Ever find yourself doubting whether you should even attempt to brew great coffee in the walls of your own home? Does it ever seem too confusing, reserved for the bearded baristas? While some coffee folks like to make it seem that way so you have to spend your precious dollars at their establishment, most of us are actually very willing to give away our secrets to those who embark on the quest for delicious coffee at home.

I am a firm believer in this journey to home brewing enlightenment, so here are some of the best barista tips I can offer as someone who works around coffee and disgruntled home brewers every day. For these tips, I’ll assume you’re already drinking high quality, freshly roasted arabica coffee beans, like the ones you can find from Atlas Coffee Club.


1. The Grinder is #1


Barista Tips

OXO  Burr Grinder – Barista Tips

Every home brewer needs a reliable coffee grinder. Uniform coffee grounds extract evenly and make learning how a coffee tastes and brews a fun and simple process. Poor coffee grinders like to give you lots of fines (super small coffee particles) and boulders (really big ones) in addition to your target grind size.

Irregular coffee grounds extract at different rates and lead to unbalanced extraction and unbalanced flavor, and no piece of equipment or technique can bring that balance back. It all starts with uniform coffee grounds from a burr grinder.


2. Use Good Water


Barista Tips

Soma Water  Pitcher – Barista Tips

A surplus of minerals in the water you use to brew your coffee with typically leads to a final cup with muted sweetness and a minerally flavor. If you live in an area with hard water, or if your local water source doesn’t taste good, you should look into alternatives.

At home, I use a water pitcher with a built in carbon filter to reduce some of the calcium hardness. It doesn’t quite give me the quality water we use at Yellow House Coffee, but it’s an eco-friendly step to get me closer. When I have friends over, I often break open a bottle of water and use that instead for a more polished flavor.


3. Use a Scale


Barista Tips

Acaia Pearl Coffee Scale – Barista Tips

As much as I wish I could just wing it and get the perfect proportions every time by eyesight alone, it’s just not realistic. The best way to brew a cup with balanced extraction and strength is to use a gram scale to weigh out your coffee beans and water.

The most commonly used coffee to water ratios land around 1:15 and 1:17 (coffee:water). If you use more coffee, such as a 1:5 coffee to water ratio, you’ll end up with coffee grounds that haven’t released all their flavor and sweetness yet because there wasn’t enough water to go around, and the final cup will be too concentrated and sour to enjoy. If you use too much water, like in a 1:25 ratio, the beans will have given up a bunch of bitter and biting flavors after all the yummy ones, and the final cup will be thin and watery.

A scale eliminates inconsistency and puts an end to the guessing game. By knowing how many grams of water and coffee you use exactly, you can find your perfect balance of extraction and strength, and repeat the process over and over again.


4. Don’t Forget the Important Things


Agricultural products change from season to season, and that is a beautiful thing – even if it means you struggle to brew the perfect cup out of a particular coffee. No two coffees will brew the same way, and no two coffees came from the same tree. When things don’t work like you plan and your precious beans don’t taste the way they once did, take a deep breath and remember that it’s alright.

Flavorful and balanced coffee can sooth our taste buds and wow our guests, but the richness of coffee is about more than the flavor alone. The brewing ritual, the sensory experience, and the people who made it possible around the world all contribute to the wonder and moment of coffee brewing.

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