Coffee isn’t for everyone, but it’s rare that so many people have such a passion for a hot beverage. You might already be a coffee fan, or you might just rely on it to get you going in the morning. If you’re in the latter camp, maybe you just haven’t had the right cup of coffee yet.
Heading to your local coffee joint or a Starbucks is fine, but it can get expensive quickly. If you’re looking for a quality cup of joe, you can make it at home. Even better, you can do it without shelling out big bucks for a fancy espresso machine.
1. Ditch the Drip Coffee Maker
Your old standby 12-cup coffee maker may be an easy way to make coffee in the morning, but it’s not going to make you the best cup. It won’t hurt to hang on to it for when you have guests, but unless you’re frequently making coffee for groups of people, you’ll get a tastier cup by switching to single-cup options.
A French press like the Bodum Chambord is still fairly easy to use, and you can make coffee for two people at once. It doesn’t cost much at all yet produces a fantastic cup of java.
If you prefer to have some more flexibility, an AeroPress lets you make espresso-style coffee concentrate that you can dilute with hot water to your liking. Also very affordable!
A third popular and still affordable option is the Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker, which has a convenient permanent filter. Be warned that pour-over coffee requires a bit more skill than using a French press or AeroPress—but if you’re willing to learn, the results are phenomenal. It’s the technique most coffee shops use, after all.
2. Grind Your Own Coffee Beans
There are several benefits to grinding your own coffee beans.
The main benefit is that grinding your coffee beans right before you brew them maximizes flavor. Why? Because the aromatic and flavorful compounds in coffee beans start breaking down as soon as they’re exposed to oxygen.
Coffee grounds will grow stale within days while coffee beans can stay fresh for months. As long as you don’t grind them until the moment you brew them, coffee beans will retain most of their taste—resulting in a much tastier cup!
But never buy a blade grinder for coffee. Your results will be much better if you get a burr grinder!
Blade grinders are erratic and produce an inconsistent grind size—and inconsistent coffee grounds will produce an inconsistent taste from cup to cup.
Burr grinders work by crushing the beans instead of slashing them. The result is a more consistent grind size, and therefore more consistent taste across brews.
The downside is that burr grinders are more expensive than blade grinders. And electric burr grinders are more expensive than manual burr grinders (i.e. hand grinder).
If you can afford it, an electric burr grinder will be the absolute best purchase for improving your homemade coffee. But if you’re on a budget, a manual burr grinder will do just fine—it just requires a little more elbow grease.
3. Buy Better Coffee
Your standard store-bought coffee is fine if all you need is a quick zap of energy, but you can find much better coffee elsewhere and only need to spend a marginal amount more.
If you have a local coffee shop, they might sell their own beans. Not all coffee shops do, but if yours does, at least you’ll know you’re starting with good coffee that’s likely fresh.
If you can’t get coffee locally, you can buy coffee online.
Look for places that roast their own coffee beans, ideally right before they ship. There are also coffee subscription services that will ship you coffee every week or every month at your convenience, and usually at a discount.
4. Try Without Milk or Sugar
If you usually take your coffee with milk and/or sugar, that’s perfectly fine. And if that’s what you prefer, keep doing it. Who are we to judge what you like and enjoy?
But if you’re putting in all this effort to improve your homemade coffee, you should at least try tasting it black first.
Most people hate black coffee because they don’t brew it properly: drip machines, stale pre-ground coffee, etc. If you address these issues with the tips above, you might be surprised to find that black coffee can actually taste pretty good.
And if you still prefer milk and/or sugar? Go for it! As long as you end up with a cup of coffee that you love drinking, that’s a success in our books.