A Quick Guide To Brewing Coffee At Home


Make A Great Cup Of Coffee With Any Device

Unsurprisingly, many Google search terms involve how to brew the best coffee. Although it may be tempting to think that it’s not rocket science, there are a few considerations if your goal is to take a cup from okay to great.

First, let’s establish that the best cup of coffee is the one you like. Period. However, mastering a few fundamental coffee hacks will take your brew from passable to better than a coffee shop.

How To Brew A Classic Coffee Beverage

Start With Great Beans. Of course, a site selling coffee beans would say that. But it is true. coffee-beans

Both the flavor and quality of coffee are determined as much, if not more, by the type of coffee than the brewing process. Coffee is grown all over the globe, leading to a world of difference between types of beans. Each country and region of origin has its own distinctive profile.

The variety of coffee bean also plays a large part in the final product. Coffee is divided into two classes–arabica and robusta. You can buy roasts that are 100% of one type, but most coffee roasts are a mixture of the two.

Consider The Roast. How long the coffee beans are roasted is also a consideration.

Beans are stored green so they do not lose quality or taste in storage. Roasting them to very high temperatures brings out the flavors and oils within the beans and reduces much of the moisture found in green coffee beans. Beans should be used as quickly as possible after they are roasted. This is why My Coffee 4 ME sells only beans that are roasted when ordered. You can be assured that our beans are the freshest roast available.

Always Use Clean Equipment. The tools you use to grind, filter and make coffee must be thoroughly cleaned after each use.

The biggest concern with coffee making equipment is to be certain that no grounds are left and there’s no coffee oil left behind in the filter or pot. Either one, if left in place, can make the next coffee brew taste bitter or even rancid.

While a coffee grinder cannot be immersed or rinsed with water, a (new) toothbrush or similarly unused small paintbrush gets underneath the blades and into cracks. Here’s a recyclable toothbrush I like to use and a paintbrush, too.

Get The Correct Grind. The size and texture of grind also play an important role in the final beverage.

Generally speaking, a brewing method that takes a longer amount of time, like a French Press, needs a coarse grind. A cup brewed quickly, like an espresso, should be fine like flour.

It may seem like there too many choices. Remember there is no right or wrong when it comes to selecting the roast and grind. For example, you can choose a dark, rich espresso roast coffee and grind it to be brewed in a drip coffee machine.

Use The Right Water.  You may have heard that filtered water is best for coffee brewing. That’s usually true.

Municipal water is treated with fluoride and chlorine or chloramine to prevent bacteria from building up in pipes. This adds an off taste to coffee, as does naturally occurring minerals. While a countertop pitcher filter will help remove minerals, the best home water filters hook into kitchen pipes. Alternatively, many coffee drinkers purchase bottled water.

Avoid distilled water, though. It may seem sensible to use distilled to avoid the build-up of scale in the pot and machine. However, because distilled water has all the minerals taken out of it, when it is run through a coffee maker that has metal parts it will leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine’s performance over time. It will also result in a bitter cup of coffee. chemix-coffee-pot

The ideal mineral balance for coffee is 150 parts per million (ppm). This results in a better balance and smoother cup. Water with a high mineral content causes under-extraction and a brew that may be sour tasting. Conversely, a lower mineral content often results in over-extraction and a bitter flavor.

Regardless of whether or not you use filtered or bottled water, be sure it is room temperature or cooler when you start to heat it.

Brew At The Correct Temperature. Your coffee maker should maintain a water temperature between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction.

If you brew coffee manually, like with an AeroPress, French Press or Chemex, let the water come to a full boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn off the heat. Allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.

Water that is colder than 195° will result in flat, under-extracted coffee. Water that is too hot will cause a loss in quality taste. On the other hand, coffee that is cold-brewed does not need heat as the beans are in contact with water for about 12 hours.

Brew For The Correct Time. The amount of time coffee grounds are in contact with the water is a huge factor in flavor and taste.

For a drip system, like Chemex or another pour-over method, contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If making coffee using a French Press, the grounds should be in contact with hot water for between 2-4 minutes. Espresso has an especially brief time–about 20-30 seconds. Cold brew, on the other hand, should steep overnight (about 12 hours).

A Golden Ratio For Coffee And Water

The accepted guideline for the ratio of coffee-to-water is called the Golden Ratio–one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. But like any “rule” this can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.

Check the cup lines or indicators on your specific brewer to see how accurately they measure. Also, remember that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods.

The Optimal Temperature For Drinking

Coffee rapidly cools after being poured depending, of course, on the type of container from which it is being served and your cup size and amount of insulation.  Many coffee drinkers add cream or milk which also has a cooling effect.pouring-milk-into-coffee-cup

Ultimately, just as with coffee taste and aroma, the temperature at which an individual coffee drinker prefers coffee is a personal preference–like so many other things that make coffee special. Regardless of how hot or cool you take your coffee, it’s always best right after brewing–typically at a temperature between 180-185° Fahrenheit.

However, this is too hot for most coffee lovers. A study reported in Food Science found subjects preferred temperatures that were around 140° Fahrenheit. Adding cream or milk will help cool your beverage more quickly.

Enjoy Your Coffee!

After all of this, if you’re still not happy with the taste of the final product, you’re likely doing one of two things:

  • Over-extracting–brewing time is too long
  • Under-extracting–the brew time is too short

Experiment with the water-to-coffee contact time and grind size/texture until you get the right balance for your taste.

Coffee begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing, so only make as much coffee as you’ll drink. Alternatively, pour it into a warmed, insulated thermos to be consumed within an hour.

Old coffee left over from breakfast isn’t dangerous to health, unless the milk/cream is left out for more than two hours. It’s just not very appealing and becomes more bitter and “sludgey” the longer it sits.

Try to enjoy your coffee mindfully–take in the aroma and notice the flavors in each sip.


Ellie Strand

I'm a geriatric nurse practitioner--in both senses of the word--disabled/retired with a devastating, debilitating neuro-immune-endocrine disease called ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). All that aside, I'm living as well as I can with it.

  • Amy says:

    This is a really informative and interesting article. I had no idea that distilled water shouldn’t be used in coffee makers and that it can damage them. I prefer milkier coffee – lattes, cappuccinos, etc. Is there a particular coffee type that would work well for brewing this at home?

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Amy. I try to write posts that I can learn from myself. As far as the type of coffee for lattes and other milkier brews, I prefer the darker roasts. I think they stand up better to milk or cream. Of course, you should never use what my brother-in-law calls “chemical white.” 😉

  • Karin Nauber says:

    Wow! I never knew all this! I am a Folgers breakfast blend kind of girl! It is really interesting about the different things involved in making a great cup of coffee! Funny story, I once visited with someone who roasted their own coffee beans in an air popcorn popper! Have you heard of that before?

  • Ellie Strand says:

    Yes, Karin, I have read about using a popcorn popper to roast beans but it was just a reference with nothing about how long to do it. I’ve also read about roasting beans in a skillet over an open fire!
    I prefer to buy my beans roasted the day the order is received–like all coffee orders placed through this site.

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