We all know what makes the world go round, and it’s not money. That thing we need to start the day and make it bearable to talk to our co-workers, spouses and children within the first few hours of being awake comes from a bean more magical than Jack’s. And that bean begins life as a pit in a cherry hanging high up in a tree.
It has a storied journey from that inauspicious beginning to ending up as a steaming cup of near blackness filled with caffeine. It goes through numerous changes along the way: first as a green “bean,” drying in the sun for days and days, then washed and husked before another round in the sun, roasted in a vat until it “pops” much like popcorn, and finally ground to a fine powder for espresso or a coarse grit for a french press. And, to extract that lovely cup of kickstarter, we add hot water through a variety of means until we at last have our cup of coffee. And it’s great.
Coffee is the working world’s fuel. It contains a healthy amount of caffeine, a beneficial stimulant that has been proven to give short term memory a boost and reduce the effects of headaches. But it’s not just a boost for those in need of energy, coffee also contains caffeic acid, which has been linked to helping reduce build-up of abnormal proteins in people with type 2 diabetes.
There’s plenty of health benefits associated with this wondrous little bean. But a common misconception about turning this bean into a delicious cup of healthy energy is that it’s hard to do at home. And coffee shops around the world love this idea as it keeps you going back to that long line. But it’s simply not true. So how do you make great coffee for less at home?
First off, buy good arabica beans. Almost all coffee shops carry high quality arabica beans, but often at a price that’s in excess of $12 per pound. Your local grocery store will carry plenty of beans for less than $10 per pound. You can get them ground or in whole bean form. If you have a grinder or a machine with a grinder, purchase whole bean coffee, as it will last longer and retain the maximum amount of flavor.
Whether you choose ground or whole bean, store your coffee at home in a cool, dark place like the cupboard or pantry. Heat, light, moisture and oxygen are the enemies of freshness! And never store your coffee in the freezer. Once you pull it out, moisture forms from condensation and kills that freshness you were trying to preserve.
Now that you have your delicious bag of arabica beans, it’s time to brew that delicious coffee. There’s an almost overwhelming amount of ways to prepare coffee at home. If you’re new to making coffee or haven’t expanded your coffee palate to the world of espresso, use a standard drip brewer. Here’s a great roundup of fantastic coffee makers to use: Our Favorite Coffee Makers.
Drip Coffee Makers
This is the easiest way to make great coffee at home. Many feature automatic timers, allowing you to setup the machine before bed and wake up like those old 80’s commercials to the fresh aroma of blissful brewing coffee. To ensure you get a great tasting cup every time, make sure to have the correct grind for the right filter, the right proportion of ground coffee to water and filtered water.
Some machines feature water filtration systems – if yours doesn’t simply use bottled water. If your machine uses a built-in gold cone, make sure you grind your coffee for that filter as it is a coarser grind than that for a paper filter. If you use the free grinder in the grocery store, the gold cone filter is often labeled as a metal filter. If you’re buying pre-ground coffee, it’s been ground in between a metal filter and a paper filter grind to accommodate both. The best proportion of ground coffee to water is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to 6 ounces of filtered water. Follow this recipe and you’ll make great coffee every time. And to do so with one machine for life, I’d recommend the Bunn Pourover. They’ve been making great machines for decades that’ll last a lifetime. Click here for a review.
Espresso Coffee Makers
If you’ve refined your palate to enjoy the potent little cup of Italy’s finest creation, then you’ll want to spend a little more to make sure you can master the finicky brewing of espresso. Here’s a great list of viable machines to brew some fine espresso: our Top-Pick Espresso Machines for your Home.
Espresso is a very versatile cup of coffee. You can enjoy it all by it’s lonesome or incorporate it into hot or cold milk and add a ton of different enhancing flavors. And to ensure you get that fantastic cup of espresso every time, follow the same rules as above for purchasing, storing and using the right grind.
But for espresso, you’re using an entirely different method of brewing to create a super potent yet tiny cup of coffee. High pressure is added to the hot water to quickly extract as much flavor as possible from a small portion of coffee. The grind used for espresso should be very fine, almost like a powder. Each machine will have it’s own quirks and minor differences, so be sure to read the manuals. But in general, you want to use between 16 to 20 grams of finely ground coffee (and any bean you’re partial to will work, don’t be fooled into only using “Espresso” roasted beans) with 4-5 pounds of tamping force.
The beauty of making espresso is the fine tuning you’ll need to do to make that cup that’s just right for you. So, don’t be frustrated if your first efforts produce bitter or sour espresso that wrinkles your nose. Keep experimenting with the amount of coffee used, the fineness of the grind and the amount of tamp pressure you use. You’ll find what works best for you and you’ll be proud of the unique little cup of espresso you’ve made.
My personal choice for making espresso at home has gone through a similar journey and I loved it and the machine I use, which you can read a full review of by clicking here. And take care of your machine, follow the cleaning instructions in the manual to make sure you’ll have years of joy from it.
Gretchen is no stranger to the kitchen. While she learned to cook from her father, it was mother who encouraged her to pursue a career in writing. One day Gretchen realized she could have the best of both worlds and write about cooking!
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