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Beginner’s Guide To Making Coffee At Home

If you’re on a journey to make a great cup of coffee, look no further. Making coffee at home isn’t as intimidating as it seems, and it doesn’t take years of practice to brew some great coffee.

It does seem complicated at first. If you browse the Internet for coffee making advice, you’ll see a lot of terms you don’t know and many videos that outline complex processing for making coffee.

And while there’s definitely a learning curve to brewing, there are easy ways to get started.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a café-level setup or months studying different techniques. We’ll share with you some basic techniques that will take just a few weeks of dedicated practice to get down.

Then it’s time to get brewing!

When making coffee, there are two main methods for brewing: pour over (or drip) and immersion. We’ll cover both types and tell you exactly what you need.

Making Coffee at Home

Think of how your coffeepot works. You pour water in the reservoir and fill the basket up with coffee.

The water then drips through the coffee grounds and fills up the pot.

Imagine doing that process by hand. That’s exactly what pour over coffee is.

The basic process consists of boiling water in a kettle, freshly grinding your coffee beans, placing the grounds in a device called a dripper, and then carefully pouring the water over the coffee.

It might seem like a lot of hard work at first, but for many coffee lovers, it’s a ritual that grants a moment for peace. That might sound dramatic, but there’s indeed something about meticulously pouring water over coffee that’s relaxing.

You might have a few questions, so let’s address those first.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Why not just use my coffeepot for making coffee?”

Sometimes, your coffeepot is the right answer. (You have to have the right one, of course, as some don’t heat the water enough.)

However, in many cases, a coffeepot doesn’t make sense.

For example, if you want to just make one cup of coffee for yourself, using your coffeepot is overkill.

Also, the pour over process can bring out more of the complexities in a coffee, allowing you to taste the flavor notes and enjoy it more.

“Do I have to freshly grind the beans? Why can’t I just use pre-ground?”

Freshly grinding is more important than you may think. In fact, you should spend more on your grinder than almost any other part of your pour over setup.

The main reason is that coffee, like many other foods, goes stale quickly. After it’s ground and exposed to oxygen, coffee only stays flavorful for about 15 minutes.

After that, it loses about 60% of its aroma, and its taste degrades as well. Think of the way an apple turns brown after it’s cut and exposed to oxygen.

The same thing is true of ground coffee.

In addition, pre-ground coffee is often months old (and sometimes over a year old). It will taste bland and stale compared to freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee.

Finally, the particle size of the coffee grounds matters. When making coffee, you extract compounds from the coffee.

The more even the size of the grounds, the more evenly you’ll extract all the good stuff, and the better your cup will be.

READ  Beginner’s Guide To Coffee Processing Methods

That’s why you shouldn’t use a blade grinder for grinding coffee. It will just hack up the beans into pieces of all different sizes.

Instead, you should use a burr grinder. These grinders use circular burrs to grind the beans, and they provide a much more even grind.

This will ultimately give you a better cup of coffee.

We highly recommend Baratza’s grinders. The company is well known for its excellent prices and top-notch customer support.

The Baratza Encore is an entry-level grinder that will take your coffee game to the next level.

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

“What are the differences between pour over and immersion brewing?”

Pour over brewing works in the same way as your coffeepot. Water is poured through the grounds and extracts the coffee molecules as it passes by.

This usually takes the least amount of time and results in a bright, clean cup with a medium or light body.

Immersion brewing is a lot like steeping tea. The grounds float in hot water for a longer time to extract the right amount.

This method typically results in a more robust cup of coffee with a lot of body to it.

Both have their strengths and their weaknesses, and we recommend trying both.

“What do I need to get started with making coffee?”

Besides a good burr grinder like the Baratza Encore, you’ll need a few crucial items.

If you want to use a pour over method, you’ll need a dripper. If you want to use the immersion method, you’ll want a press of some sort.

Here’s what you need for each method:

Coffee Gear for Pour Over

Dripper

A dripper is one of the main types of devices you can use to make coffee.

Drippers are like standalone coffeepot baskets. They’re either flat-bottomed or conical, and there are many options to choose from.

There are three coffee drippers that have remained popular over the last several years, and they each have their own pros and cons. Let’s look at all of them.

Kalita Wave

Kalita Wave Pour Over Coffee Dripper, Size 185​, Makes 16-26oz, Single Cup Maker, Heat-Resistant Glass, Patented & Portable

While the Kalita Wave isn’t as popular as the V60 or Chemex, it is one of the more common flat bottom drippers.

