Author Topic: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'  (Read 10447 times)

AJDZee

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Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« on: November 14, 2013, 07:32:27 AM »
Hey guys,

I'm hoping I could put together a new thread on how to get great coffee at home. (I've read a few threads that talk about roasting - I'm not there yet)
I recently came clean and admitted to myself that I don't make very good coffee. the first step is admitting you have a problem.  some days it's really good, other days it's too thin, or way too strong.
I don't want to spend hundreds for a fancy coffee machine, but I'm willing to spend a little to get the right stuff.

Let me walk through my current set up..

I buy whole beans (various brands/quality).

I grind them immediately before brewing in a Magic Bullet (small blender) I got a few years ago.
I was skeptical about blade grinding, so for my birthday I asked for an antique burr coffee grinder.
I've used it a few times and it's although it's very novel, sadly it doesn't do as good a job as the magic bullet so I went back.

I use a cheap drip coffee maker that has one button - I think cost $15. (Just took the brewing temp this morning and it's only at 86C (186F))
I also have a French press and I tried for a week - had some of the worst cups of coffee in my life.

I think the biggest variable is still the grinding, but I'm open to hear what others do here to make some great home brew.

Thanks!

grantmeaname

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2013, 07:33:36 AM »
If you think drip coffee tastes better than french press coffee, you were doing something very wrong with your french press.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2013, 07:35:09 AM »
If you think drip coffee tastes better than french press coffee, you were doing something very wrong with your french press.

+1 French press all day long. Can you walk us through how you were making the coffee in the french press?

Ipodius

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2013, 07:53:09 AM »
Mmmmm Coffee... one of my favourite subjects!

A few quick tips:

1. If you are only making coffee for yourself, I've found that the Aeropress is an amazing solution - it makes smooth, full bodied coffee, and is pretty convenient and cheap. A big strong point of the Aeropress is that it works well with almost any beans - light roast, dark roast, blends, etc. By playing around with the method used, grind size, and amount of time in the Aeropress you can get good results with any roast. http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm

2. Good job on grinding just before you prepare the coffee - has a large impact on flavour. For grinding, I found that a burr grinder made a huge difference - I'm surprised you got bad results. What where the issues you experienced with the burr grinder? Generally, a burr grinder should give you much better consistency in your grind (all particles being the same size) and the ability to set grind size based on the method you are using. I've got a Krupps GVX2 - got it for free and so far I've been happy. This is a very similar model: http://www.amazon.com/KRUPS-Grinder-Selection-Stainless-Conical/dp/B0001I9R8W

3. Water temperature makes a big difference - I bought a cheap kettle with a temperature control, and it's great. 

4. Using the appropriate grind size for the preparation method you are using is important - you can google around to see what people suggest, and then experiment. For example, I prefer using a finer grind size on the Aeropress than most people suggest online.

5. Beans definitely loose flavour over time - I try to use within about 2 weeks of purchase.

Otherwise, in my experience different beans have the best brought out of them by different preparation methods. There are some espresso beans I love that come out beautifully in the Aeropress but sub-par in a chemex, while I have a lighter, more "fruity" roast that tastes great using a Chemex, but horrible in a french press. So don't let one bad experience put you off a specific method or bean - you need to play around.

Going beyond the Aeropress, the following are all good "manual" options that I have played around with:

- French Press - best way to make good coffee for larger groups, but I prefer other methods for a single person (Mocha Pot or Aeropress). However, this is down to personal taste - really depends on the beans you prefer.

- Mocha Pot - best way to get "espresso" without a machine. Makes amazing coffee, but quite a bit of work and only suitable for dark roasts. For lighter roasts, you end up without much flavour clarity.

- Chemex - makes *amazing* coffee with beans that suit it, but best suited to light roasts. Quite an expensive & fragile device, and the preparation process can be a bit annoying.

