Make fun of hipsters all you want, but those baristas at the coffee house make great coffee.
Coffee house level coffee might seem hard to make at home, but it’s not. These three simple tips for better coffee will have you brewing like your local barista in no time. Hipster beard not required, but it couldn’t hurt!
Drink Coffee. Not Too Much. Mostly Black.
I’m a health coach, so I wouldn’t be writing about coffee if I didn’t think it was healthy for most people. In fact, Chapter 13 of our latest book is called “Drink Coffee. Not too much. Mostly Black.”
In our book we recommend people try coffee black or with just a little dairy or nut milk, because that’s they way it’s healthiest. Coffee itself is pretty healthy, and it’s actually one of the most potent sources of antioxidants in the western diet.
It’s got a lot going for it, until you add in all those extras.
When we ask people why they don’t like our minimalist coffee recommendations, they usually tell us coffee without plenty of dairy, sugar, or non-dairy creamer is just plain nasty.
But it shouldn’t be.
Coffee should never taste bad
Luckily it’s easy to make good coffee – coffee even a connoisseur would enjoy.
So easy in fact that my three simple tips for better coffee are all you need to get your coffee close to perfection.
Three tips for better coffee
1. Use Better Water
Your water might taste fine in the glass, but you’re just used to it.
Besides, even if it tastes good, the flavor is only half of the story.
Brewing coffee is a chemical reaction using heat and water, so it’s not just the taste of the water that makes the coffee. The mineral content of the water is kind of a big deal. Minerals affect which compounds are extracted during brewing, and which are left inside the bean.
Water is so important that professionals at coffee houses and competitions use water that’s filtered, purified, or distilled, and then if it’s not perfect, minerals are added back in! Seriously.
Using better water isn’t hard, but it means buying spring water, drinking water, or purified water (but not distilled, which has no minerals at all).
It’s available for under a dollar a gallon at any grocery store. Splurge and get a name brand for $1.25!
Want to get crazier? Check out Third Wave Water in the links, below. Third Wave Water isn’t even water itself, but tiny packets of minerals that you add to the store-bought distilled water I just told you not to use.
Distilled water by itself would make flat, lifeless coffee, but add the perfect minerals in via Third Wave Water and you’ve got water (and coffee) that a perfectionist will love.
2. Use a Better Brewer
Brewing coffee is a science, but it’s not rocket science. And it’s not hard if you have the right tool, like the Clever Dripper.
The Clever Dripper is not a pourover device, even though it looks like one. The Clever Dripper is actually a full immersion brewer (like a French Press), meaning the coffee grounds and hot water are mixed together, given time to work their magic, then the coffee is drained and filtered into your cup or carafe.
Why not use a French Press, because a Clever Dripper has a filter so you have smoother, cleaner, more coffee house-like coffee. It’s also easier to clean up, by far.
The Clever Dripper is foolproof – Add your coffee grounds, add hot water that’s just 30 seconds off the boil, stir for a few seconds to wet the grounds, wait two to three minutes, and drain. Easy.
The Clever is also inexpensive and uses standard #4 filters, which you can get at the grocery store.
Why not start with a pourover? Because pourovers are the opposite of foolproof. They take practice, plenty of concentration, and even a special kettle for gentle pouring the hot water.
Heck, pourovers can be hard for baristas, too.
3. Use a Better Grinder
Some would argue that a good grinder is critical, and it can make a big difference, especially if you’re doing a pourover. Luckily, the Clever Dripper helps minimize the differences between grinders, which is why this can be #3.
Standard blade grinders, like most people have at home, produce inconsistently sized grounds. You can have everything from big, jagged chunks down to tiny, rounded grounds.
When hot water filters through inconsistent grounds they fail to bring out the flavor from the bigger bits and can over-extract flavor from the little ones.
You can end up with bitter, sour coffee.
Enter the burr grinder. That’s what they use at a coffee house, and what we use at home. It produces coffee grounds that are close to the same size and shape. As a result, the water wets the grounds consistently, and it flows over and through them smoothly, making a better cup of coffee.
Want to taste the difference before you splurge on a grinder? Have your coffee shop grind half your bag of coffee, then do your own comparison at home with the rest. If you notice enough difference, buy a burr grinder.
If you only have a cup or two a day, you can start with a hand grinder, which is inexpensive. If you make more than two or three cups per day at home, go electric!
Spring water, the Clever Dripper, and a burr grinder!
Here’s our “better coffee trifecta,” below.
What about better coffee?
Why is buying better coffee not even in the top three?
Before you splurge on better beans, I want you to see that the coffee that you’re already buying can be even better!
Even with steps 1 and 2 you’re sure to taste improvements in your Trader Joe’s Guatemala, your Starbucks Blonde, or your grocery store Colombian.
Yes, do buy better coffee, but not before you’ve seen what good water, better brewing, and a great grinder can do for the coffee you already love!
Better coffee links
With better water, better brewing, and a better grinder, you’ll be well on your way to coffee as good (or better) than you can get at most coffee houses.
Check out the links below for some of our favorite coffee tools, which we’ve tried or own ourselves. Some of them are amazon affiliate links, which help support this web site without costing you anything more.
Enjoy better coffee!
Spring or Purified Water is available at the grocery store for about a dollar per gallon.
We recently started using a Berkey Filtration system, which makes our water (and our coffee) taste great!
Or, try Third Wave Water, which you simply add to a jug of distilled water (not purified or spring water) from the grocery store.
Clever Dripper – The foolproof home coffee brewer that can do double duty as a pourover coffee maker. I’ve literally given three of my own away AND purchased several as gifts. That’s how much I love the Clever Dripper.
French Press – I’m not a huge fan of the French Press, but a lot of you are. If you like coffee more rustic, it might be for you. I recommend one made of metal, not glass. It’s safer, since it won’t crack under pressure from a too find grind and the double walls keep the coffee hot longer.
Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder – This is the hand grinder we have. The jar is plastic, so great for traveling.
If you prefer glass for home use, try the excellent Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill.
Bodum BISTRO Burr Grinder – This is the electric grinder we have now. It’s a fine grinder, but does not have the level of grind adjustment I want. It’s a fine starter grinder, but when it breaks I plan to replace it with the Baratza Encore grinder, below.
If you already KNOW you need a good grinder, start with the Baratza, below!
The Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder – The Baratza is more durable and adjustable than the Bodum, and is only about $40 more. This will be my next grinder!
Enjoy better coffee, black or not!
Coffee shouldn’t taste bad.
Better water, better brewing, and better grinding make better coffee!
With these three simple tips for better coffee, it will never taste bad again.
Want to dive deeper?
My new coffee friend, Asser Christensen, takes my coffee knowledge to the next level,
If you want to REALLY know the hows and whys of great coffee, read his latest post on The Fundamentals of Specialty Coffee!
Asser is a licensed Q Arabica Grader and full-time coffee writer, so he knows his stuff!