Coffee is a matter of individual taste, shaped by factors ranging from culture to genetics (really). Whether you prefer a third-wave, artesian light roast or a strong supermarket classic, taken black or with milk and sugar — find what you like and enjoy it.
Making good coffee at home comes down to experimenting with the process, but it helps to have a solid foundation first.
These six fundamental principles can help you brew a better cup — whatever that means to you.
[The following is an edited excerpt from “How to Make Perfect Coffee,” by Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, which originally appeared in The Atlantic]
1. Buy good coffee beans
They should be whole beans, sustainably farmed, and roasted within the past few weeks.
2. Grind your coffee just before brewing
Roasted coffee is very delicate and perishable. Coffee has many more flavor compounds than wine, but those compounds deteriorate quickly when exposed to oxygen.
3. Store your coffee properly
Beans should be kept in an airtight container and away from sunlight. A major point of debate in the coffee world is whether to freeze or not freeze your coffee. If it’s going to be more than two weeks before brewing, we freeze our coffee. Otherwise, we avoid it. [NCA note: If you do freeze your coffee, make sure your container is truly airtight – most are not, despite appearances.]
4. Use the right proportion of coffee to water
A major error people make is not using enough coffee. The Golden Ratio is a great starting point and the simplest way to get into that perfect zone.
5. Focus on technique
Brewing great coffee is about precision and consistency. Each method has its own particular techniques, but by doing the same thing over and over you fix your mistakes and improve incrementally.
6. Use quality tools
Yes, it’s more of an upfront investment, but in the long run it’s worth it. Good tools last longer and make the entire process much easier. [NCA note: It’s also important to keep your equipment clean!]
To learn more about brewing coffee at home, check out the NCA’s Complete Guide to Coffee