Hope that helps!

jba302

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2013, 08:09:26 AM »
Part of the problem here is you were likely using the blade grinder with the french press, which is going to turn out some poor coffee. Grinding them immediately is also a problem, unless you are using them immediately. You can keep roasted beans in the freezer for several months, and then grind them as needed (which I do for our espresso and I notice no degradation in flavor over a 2ish month period). And "too strong vs. too weak" issue is due to poor measurement.

So things you need for a great coffee -
1. Great tasting beans. No amount of futsing will turn shit into good coffee.
2. Grinder that will reproduce same conditions time after time. Examples for french press - hario skerton ($50), Orphan LIDO ($150), baratza virtuoso ($200). Those old manual grinders can work well.
3. A nice little digital scale so your coffee amount are consistent every time. It's like $10 for a .1g digital scale and very worth it.
4. A thermometer so your water comes out at the right temp.

Notice the trend here is consistency. By doing so, you can actually develop a good cup of coffee instead of just happening to hit it.

tfordon

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2013, 08:28:54 AM »
+1 for the Aeropress.  Great if you are only brewing for 1-2 people.  As an added bonus, it is really easy to clean.

Another option to explore is cold-brew.  You can do this in your french press, or with just a pitcher and a filter.

If you are still interested manual, adjustable burr grinders, this is the one I use and like: http://www.amazon.com/Hario-Coffee-Mill-Slim-Grinder/dp/B001804CLY/ref=pd_sbs_k_1

acroy

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2013, 09:24:58 AM »
I'm a blade-grinder + French press (boiling water) user. Disagree that it makes poor coffee! Different yes - Poor is subjective. Finer grinds + boiling water release more of everything including the acid etc.

If acid bothers you, switch coffees or add an eggshell. the acid will eat the calcium, neutralizing the acid.

"Best" coffee I've had is French press cold brew, 12+ hrs. Smmoooth, mmmmm.

grantmeaname

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2013, 09:30:54 AM »
I don't do the grind-as-you-go thing or roast my own beans, but I have noticed a big improvement switching to a french press and a smaller incremental improvement from there when switching to a coarser grind. The biggest improvement of all comes from buying decent coffee and brewing it yourself rather than drinking the burnt-to-hell swill from Starbucks (although I have no problem with their espresso).

NumberCruncher

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 10:17:21 AM »
+1 for the Aeropress.  Great if you are only brewing for 1-2 people.  As an added bonus, it is really easy to clean.

I'm not a huge fan of the Aeropress as it uses a ton of coffee grounds for a single cup. It does taste great, though

tfordon

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2013, 12:51:58 PM »
I'm not a huge fan of the Aeropress as it uses a ton of coffee grounds for a single cup. It does taste great, though

Any recommendations for a 1-2 cup brewing method that uses less grounds?  My wife doesn't do coffee, so it is usually just me drinking.  Perhaps the moka pot?

jba302

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2013, 01:19:13 PM »
I'm a blade-grinder + French press (boiling water) user. Disagree that it makes poor coffee! Different yes - Poor is subjective. Finer grinds + boiling water release more of everything including the acid etc.

Sorry I would call it "not optimal," poor based on specific potential of the brew method.

We have an espresso machine, but it was not the most efficient purchase. If I had to go with a purchase based on cost efficiency / best taste it would be an aeropress + hario followed by a french press + hario. I'm not a huge fan of moka pots because I find them bitter (I like straight espressos as a comparison point), maybe because I haven't spent time using them enough.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2013, 01:31:02 PM »
I'm not a huge fan of the Aeropress as it uses a ton of coffee grounds for a single cup. It does taste great, though

Any recommendations for a 1-2 cup brewing method that uses less grounds?  My wife doesn't do coffee, so it is usually just me drinking.  Perhaps the moka pot?

Well, I ended up just not making coffee anymore and using no grounds. ;)

If I got on a coffee kick again I'd probably buy a simple coffee drip ceramic cone for ease of use/storage/cleaning/filter finding - but I've only had coffee like this at a coffee shop before, so not sure how I'd like it in day to day life.

