Based on our highly scientific calculations, the number of daily coffee drinkers to those who can make a halfway-drinkable cup of their own is around 1,765,432 to 1. Homemade brews are always too weak or too strong, too hot or too cold, too burnt or just plain gross. We’ve tried to perfect our technique with syphons, Chemexes, and Mokapots, and nothing seems to work. And those who’ve resorted to using K-Cups, beyond contributing an enormous amount of unnecessary waste to the world, have just given up on life.
It need not be so complicated! Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to make a cup of coffee you’ll actually appreciate, and that doesn’t require purchasing some trendy object fetishized by coffee nerds. Depending on how much time you have in the morning, you might not have time to follow all of these guidelines, and that’s okay. We’re not trying to get you up any earlier for work than you already do. But even incorporating a few of these into your daily routine will help improve the end product. And save the full shebang for the weekend, when you have nothing else to do but kick up your feet and sip on a glorious cup o’ joe.
Buy Whole, Freshly Roasted Beans
Beans begin to lose their flavor as soon as they’re ground. And whole beans peak at one to three days after roasting and then begin to lose their flavor after a week or so. No local roasters in your horse-and-buggy town? You’re in luck: many top brands mail bags of beans nationwide.
We Recommend: Blue Bottle Coffee’s subscription service.
Measure By Weight, Not Volume
The old standby is one tablespoon of grounds per three fluid ounces of water, but it’s inexact and inconsistent. Each bean is like a snowflake and can vary in weight, and therefore in potency of flavor. So pony up and buy a $10-20 kitchen scale accurate to one gram. Measure out two grams of beans per fluid ounce of coffee, so 20 grams of beans for a typical ten fl. oz. mug.
We Recommend: DecoBros Scale.
Grind Them at Home, One Batch at a Time
You want the grounds to be as fresh as possible. (See the first step.) So don’t go HAM and grind up the whole bag at once unless you plan on drinking your coffee out of an oil drum.
We Recommend: Krups Coffee Grinder.
Mind the Grind
The length of time you grind is determined by the method you’re using to brew.
- French press: requires a coarse grind so that pieces don’t slip through the fine mesh filter and into your mug. Length of grind: eight seconds
- Pour-over: This method is requires a medium coarseness. Length of grind: 11 seconds
- Cowboy coffee: this extremely basic brewing method, named for the way dudes out on the range used to do it, involves throwing grounds into a pot of hot water. It works best with a fine grind. This method is only for desperate situations. Length of grind: 15 seconds
Preheat Your French Press (If You’re Using One)
As soon as the hot water touches the room-temperature walls of a French press, the temperature of the brew will drop too low. While you’re waiting for your water to boil, fill the French press with hot tap and put the lid on so it stays hot. When it’s time to put the grounds in, empty to hot water into your mug to warm it up, too.
Use a Metal Pour-Over Filter Rather Than Paper
Paper filters can trap the oils released by ground beans, which translates to less flavor.
We Recommend: Ovviso Coffee Filter.
Remove from the Stove as Soon as the Water Boils
The often-repeated tip that you have to boil the water for a set amount of time is wrong. You’re not going to end up with the coffee-ologist’s preferred 213-degree water, just less of it after you let a bunch float away as steam.
Let the Water Rest for Thirty Seconds
Boiling water will scald the grounds and draw out bitter flavors you’d rather leave behind.
Pour In Just a Little Water at First
The grounds release a burst of carbon dioxide when hot water hits them—a process called blooming. Adding just a bit of agua caliente will kickstart the reaction that brings the coffee’s flavor profile to the forefront. Pour in no more than one third of the water and stir for 20 to 30 seconds.
Don’t Let Floating Grounds Bother You
It just happens. Anxious drinkers sometimes sprinkle cold water into the cup in an effort to sink them. But I’ve never seen it work well enough for the effort, and then you just have a colder brew.
Steep for 4 to 4 ½ Minutes (If Using French Press)
Set the timer and hang out. You can fine-tune the time after your first cup of a new roast—a bit longer if the brew is too weak and shorter if it’s too strong. When the time’s up, pour into your preheated mug and brace yourself for another day on this crazy planet.