Have you noticed how coffee ordered at a coffee shop just seems to simply taste better? And then when you try to make your own coffee at home – it just sort of falls flat? We get it. We also get that you can’t feasibly grab coffee from a shop every day, so we tapped into the expertise of our friends at Unravel to bring you 5 Tips for Better Coffee at Home.
USE GOOD COFFEE
This seems like a no-brainer, but no amount of coffee tips can save a bad coffee from tasting bad. The number one thing you can do to get better flavor is to use better coffee.
There are lots of different coffees out there. Most of what is produced is of low quality, roasted dark to hide its flaws. Conversely, high quality coffee has been sourced ethically and carefully and not just roasted to taste roasty, but roasted so its flavor expresses its fullest potential.
Like wine, there are many different regions to explore and processing methods to try. It can be daunting at first, but be brave and try something new the next time you are shopping for coffee. There might be some flavors out there you didn’t even know existed.
If you’re just dipping your toes into coffee, try one of Unravel’s more approachable coffees like Two Stitch or Ashew. Elevate your coffee game with a more adventurous coffee like Illumination or Gedeb Bilaki.
GET A BURR GRINDER
Freshly ground coffee is always better than pre-ground coffee, but if you are using a blade grinder that might not be the case. Blade grinders are unfortunately ubiquitous. You probably even have one sitting in your cupboard because they are inexpensive and easy to use. The problem is that those whirring blades indiscriminately chop your coffee into a variety of different sizes creating a muddled mess.
A burr grinder, on the other hand, lets you unlock a coffee’s full flavor potential. Each type of coffee you buy and the brewing method you choose has a preferred grind size. A burr grinder lets you select a grind size and proceeds to uniformly grind all the coffee to exactly that size. Grind uniformity is the key to better flavor and to better flavor transparency.
An electric burr grinder can be a bit of an investment, though it is one that pays back dividends in quality and convenience. If you are willing to put in a little more effort, there are many hand-driven burr grinders that can be had for less money that deliver equally good results.
If you’re not sure about making the leap just yet, let us grind your coffee for you at the shop. It isn’t as good as freshly ground coffee, but it’s better than grinding it with a blade grinder and we can dial the grind in based on the coffee you buy and how you choose to brew it.
CHECK YOUR GRIND SIZE
Already using a burr grinder and still having trouble getting good flavor out of your coffee? Your grind size might be the culprit.
As mentioned above, when choosing a grind size, every coffee and each brewing device has a sweet spot that will produce the best results. Unfortunately every grinder is different and the numbers on your grinder are pretty arbitrary, so it’s hard to give an exact setting that will produce a great cup. Sticking with one grind size for every coffee will lead to varying results. We encourage you to use your taste buds as a guide and to make adjustments. As a rule of thumb, if your coffee is tasting dull or bitter, grind coarser. If your coffee is tasting thin and sour, grind finer.
Each time you brew coffee think of it as conducting a little science experiment. Measurements and temperatures matter.
Unlike cooking, you can’t taste and adjust along the way. It’s much more like baking. You set up the ingredients and put the pieces in motion, and the final result is direct a reflection of the preparations made before the water even touches the dry coffee.
Using scoops and the lines on your coffee maker is not a very precise way to make coffee. Everyone’s scoop is going to be a little different and not all coffees weigh the same. Also, those cups on your brewer are probably 6 ounces, not the normal 8. To really take control of your brew, you will need to get your scales out. Don’t have a scale? Grab one here.
When brewing regular coffee, you will want to use between 10-12g of coffee per 6 ounce cup. To be more precise coffee professionals usually express their recipes as a ratio of coffee to brewing water. Instead of telling you how much coffee to use for every 6 ounces of water, the recipe would be given as Parts Water: Parts Coffee, and a good recipe will be between 15:1 and 17:1. This way you can scale your brews from a single cup to a large batch.
While using these ratios will get you going, it’s not the end of the story. Getting good flavor out of your coffee is fairly objective: it either tastes good or it doesn’t. The strength of your coffee, meanwhile is a subjective matter, and it is manipulated by using more or less water in relation to how much dry coffee you start with. The only caveat is, if you adjust how much water you use, then you might need to adjust your grind size as well.
USE GOOD WATER
We spend a lot of time talking about coffee and how to physically manipulate it to get the best flavor, but coffee as a beverage is 98% water and what’s in your brew water has a big effect on how the final cup will taste. First and foremost, don’t use water you wouldn’t want to drink.
Unravel uses a reverse osmosis system to take out all of the impurities and then add minerals back in to get the perfect water for brewing, yet at home this is overkill. For your morning cup we recommend using filtered or spring water.
As an added bonus, good water keeps your kettle and brewer running properly since water that is too hard or too soft can cause calcium deposits to build up or corrosion to occur.
Side note: don’t use distilled water or a ZeroWater system to brew coffee. You do want some minerals in your brewing water, just not too much. Minerals help the water extract all the good stuff out of the coffee.