It's all a matter of taste, of course. French press or moka pot should be a good way to go for great coffee (Aeropress is good too). I think the real key is experimenting to get the best process down (according to your individual tastes). There's a certain amount of finesse to it - type of coffee, type of grind, temperature of water, ground to water ratio, etc.




worms

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2013, 02:57:27 PM »
Having tried all sorts, I've gone back to the simplest - an old fashioned enamel coffee pot, 3 heaped tablespoons of ground coffee, filled to the brim with boiling water, given a bit of a stir and left a couple of minutes to brew.  Makes a morning's worth of coffee for me - about 3 mugs. Nothing fancy and easy to adjust strength to suit the blend or grind of beans by varying the "heap" on the spoonfuls.

grantmeaname

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2013, 02:58:16 PM »
Any recommendations for a 1-2 cup brewing method that uses less grounds?  My wife doesn't do coffee, so it is usually just me drinking.  Perhaps the moka pot?
Not if you want coffee and not espresso. What about a moderately-sized french press? I think ours is 20 ounces, but you don't have to use the full capacity of the pot by any means,

AJDZee

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2013, 08:01:54 PM »
If you think drip coffee tastes better than french press coffee, you were doing something very wrong with your french press.

+1 French press all day long. Can you walk us through how you were making the coffee in the french press?

Totally agree as well!

Sure, I can walk you through... Actually this is the video I watched to try to get proportions right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIKr2EMkm48   (it's a white guy with thick-rim glasses and an appropriate amount of tattoos so I'm assuming he knows what he's talking about..?)

The first time I did it, not going to lie, I eyeballed it. But after that horrible cup, over the week I literally took to doing exactly in the video - by the 4th-5th time I was using a thermometer and a timer - didn't have a scale with low rage, so used a standard 'scoop'.

I've tried french with blade grinding as well gave the french press another shot when I got my burr grinder. Both did not work out consistently.

The burr grinder (I was told... is from the 40s-ish? although it was on Kijiji so who knows) Even on it's finest setting I find it grinds the coffee too coarse. Even for French press.

I really think the grind is the variable I can't lock down.

When I made coffee today with store-ground coffee it's great.

Ipodius

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2013, 02:14:52 AM »

The burr grinder (I was told... is from the 40s-ish? although it was on Kijiji so who knows) Even on it's finest setting I find it grinds the coffee too coarse. Even for French press.

I really think the grind is the variable I can't lock down.

When I made coffee today with store-ground coffee it's great.

I'm surprised you aren't getting fine coffee from your burr grinder AJDZee - maybe you got a lemon? I can get finer coffee from my cheap burr grinder than from my blade grinder.

I've found that the problem with the blade grinder is inconsistency - even letting it run for a long time, I ended up with very inconsistent grinds - some some fine, some coarse. But I'm glad yours is working out well :) Have you found that the coffee grounds are hot when you remove them from the grinder? This happened with my blade grinder, and it definitely impacted flavour (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, depending on the beans). From the sounds of it, you may be struggling with some of the issues above - I had the same issue of my average cup with store-ground beans being good, while my own grinds was more variable - sometimes a lot better, sometimes a lot worse. After changing to a burr grinder and experimenting a bit, I managed to get them consistently better than the store ground beans. I'd definitely try another burr grinder, maybe something more modern?


Any recommendations for a 1-2 cup brewing method that uses less grounds?  My wife doesn't do coffee, so it is usually just me drinking.  Perhaps the moka pot?

As others have said, a small French Press is a great option. It's a little fiddly and less forgiving than an Aeropress, but once you get the process right you can make very good coffee consistently. I'm also keen to try some of the more "hybrid" things that are out there, but so far I haven't because shipping to SA is so high - will wait to find them in a local specialty coffee shop. These looked interesting to me:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bruceconstantine/the-espro-press
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inventiveculture/impress-coffee-brewer

Otherwise, you can give the Mocha Pot a try. I find it makes a very good Americano (Espresso shot with hot water added). You'll need to try, but I find I like this just as much as a cup from the Aeropress (it's a different approach and different flavour profile, but still good). However, it can be hard to get it consistent - in my experience, it's much less forgiving than the Aeropress, and even less than the French Press.

