Coffee house-level coffee might seem hard to make at home, but it’s not.
Make fun of hipsters all you want, but those baristas at the coffee house make amazing coffee.
Sure they have all that cool equipment, but when you look a little closer it’s actually pretty simple dash–Good coffee, a good brewer, good water, and a good grinder.
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 feeling like a 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 book Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well 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 these are the ways coffee is at its healthiest.
Did you know coffee is a good source of antioxidants?
Coffee itself is pretty healthy, actually, and it’s one of the most potent sources of antioxidants in the western diet.
Coffee’s got a lot going for it, at least until you add in all those extras.
But drink it black?
When I ask my clients and readers why they don’t like our minimalist coffee recommendations, they usually tell us coffee without dairy, sugar, or non-dairy creamer is just plain nasty.
But it shouldn’t be.
Good coffee should never taste bad
Coffee can be an acquired taste, mostly because it’s bitter, but think about all the acquired tastes you’ve come to enjoy over the years, starting with dark chocolate.
Seriously, how does dark chocolate even compete with milk chocolate? It’s only because people gave it a chance and kept trying.
The same can be said of things like wine, beer, chili peppers, sauerkraut, kimchi, dandelion greens, mustard, and more.
And those are just a few things. Remember how much you hated when you were a kid. Kids don’t like anything, but adults like lots of the things we spit out back then. Because we gave them a chance.
Ok, speech over.
It’s easy to make great tasting coffee at home
Luckily it’s easy to make good coffee yourself – 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 easy tips for making better coffee
I’m going to skip over recommending better coffee for now because coffee preferences are so subjective.
I’ll assume you’re buying good coffee already, because if you weren’t you wouldn’t be wanting to read how to make it better; you’d have started by buying better beans.
So, good coffee in hand, here are my three easy tips to making better coffee at home.
I suggest starting with #1, as that’s your biggest bang for the buck.
1. Use a Better Brewer
This simple little thing brews coffee, then sits on top of a cup or small pot, and is my secret sauce to making barista-quality coffee at home.
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 pour-over 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 just 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.
And if you live in a drought area or don’t want to waste a lot of water and energy rinsing grounds, this is the tool for you!
The Clever Dripper is foolproof
Stick in a filter, add your coffee, add hot water, stir for a few seconds to wet the grounds and wait. After 2-5 minutes, set it on top of your cup or pot. Easy.
The Clever Dripper is also inexpensive and uses standard #4 filters, which you can get at any 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.
2. Use Better Water
Your water might taste fine in the glass, but maybe 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, because distilled water has no minerals at all).
We suggest a water filter for long-term savings and for environmental reasons, but you can test this tip out with bottled water.
Good water is available for under a dollar a gallon at any grocery store. Splurge and get a name brand for $1.25!
Want to get water crazy?
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.
3. Use a Better Grinder
Some would argue that a good grinder is critical, and it can make a big difference. That’s very true for some coffee brewers.
A special grinder is especially important if you’re doing a pour-over.
Luckily, the Clever Dripper isn’t a pour-over. Because it’s an immersion brewer, it helps minimize the differences between grinders, which is why this can be #3.
Standard blade grinders, like most people already have at home, produce inconsistently sized grounds.
That means you can have everything from big, jagged chunks down to tiny, rounded grounds. The whirling blades are pretty random, and make for randomly sized coffee grounds.
When hot water filters down through these inconsistent grounds (in a dripper or pour-over) 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. It can also be too weak or too strong. It will always be inconsistent.
Enter the burr grinder
A burr grinder is what they use at a coffee house, and what we use at home. It produces coffee grounds that are consistent, and always close to the same size and shape.
As a result, the water wets the grounds consistently. It also flows over and through the grounds smoothly and at a consistent rate, 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 your blade grinder and your new Clever Dripper using the rest.
If you notice a significant difference, buy a burr grinder.
If you only have a cup or two a day, you can start with a hand grinder, which is an inexpensive burr-grinder.
If you make more than two or three cups per day at home, go electric!
Springwater, a Clever Dripper, and a burr grinder!
Here’s our “better coffee trifecta,” below.
What about better coffee beans?
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!
Tools to make better coffee at home
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, all of which we’ve tried or own ourselves. Some of them are amazon affiliate links, which help support this website without costing you anything more.
Enjoy better coffee!
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.
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.
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!
Great piece. I’ve often wondered how coffee can smell so delicious, yet end up tasting so bitter- without, as you say, sugar & dairy. But that said, I’ve had some incredible coffee in France- who knew such simple adjustments could produce better tasting coffee! Thanks for these suggestions- I’ll definitely give them a try.
Thanks, Sally! I hope you enjoy even better coffee!