By Logan Mulholland
We’ve all been there, you stop into your favorite local cafe and the smiling barista makes you a cup of their newest single origin coffee and you’re enamored. It’s got just the right balance of acidity and sweetness, the texture is delicate but the flavors are nuanced. You say to yourself “this is the coffee I need in my life”, so you grab a bag to take home.
Then the next morning comes and something is… not quite right. There is a bitterness, an astringency, you tasted caramel and green grape at the cafe and now all you’re tasting is disappointment. You think “did that smiling barista dupe me? Bait and switch perhaps?”.
The good news is you were not duped! The bad news is you may be missing a few key techniques or pieces of gear needed to make cafe-quality coffee at home. The other good news is I am going to tell you what they are!
Part 1: Equipment
There are a few different avenues you can take when brewing coffee at home. A standard auto drip brewer will work. If you utilize the rest of these tips you can still dramatically improve the quality of coffee from a home coffee brewer, but manually brewing your coffee is ideal. For that we recommend either a V60, Kalita Wave, or Chemex coffee brewer. Each pour over brewer fundamentally works the same. A cone or funnel holds a filter, your ground coffee, and allows the barista (or home barista) the ability to control the flow of water over the top, in turn, control the extraction (and the flavor!).
Once you’ve selected your brewer of choice, you’re going to need a gooseneck kettle. These are available from a variety of brands in both stovetop and electric versions. The gooseneck kettle is important because it allows you to have precise control over your water (noticing a trend?) as you brew your coffee.
The next pivotal piece of your pour over rig is a scale. There are many varieties of coffee that come from a bunch of different origins, meaning there is a dramatic variance in density. Because the densities can be so different, the only truly accurate way to measure your coffee is by weight. 2 tbsp of one coffee can have a pretty different mass than 2 tbsp of another. A gram scale is also important for weighing your water. This will help you ensure you are adding the correct amount of water in the correct amount of time.
That brings us to our next item, a timer! This can be as simple as using the timer on your smartphone. Utilizing a timer is important because it allows you to accurately pace out the addition of your water as you are brewing and ensure you hit certain benchmarks for the recipe.
The last piece of gear, and probably the biggest game changer for stepping up your coffee game, is a burr grinder. Grinding your coffee fresh, just before brewing, and the ability to adjust your grind size will take your home coffee to the next level. Freshness aside, a high-quality burr grinder gives you a precise and consistent grind size, in turn allowing you to really dial in your brew.