Finally, as others mentioned a Pour Over is also a good option. I haven't personally made coffee with one, but I've had them at a few local coffee shops and it looks easy enough.


zinnie

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2013, 08:13:08 AM »
I'm a blade-grinder + French press (boiling water) user. Disagree that it makes poor coffee! Different yes - Poor is subjective. Finer grinds + boiling water release more of everything including the acid etc.

If acid bothers you, switch coffees or add an eggshell. the acid will eat the calcium, neutralizing the acid.

"Best" coffee I've had is French press cold brew, 12+ hrs. Smmoooth, mmmmm.

Ditto to your method. The rest of this discussion is way fancy for me. Good coffee, ground fine, then put into a French press with water that has boiled, then sat a few minutes before pouring in, is my favorite cup of coffee in the world. The sludge at the bottom from the fine grounds that get through is the best part! It tastes extremely smooth to me. Strong, but smooth. I also like bitter coffee per a percolator. They both have a time and place for me.

grantmeaname

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2013, 05:48:39 AM »
Does anybody have a recommendation for a burr grinder that's hand-powered, cheap, and able to do both french press and espresso grinds? If not, could I get hand-powered, cheap, and able to do french press? I'm having trouble finding anything that's not yet another appliance and not $80.

hybrid

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #18 on: December 09, 2013, 07:21:13 AM »
A nice option, especially this time of year, is to grind some cinammon stick in with your coffee.  It's rather cheap in bulk at any Indian grocery store and definitely gives your coffee more of a holiday feel to it.

Mmmmmmmmm, coffeeeeeeee....

jba302

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2013, 08:56:03 AM »
Does anybody have a recommendation for a burr grinder that's hand-powered, cheap, and able to do both french press and espresso grinds? If not, could I get hand-powered, cheap, and able to do french press? I'm having trouble finding anything that's not yet another appliance and not $80.

Hario makes good hand grinders -

http://www.sweetmarias.com/sweetmarias/grinders/manual-grinders/hario-skerton-hand-crank-coffee-mill.html

You will give a little on either the espresso side or the french press side (and usually both) when you get one grinder for both, ymmv on how much that actually matters though.

JJsfr

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2013, 11:54:43 AM »
Hario makes good hand grinders -

http://www.sweetmarias.com/sweetmarias/grinders/manual-grinders/hario-skerton-hand-crank-coffee-mill.html

You will give a little on either the espresso side or the french press side (and usually both) when you get one grinder for both, ymmv on how much that actually matters though.

It does a great job of a fine grind, but it's a little loose for coarse grinds. The burrs actually aren't stable enough spaced far apart for the FP grind. Fortunately, there's an upgrade kit available.

MilStachian

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2013, 11:58:10 AM »
Here's an interesting article about how John Ive (head Apple designer) and his team make their coffee.  It's intricate and they use only the best and most expensive gear, but the author of this article suggests cheaper alternatives.  It's a good read.

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2013/12/08/jony-ive/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+timferriss+%28The+Blog+of+Author+Tim+Ferriss%29

James

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Re: Great Coffee at Home 'How-To'
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2013, 12:38:17 PM »
I use an AeroPress for good coffee, it isn't perfect but it works fine. I use less grounds than recommended and let it sit longer than recommended, otherwise it is a tremendous waste of coffee. If you really press hard you get the oils out of the coffee much like esspresso, just seems like it has more body to it.


I use the Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder which works fine, though not very precise. But I don't change it so once I get the right size it stays there.


I want a french press, but don't have one yet. Should put it on my Xmas list. I also have a drip maker, which works fine.


I absolutely love a well made cafe americano, some day I wouldn't mind getting a used esspresso machine.