I am a huge coffee lover (‘addict’ is probably a more accurate term at this point). Ever since I was introduced to fresh coffee in my teens, I’ve been searching for the perfect cup.
Malcolm Gladwell famously said it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Well, I have made 10,000 cups of coffee — and I’ve learned a few things in that time. So here’s my advice for making barista-level coffee at home.
What coffee to buy
The biggest bang for your buck is to buy whole beans instead of ground coffee. Years ago, I once had an incredible cup of coffee at a friend’s house. I asked him what brand of coffee it was, and he said it was the cheapest supermarket beans he could find.
The trick, it turns out, is to grind the beans just before you make the coffee so it’s as fresh as possible. And, to prolong their freshness, store your beans in the freezer.
Once you start buying beans like a true coffee connoisseur, your first investment should be a grinder. A basic electric model will suffice. But, if you want to get fancy, get a burr grinder, which will give you greater control over the fineness of the grounds.
It may seem like a minor point, but the consistency of your grounds will affect how your coffee turns out. You want it to be like fine sand, not coarse and lumpy, and not like a super-fine powder. That is your Goldilocks zone.
What equipment to use
Now you have fresh, perfectly ground coffee, you need to know what to put it in. My advice — ditch the french press. I made coffee with one throughout my rookie years, but I’ll never do so again.
After many side-by-side comparisons with other methods, I’ve found french presses give the worst results by far, producing bitter and insipid coffee. This is because extracting the maximum flavor from the grounds requires the water to pass through them with pressure, and you don’t get any pressure in a french press. Instead, you need to use one of these three devices:
- A traditional stovetop espresso maker
- An electric coffee machine
- An Aeropress