might expect. Or maybe you would expect it.
The fact is, the water you use to make coffee matters.
Tap water can have all kinds of crap in it – from chlorine to excess minerals – that isn’t good for your coffee.
There is a nuance to the taste of water. Depending on where you live and what kind of water you have, it’s important to pay attention to this.
For example, some minerals in the water are good for making espresso, but not so much for brews like French Press or Aeropress.
It’s important to understand the chemistry between coffee and water (1) so that you can make sure that your water isn’t negatively impacting your coffee, but is enhancing the taste.
It’s worth checking out water filtration systems (2) if you don’t have one. And if you do, please – for the love of whatever God you believe in – use filtered water.
Read more: best water for coffee.
Forgetting to Rinse Your paper Coffee Filter
This is one of those things that makes you shake your head when you realize that you haven’t really rinsed out your coffee filters properly for days.
Or in the case of one coffee tribe member I know – a couple of weeks.
She’d do a cursory rinse and then wonder why she was having challenges with the taste of her coffee.
It’s great that we’re all on board with reusable filters. Mother nature deserves that respect since she gifts us with the greatest of all beans: the coffee bean.
It is important to properly rinse out the filter.
Oil, coffee grind dust (impossible to see with the naked eye) and other particles can seriously impact the taste of your coffee.
I rinse mine out after every brew session. It’s a habit I got into a long time ago.
I recommend that you pick up this habit too.
Using Old (Moldy) Beans
If you’re like me, you have come home from the grocery store with milk that has a best before date of tomorrow.
You forget to check.
It happens with coffee beans too.
I have been guilty of traveling and finding a great local roaster and bringing some home with me. And then a week or two in, my coffee doesn’t taste as magical as it did on my trip.
It’s because the beans are getting old.
It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure that you aren’t buying beans that are closer to the best-before date than the roasting date.
Assume that if you store your beans in an airtight, glass container in a cool, dark place – you get about a month before the flavor degrades.
And as much as people still think that it’s ok to store your beans in the freezer, please don’t.
There’s a whole moisture thing that happens that isn’t good for the bean – or your taste buds. This is one time when you should just say no.
And – if you store them in the freezer or if you don’t use an airtight glass container, you run the risk of moldy beans.
And that’s not good for anyone.
It doesn’t always happen, but it can depending on how much moisture gets into the beans. Typically this won’t kill you, but it isn’t good for you and it can make you sick.
And it tastes bad.
Sometimes though, the mold is just starting – and you can’t quite see it.
Ensuring you only use fresh coffee beans isn’t always possible; that’s why coffee subscriptions were born. They will send you the right amount of beans on autopilot: meaning you always use fresh beans. Find out more about coffee subscriptions here.
Choosing the wrong coffee beans for your brew method
There is a whole world for you to discover about pairing the roast with the right brew method. It’s interesting and incredible when you dig into this.
Let’s talk a little bit about which roast goes with the brew process.
The National Coffee Association of the USA has a great infographic that explains the different types of roasts in detail (3).
A light roast allows the nuances and flavor of the coffee bean to be the stars of the show and a dark roast’s flavor mostly comes from the roasting process.
When it comes to the marriage of roast with brew, in general, you can use this approach:
|TYPE OF BREW||ROAST|
|French Press||Light or Medium Toast (although some people swear by medium dark)|
|Pour Over||Medium to Medium Dark Roast and Dark Roast|
|Aeropress||Light Or Medium Roast|
|Espresso||Medium to Dark Roast is the usual go-to, although some make the argument that any roast is good for espresso. I’m not so sure about that.|
Using a cheap coffee mug (And Not Warming Your Cup)
This might seem like a nothing detail, but it’s important.
Have you ever drunk a nice beer out of a shitty plastic cup? ergh.
If you had a bottle of nice champagne to drink and you had the option of a plastic or glass, what would you choose?
Of course you’d choose the glass…because it tastes better that way, right?
It stays cooler, and feels better, and therefore tastes better. The same applies in reverse for coffee.
don’t drink your coffee out of plastic, melamine or tin (unless you are camping or making Cowboy coffee – then tin is ok).
Find a glass or ceramic mug or a cup you like – it’s not just for the flavor, but also for ceremony and tradition.
It’s for the enjoyment of the shot or cup of coffee that you have made the effort and taken the time to brew.
And for the love of everything that is good and holy, please warm your cup. Don’t shock the hot coffee by pouring it into a cold cup.
That’s just not right.
If your coffee machine doesn’t have a cup warmer, pour some hot water into your cup while the coffee is brewing and then pour it out and dry the cup. Your coffee will be better for it.
One last thing:
Espresso should be in an espresso cup. And there are some stylin’ ones out there.
If someone serves you a shot of espresso in the bottom of large mug…spit at their feet and say ‘bitch please’
Wrapping up: Your New Attitude =
“It’s Not A Mistake – It’s An Experiment” (You’re Collecting Data)
Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. And mistakes like the ones listed here can be easily remedied.
And some of them, like marrying the right roast with the right brew style, can become a whole new adventure for you.
This coffee adventure that we’re on together really is about the journey. Every little tip and hint helps us to become better at the art and science of coffee making.
Which is what it’s all about – finding our way to a great cup of coffee.
- What is the Best Water for Brewing Coffee or Espresso? Retrieved from https://www.thecoffeebrewers.com/whisbewaforb.html
- The Best Water Filters Of 2019 – Reactual Retrieved from https://reactual.com/home-and-garden/kitchen-products-2/best-countertop-water-filter.html
- Coffee Roasts Guide Retrieved from https://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/Coffee-Roasts-Guide