This article first appeared in the first issue of Batch Magazine.
“Hey! I want to level up my home brewing game. Where should I start?”
You all ask a lot of great questions, and this one is especially great because it is a choose-your-own-adventure adventure we’re going to walk through together.
Basically, there are five home brewing game-changers that we’re going to break down:
- Using freshly roasted (local) beans
- Manual brewing methods
- A gooseneck kettle
- A scale
- A good grinder
Because all coffees are different and should be prepared accordingly. Having only one inflexible brew method (looking at you, Mr. Coffee) won’t produce the optimal results for all beans. So setting yourself up with at least one manual brewing method will be your biggest game-changer.
Manually brewing your coffee—meaning not using any automatic machine—gives you control over how your coffee is going to turn out by breaking down the whole process into multiple steps. For example, wetting the grounds and then waiting for 30 to 40 seconds (called “the bloom”) and then pouring the rest of the water over the grounds is the best way to get the optimal flavor from the beans.
There are many types of manual brewing methods out there, and a few of our favorite roasters around town hooked us up with some time-tested manual brewing recipes (you’ll see those next). You won’t get it right the first time, but with practice, you’ll find the recipe that works perfectly for you.
Honestly, I can almost guarantee that manual brewing will become an important daily ritual for you. Waking up before everyone in my house, taking my time, and focusing on my coffee process forces me to slow down and gain clarity before the madness of the day begins. My morning coffee is a thing that I make with my own hands for myself to enjoy, and that makes it much more personal.
Manual brewing is about control, and that’s what a gooseneck kettle provides. A gooseneck kettle has a long, thin spout that provides a consistent pour so you don’t overwhelm the coffee grounds. This is helpful because manual brewing methods call for different amounts of water, different timings, and different patterns to extract the flavor from all of the grounds. (This sounds more complex than it actually is.)
There are two main types of gooseneck kettles—stovetop and electric. I always recommend electric so you can set it and forget it, meaning the kettle will automatically shut off when it hits boiling or even hold a certain temperature for you.
There are loads of affordable gooseneck kettles out there, some as cheap as $30 that get the job done. If you really want to break the bank, some models can get up to $250 that regulate temperature and connect to your phone via Bluetooth. But who would ever spend that much on a kettle… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A kitchen scale is another small purchase with a huge impact. (And all kitchens should have a scale anyway.)
Making killer coffee at home relies on a good ratio of coffee grounds to water—literal science. The ratio is normally 1:15 through 1:18, but it’s really preferential. I do 1:16 every morning. I ground 24g of coffee and then use 384g of water. This generally gets me around 14oz of coffee.
You can get a cheap kitchen scale anywhere for around $15 to $20, or you can get the Bluetooth scale you see at fancy coffeehouses for $150. But again, who would spend that much on a silly little kitchen scale… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
Coffee is very similar to wine and fine liquors in that good ones have flavor nuances that come out in the roasting and brewing processes. Flavors of coffees are subtle, much like they are with wine, and your palette will become more refined over time. The flavor nuances come from naturally occurring chemicals inside the beans that are released during roasting, during grinding, and during brewing.
Typically, roasters suggest enjoying coffee within one to four weeks from the roast date on the bag because the chemicals escape and flavor loss occurs. Pre-ground coffee also speeds up flavor loss.
As you explore, you’ll start to pick up on which coffee origins and roasters you prefer. It’s a fun game where you always get to try something new.
I talked your face off about coffee beans, but what do you actually do with them when you get them? If you really want to impress your friends and in-laws, it’ll be a good idea to snag a grinder for your home coffee setup.
There are many different types of at-home grinders available, and more so than with any other category. With grinders, you definitely get what you pay for. If there’s one piece of equipment you should splurge on, make it a grinder.
Ideally, you want to stay away from name brands that make all sorts of general kitchen devices. Manual grinders are also iffy unless you enjoy Pain & Suffering™. Whether you want to stay under $100 or go crazy and spend $1000, there are plenty of options available.
You can still level up your home brewing before you invest in a grinder. Almost all roasters and coffee shops will grind any beans you buy there before you take them home.
Home Brewing Recipes
So you’ve got all of your favorite equipment and some freshly roasted coffee beans. Now what? We paired up with some of our favorite coffee roasters in the city to provide their favorite home brewing recipes:
- Kalita Wave Recipe by Tinker Coffee
- Hario V60 Recipe by Hubbard & Cravens
- Chemex Recipe by Circadian Coffee
- Aeropress Recipe (Inverted) by Indie Coffee Roasters
The Final Sip
Stepping up your home brewing coffee game can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. You can also do it on the cheaper side or save up and go for the equipment the pros use. Either way, this guide sets you up to start manually brewing better coffee at home.
If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or anyone in the coffee community. After all, that’s where I’ve learned everything I know.