An Opinionated Guide to Brewing Coffee at Home

The Water

Coffee is, volumetrically, 99% water, oils, and some dissolved solids. Having good water is non-negotiable. Some will claim that you need to buy mineral supplements and mix it with distilled water, which is both financially and socially expensive. Home water filters can do the trick only if you’re lucky enough to have soft tap water.

The Grinder

This is where most of your money in a home setup should be going. This makes or breaks your experience, so go for a hand grinder. Good electric grinders start at triple the price of hand ones. And above all, always use a burr grinder, as a blade grinder will never guarantee the same level of precision. This piece of advice isn’t new, but it’s always good to restate.

The Dripper

The cornerstone to a good home setup. We go with ceramic here since it holds heat better than the glass and plastic variants. Retaining thermal mass is incredibly important for optimal brewing, and for those that are scared about placing hot things near plastic, this can assuage those worries.

The Kettle

Much to the chagrin of the elitist speciality coffee world, James Hoffman proved that brewing coffee with boiling water won’t have any adverse effects on taste. So instead of opting for a wildly expensive temperature controlled kettle, just buy a standard gooseneck kettle that lets you control your pour. Also, keep some Cafiza on hand to descale your kettle every now and then.

The Scale

Don’t get sucked into buying super expensive stuff here either. It doesn’t need to be pretty, especially since we don’t need the extreme precision required for pulling an espresso shot.

The Beans

If you’re looking for unique flavors, go for a single-origin bean. Most people that start drinking specialty coffee tend to drift toward Ethiopian and Colombian coffee, which isn’t a coincidence. A small trick for purchasing coffee is to check the elevation of the coffee farm instead of just the country of origin. Beans grown at higher altitudes are small and dense, leading to more acidity and interesting flavors. It should come at no surprise to you now that most Ethiopian and Colombian coffee is grown 5000 ft. above sea level.

The Technique

Everyone has their own version of this, but this is my simple go-to.

  1. Pre-soak your filters with hot water to avoid the taste of paper.
  2. Use a medium to medium-fine grind size. For the Timemore C2, start with 20 clicks. If your brew isn’t bitter, go finer by 1 click the next time you brew (19). Repeat this process, grinding finer and finer until you get bitter coffee. Then go back to the setting that didn’t produce a bitter cup.
  3. Place your mug on the scale and place your dripper directly on your mug. Grind 15 grams of coffee and place it in your dripper. Using more coffee makes it more difficult to brew quickly and can often lead to a more bitter cup. Less coffee will lead to an empty, sad cup. Using your thumb, create a small depression in the middle of the coffee bed, which will allow you to wet all the grounds with less water.
  4. Start a stopwatch. Pour 35 mL water over the grounds to release CO2 from the grounds. Now wait for 45 seconds.
  5. Pour 190 mL slowly in concentric circles, moving outward from the center. Give the dripper a gentle swirl once you’ve finished pouring. You’ll know that you did this right if your coffee bed is flat at the end.
  6. Regardless of how much coffee has gone through, pull the dripper off at 3:30. Any drips past this point will only make your cup less enjoyable.

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