I’m writing to you on a warm November day but yesterday was cold and rainy Portland weather. I’m not sure what’s happening to the planet, but what I do know is this: in the months ahead, we are going to be drinking more and more coffee. If you’re like me, coffee will be by your side, whether you’re sitting in front of the fire brushing your cat’s fur, eating Sunday morning pancakes, or poking around the Internet trying to find out why your Pixelworks stock is falling.
People ask us all the time about how to make a good cup of coffee at home. The truth is, extraction methods, coffee ratios, water temperature and more, can conspire to make this a complicated affair. Some might say, oh f*$% it, I’m just going to head over to RoosRoast and have these people make it for me:
We love you, but let’s face it, one of these days, you’re going to have to learn how to make a good cup of coffee at home. You’re car may get a flat or maybe you’re not this man, willing to bike ride through sleet and snow:
So, here are THREE FACTORS that can quickly and easily improve your brewed (not expresso, that’s another conversation) coffee-at-home experience:
1. Buy fresh beans.
This may seem obvious, but if your beans have been sitting on the shelves of Kroger for god-knows-how-long, they’re not going to elicit that Zang, that High, that Mouthful that you’ve grown to love and expect from a local roaster like, say, RoosRoast. Roasted coffee gets stale. How fast depends on the next factor.
note- Speaking of Roast Date, however- here’s an aside: people come into the shop looking for coffee fresh out of the roaster. Each coffee is different but most beans need a good couple days, if not a whole week, to settle down and come into its own. We’ve tasted great coffee from beans roasted a month back, if stored properly.
2. Store your beans properly.
If you’re the type of person who does NOT go through your beans in a week or two, you need to consider storage. Do you store them in the freezer? No! Freezing adds the uncertainty of moisture into the equation. It’s Air that’s the enemy! Just keep them away from air or light. Consider buying one of these super sealed Airscapes to keep your beans fresh.
The Airscape is perfect for keeping your coffee sealed, actually sealed, from air and light. They will extend the life of your beans dramatically!
We sell them at the shop and online.
3. Invest in a grinder!
Although this is no.3 this is probably no.1 in importance. The SINGLE BEST WAY to improve your at-home experience is to buy WHOLE BEAN coffee and grind your beans right before brewing! After roasting, coffee beans are fragile little things. These precious nuts begin to lose their flavor the moment they’re ground. Remember the air thing? Pre-ground means more exposure to air, breaking down the flavor.
Here’s the deal…you can geek out about grinding – hand grinding, burr grinding, stepless grinding, ceramic, metal, weigh grinding. But let’s say you’re new to this and don’t want to spend $1500 on a top of the line burr grinder.
At the VERY VERY minimum, get one of these:
A blade grinder.
We carry these Bodum Bistro grinders in the shop and online. They are relatively portable (good for your office stash), easy to use, small in counter space and will VASTLY improve your coffee experience in one $30 or so move.
Real coffee geeks complain that the blade grinders won’t grind your beans consistently- it’s actually being cut by the blade, not ground. It’s true, you may end up with uneven grounds which means some beans might over extract or under extract. THIS IS GEEKY, though. We maintain, you can still get a good cup of coffee from these things and we STILL recommend it as an entry level grinder, if you’re unsure about your commitment to home brewing. Try the shake and grind method to help even out your result and of course, be careful not to over grind and heat up your beans while you’re grinding. If you decide to move up in the grinding world, you can always convert your blade grinder into a spice grinder. (By the way, what’s the best way to improve the deep flavor of your cooking? Roast and grind your spices at home!)
4. Okay, there’s a 4th Thing.
Let’s talk about blades a little bit longer. Remember, these grinders have revolving blades, similar to the blades on your blender. Actually, they don’t grind your beans at all, they cut it into smaller and smaller bits. Coffee geeks complain that blade grinders won’t grind your beans consistently and you end up with uneven grounds which means some beans might over extract or under extract.
HOW MUCH THIS BOTHERS YOU DEPENDS ON YOUR GEEK FACTOR.
We maintain, you can still get a good cup of coffee from these things and we STILL recommend it as an entry level grinder, especially if you’re on a budget or unsure about your commitment to home brewing.
If you decide to move up in the grinding world, you can always convert your blade grinder into a spice grinder. (By the way, what’s the best way to improve the deep flavor of your cooking? Roast and grind your spices at home!)
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your blade grinder:
Try the “shake and grind” method to help even out your result. (Grind, give it a shake. Repeat.) And of course, be careful not to over grind and heat up your beans while you’re grinding.
But if you’ve become a hopeless coffee snob, you need to think Burr Grinder. Burr Grinders evenly grind the beans between two rapidly revolving abrasive surfaces called burrs. You can control the space between the burrs and thus control your grind.