Aly Walansky, Contributor
Sept. 21, 2020
Right now, casually passing through our favorite crowded cafe and ordering a steaming cup of fresh coffee isn’t as accessible as it once was. Social distancing has led to many avoiding lines and crowds - and eating or drinking out of the house altogether in many cases.
However, the craving for a great cup of coffee remains. Luckily, it can be achieved with a few steps at home - and save you a lot of money otherwise spent on those daily coffee shop jaunts!
There's nothing like a perfect cup of coffee in the morning.
Whenever possible, use whole bean coffee – grind only what you need, and only when you’re ready to make your coffee. “As soon as coffee is ground it begins to oxidize and lose flavor – you want to use it immediately,” said Kat McCarthy, an expert trainer with Lavazza coffee. Whole beans and a grinder together also allow you to truly have the correct grind size for your preferred brewing method, which can and does make a huge difference, said McCarthy.
Choosing a grinder
You don’t need an expensive grinder to use whole beans – a simple hand-cranked grinder (while it takes some manual labor) can provide you with a decent grind for your preferred method of brewing drip coffee. “ For less manual labor, you can get a well-performing burr grinder for well under $100, or splurge for something more expensive,” said McCarthy. With your own grinder you can always grind the beans to the perfect texture for your favorite brew method.
Pay attention to roast date
Make sure to check the roast date! “If you’re buying coffee and there’s not a roast date on the package, I wouldn’t buy it,” said Patrick Main, Beverage Innovator and Senior R&D Manager at Peet’s. It could have been roasted a year ago. “The industry standard can be a year, or even two years, from roast—but so much of the life of the coffee is just gone by then,” said Main.
Always store your coffee in a cool, dry, dark location in an airtight container. “Heat, humidity, and sunlight will cause your coffee to go stale more quickly, so investing in a good airtight container and finding the best location in your kitchen to keep it will do wonders for the complex flavors of your chosen coffee,” said McCarthy. For example, storing Lavazza’s Classico beans properly will keep the unique notes of dried fruit and the rounded, full body intact.
If you like a particular method of brewing (pourover, for instance, or French press) – research the best practices for that method and implement them. “It’s amazing the difference between a pourover you made in 10 seconds vs one that you took a full two minutes to carefully and evenly distribute your water over the grounds,” said McCarthy.
Perfecting coffee brewing at home is a lot like making a perfect batch of cookies in the kitchen. “It requires the perfect recipe to be able to make the same great batch over and over again,” said Hole in the Wall general manager and lead barista Lisa Dollimore.
Certainly making coffee at home saves us all a lot of money and forces the daily practice of making a better cup. “My early days of making my own coffee were with the Moka pot, made famous by Bialetti,” said Tastemade’s Daytime Emmy-nominated chef Frankie Celenza. These are super affordable, at-home stovetop brewers that yield something between drip and espresso.
“Fill the Moka pot with water up to the safety valve on the inside, and run water through it once by placing it on a medium heat burner,” said Celenza. After that “cleaning cycle,” you’re good to go!
There are a few schools of thought on how to add the coffee. Some say overfill it for compression upon screwing the top on, others say fill it to the top so that it’s full, but doesn’t compress. “I’m in the latter camp,” said Celenza. If you find that your coffee is bitter, Celenza says to try brewing it with alkaline water. You can make your own with half a teaspoon of baking soda per three cups of water. “it’s a trick that I’ve come up with that makes scientific sense to me,” said Celenza.
Depending on what type of coffee you’re using, it requires a set recipe; a specific amount of freshly ground coffee, water, brew time and temperature to ensure consistency and repeatability, said Dollimore. You can ask your favourite coffee roastery what recipe they recommend depending on the brew method. “A coffee we’re passionate about here at Hole in the Wall is Novo Coffee ,” said Dollimore. “Novo is a relationship based specialty coffee roastery meaning they cultivate long lasting relationships with the coffee farmers and purchase directly from the coffee farms year after year. This helps improve farmers pricing and also enhances coffee quality.”
Try cold brew
Main is one of many coffee experts that brews a ton of cold brew at home. And you don’t need a coffee maker to do it. “All you need is some ground coffee, a couple of jars, and a coffee filter,” said Main, who uses 3 cups cold water for every 1/4 pound of coarsely ground coffee and let it sit for a minimum of 12 hours before filtering out the coffee grounds.
“This yields a concentrate that you can mix with water to make drinking strength cold brew,” said Main, who recommends anywhere from 1:1 to 1:1.5 concentrate to water ratio. “You can also use the concentrated form as a substitute for espresso to make iced lattes, coffee milkshakes, or coffee sodas (or whatever else your imagination comes up with!),” said Main. “It’s fine to brew in the refrigerator, but the coffee will extract more slowly, so I would recommend letting it steep for around 18 hours.”
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