It might not seem like there’s a big difference between a conical dripper and a flat-bottomed dripper, there is. A flat bottom dripper is much more beginner-friendly because it naturally extracts the coffee more evenly. Basically, it gives you a wider margin of error, so if you mess up a little, the coffee will still taste good.

Because it’s so forgiving, the Kalita Wave is our recommended dripper for beginners. We suggest the glass version, as some steel drippers can tear the filter papers due to their design.

If you want to brew small cups (around 8 oz), then go with the Kalita 155 instead of the larger 185 model.

And of course, don’t forget to pick up filters.

Hario V60

Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper, Size 02, White

The Hario V60 is arguably the most iconic dripper. Its conical shape is unmistakable, and there’s at least one or two V60s in the majority of newer coffee shops all over the world.

Although the V60 looks simple enough, it’s actually one of the more complex drippers to use. The large hole at the bottom means that you have to carefully control how fast the water drips through (a variable known as flow rate).

However, when you master it, the V60 produces an amazing cup of coffee. It highlights a coffee’s brightness and fruitiness.

We recommend the ceramic V60 for overall aesthetics and function. Most people will only need a size 01, which is perfect for brewing 8-12 oz of coffee (enough for one person).

If you’re okay with the idea of hot water going near plastic, then the plastic V60 is a lower-cost option.

And if you want to get really fancy, the V60 is available in steel and copper, although only the size 02 offers these materials, so we only recommend these if you’ll be using the V60 to regularly make 12 oz or more.

READ  Drip vs French Press: Which Type Of Coffee Maker Is Right For You?

You’ll also need some filter papers for your new dripper. We recommend the white filters because the brown ones leave more of a papery taste.

Chemex

CHEMEX Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker - Classic Series - 8-Cup - Exclusive Packaging

The Chemex is also an iconic dripper, and it’s been so acclaimed for its design that it’s in the Museum of Modern Art.

While the 6-cup Chemex is the most famous model, the 3-cup Chemex is appropriate for most people since it can make up to 15 oz of coffee.

The Chemex is known for producing exceptionally clean cups of coffee because of the incredibly thick filters. Since they’re thicker, the filters don’t let as many oils through, so the result is a bright and tealike cup.

The Chemex comes in two versions. There’s the all-glass Chemex with a handle and the Chemex with a wood collar and leather tie. Either option brews exactly the same, so no matter which one you get, you’ll be on your way to making coffee that tastes great. (And don’t forget the filters!)

Coffee Gear for Immersion Brewing

French Press

Bodum 1928-16US4 Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, 1 Liter, 34 Ounce, Chrome

You may already have a French press. It’s one of the most popular ways to make coffee.

The Bodum 3-cup Brazil French press is a great press for most people. It can make up to 12 oz. of coffee, and like any press, it’s a breeze to use. Bodum’s build quality is also excellent, so this won’t be breaking anytime soon. (That said, be careful with the glass!)

With a French press, you may end up with some silt in the final cup, but there are some methods that mitigate this. If you don’t mind a few stray grounds in your cup and prefer a fuller bodied taste, the French press is for you.

If you need to make more coffee than 12 oz., the 8-cup model is our recommendation.

Aeropress

AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker - Quickly Makes Delicious Coffee Without Bitterness - 1 to 3 Cups Per Pressing

The Aeropress is a variation of the French press that produces an entirely different result.

It’s become so popular that there are even championships like the World Aeropress Championship that encourage creative methods using this flexible coffee-making device.

The Aeropress will produce a smooth, balanced cup of coffee, but it will have slightly more body than what a pour over method will produce.

A couple of caveats here. First, the Aeropress is plastic, so for those of you who are afraid of the plastic leeching toxins into your brew, we recommend choosing another device for making coffee.

Second, it cannot make true espresso, despite what its marketing says. What it can make is a super concentrated cup of coffee that substitutes for espresso.

Kettle

As you might have expected from the idea of pour over coffee, the right kettle is a crucial element of a great pour over setup.

You probably have a kettle sitting in your kitchen, and you might be able to use it, but a word of warning––it’s not ideal.

For most pour over setups, you want a gooseneck (also called a swan neck) kettle. These kettles have long, curved spouts that terminate in a smaller opening so that you can pour a thin stream of water over the coffee.

You can use a regular, non-gooseneck kettle with flat bottomed drippers, but we recommend only using a gooseneck for any conical drippers because they require more pouring precision.

A gooseneck kettle is not needed for immersion methods, so if you’re using something like a French press or Aeropress, you can skip getting a gooseneck.

Here are our two recommended gooseneck kettles:

Bonavita 1.0L Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle

Bonavita 1.0L Variable Temperature Electric Kettle, 1.0 Liters, Metallic

The Bonavita variable temperature kettle is the gooseneck of choice for countless coffee lovers around the world.

The kettle has a temperature setting mechanism, a timer feature, and sturdy build quality. It also offers a hold feature that allows you to keep the water at a set temperature for up to an hour.

It’s electric so you can just plug in and go. And of course, the gooseneck tip gives you precise control over how much water you pour.

READ  Beginner’s Guide To Pour Over Coffee

It’s an all around fantastic kettle, and it’s affordable to boot. It gets our top recommendation for making coffee at home.

Hario V60 Buono Pouring Kettle (1.2L)

Hario Gooseneck Coffee Kettle 'Buono', Stovetop, 1.2L, Stainless Steel, Silver

The Hario Buono kettle is the other super popular gooseneck on the market.

The Buono is considerably cheaper, but the build quality is the same. However, this is a stovetop only kettle.

It’s also important to note that the Bonavita and Hario kettles feel differently when pouring. If you can try both, we suggest doing so.

Some people prefer one or the other––one doesn’t feel objectively better than the other.

There is an electric Buono, but it’s about the same price as the Bonavita. If you’re set on electric, we recommend the Bonavita because of the temperature display.

However, if all you need is a simple stovetop kettle with an outstanding reputation, look no further than the Buono.

Other Brewing Gear

Hario Coffee Drip Scale/Timer

Hario V60 Drip Coffee Scale and Timer, Black

You’ll need a good scale to accurately weigh out the right amount of beans. If you want an all-in-one scale and timer, this Hario can’t be beat. It’s built to last and works perfectly.

It doesn’t take up much space, and you can place your mug or decanter right on top of it. It’s well worth the price if you’re after convenience and performance.

Hario BA-15 Siphon Bamboo Coffee Maker Stir Stick

Hario Bamboo Coffee Syphon Stir Stick

A stirring stick? Seriously?

Surprisingly, it’s not as silly as it seems. This bamboo stick earned a spot on our list because it’s gentle while stirring, which means you won’t break your device or tear filter papers like you could with a metal spoon.

Freshly Roasted Coffee

We recommend finding a local coffee roaster near you that roasts fresh on a regular basis. This is the best way to get fresh coffee that will taste great. Ideally, you want to buy beans that were roasted a week ago (or even more recently).

You’ll want to avoid any beans you find at the grocery store or supermarket. These beans are at least a month old and are often several months old. If you buy beans like this, you’ll put your new coffee setup to waste!

However, if you don’t have a roaster nearby or prefer to buy online, we have a few curated recommendations for you.

Happy Mug Coffee

Happy Mug is a great introduction into the world of specialty coffee. They offer incredibly cheap beans that are carefully selected and freshly roasted.

Based in Pennsylvania, Happy Mug offers timeless, well-regarded coffees like the Bear Blend and fancy single origins like the blueberry bomb Ethiopia Harrar. They have a wide variety of beans, and their prices can’t be beat.

If you’re looking for coffee that will ease the transition from Folgers guzzler to single origin sipper, Happy Mug is the way to go.

S&W Craft Roasting

S&W Craft Roasting is another excellent and affordable roaster. It’s a two-man operation that’s widely loved by the coffee community for its wide selection of wonderful single origin beans.

These coffees will challenge your palate a bit more than Happy Mug will, but the reward comes in the form of exciting, lively flavors with a lot of depth.

In addition to offering 1-pound bags, S&W sells a 4-bean sample pack if you want to try them out.

Coava Coffee

Looking for something more exquisite? Coava Coffee out of Portland might be the ticket.

Coava is nationally recognized as one of the finest roasters, and it’s gotten lots of media attention from sites like The New York Times and Eater.

It might be difficult to unpack all of the flavor in a Coava coffee, but once you learn to taste the nuances in a bean, you’ll love what Coava has to offer.

Final Word

These are all the items necessary for making coffee at home.

Whether you choose a pour over or immersion setup, you can make a spectacular cup of coffee, so you don’t end up falling asleep in your bed all day.

credit: Pexels

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