The world is facing tough times. For most of us, this means social distancing and essentially locking ourselves inside the comfort of our own homes. And while physical business locations are temporarily closing down, there is pressing demand for the continuation of work, which means many of us are resorting to handle our assignments and follow-up on projects from the living room couch.
Since any form of social activity is discouraged by society — politicians and health professionals alike, getting our usual dose of coffee can prove to be quite a difficult feat. And since most of us rely on a good injection of caffeine into our system to venture on with our productive deeds, the situation has really put us between a rock and a hard place. Delivery is almost out of the question, since nobody likes a lukewarm cup of coffee, and you’ll have to be lucky to have your coffee intact in its cup (and not dropping traces on the road behind).
And so we’re left with a brilliant alternative. It’s time to stock up with your favorite coffee beans, which we all know is safe to deliver, via your local online food delivery service platforms or via air cargo — dry coffee beans won’t spill or spoil over a couple of days — and start brewing your own cup of coffee at home.
It’s not hard! While there are plenty of highly informative tutorials on Youtube fit for all you highly visual creatures, we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide on home-brewing your coffee. Bear in mind that the brewing methods that we have decided to feature in this article are only options by preference, so feel free to edit them or commingle them with other guides you’ve read elsewhere, and by no standards are these the one-size-fits-all solution to home-brewed coffee.
1st step: Selecting Your Coffee Beans
Well before you can get to brewing a delicious cup, you’re going to need some coffee to begin with. If you have some residual beans from some six-months-or-so-ago, do yourself a favour and throw it out please. We recommend you restock with whole beans rather than ground coffee, given you are equipped with a coffee grinder at home, otherwise you would want to call your local barista and tell them to grind your coffee beans to the recommended grind size of the brewing method you are going to employ.
The reason we do not recommend the latter entirely is because once the beans are ground, their flavours basically start to dissipate into the surroundings, and they will lose their distinctive aroma and taste by the matter of minutes. But worry not, one way to slow down the flavor loss is by properly sealing your coffee beans in an airtight bag or container and at room temperature.
Also, it’s good practice not to stock up on too much coffee beans. As a rule of thumb, we recommend stocking up to a week’s worth of coffee, again for taste and aroma preservation, but given the current circumstances, we think doubling or tripling the amount is still acceptable, since business activities are also seeing sharp drops in productivities, so roasters aren’t producing as much as they normally do.
2nd step: Preparing Your Brewing Equipment and Filters
There is a wide range of available equipment for use, both home and commercial grade, but for the sake of convenience and simplicity, the easiest ones to use are Chemex, Hario V60 — both direct pour-over brewing style, and AeroPress, French Press, and Clever, which are immersion brewing devices. There are slight differences between the two subcategories, the former usually yield a lighter, cleaner profile than the latter, which are most associated with bolder bodied coffee.
Also please make sure you clean your equipment after every attempt at usage, the coffee oils are the real enemy here, they can really be a fuss to clean if it’s left to sit for too long, which can spoil the taste of subsequent brews. It’s also good practice to rinse paper filters before use, and ideally at the same time, preheat your brewing devices with warm water.
3rd step: Grinding Your Coffee Beans
If you purchased ground coffee beans, you can skip this step and directly head over to step 4, but let’s go over grinding real quick. Essentially, your coffee grind size will dictate the flow of water through it, and therefore control the extraction process that takes place. It’s important to get your grind size right, which differs with every brewing method and coffee bean profile you have on your hands, which is why we recommend having a grinder and experimenting on which grind size works best for individual bags of coffee.
Grinding your coffee beans too fine means that there is higher resistance for water to pass through, extending the extraction time, which potentially leads to the unpleasant bitter taste of over-extracted coffee. Grinding your coffee beans too coarse, on the other hand, may eliminate the much-required resistance such that only scant amounts of water actually go through and extract the flavours from the coffee grounds, leaving you questioning on why your coffee tastes somewhat watery.
Also, you’d want to only grind as much as you need for your brew, and keep the rest of the unground coffee beans in the airtight bag lest it goes stale. And please do clean your grinder with a brush after every use.
4th step: Choosing a Scale, Thermometer, and Timer
It does not matter which recipe or formula you want to use (we recommend going to Youtube for the specific ratios and associated temporal segments), but you are going to need a scale, a thermometer, and a timer. I know you probably have a kitchen scale lying somewhere around the pantry, and good news, you can use that given their ability to measure to 0.1g or more. The reason? Precision is the holy grail of any coffee-related undertaking.
As for usage of the thermometer, it may surprise you, but water temperature can greatly affect how your coffee tastes. The recommended range is from 90-96˚C (194-205˚F), but again, the exact temperature depends on the coffee profile and your personal preference. Generally, a higher temperature translates into higher extraction energy, which may hyper-extract your coffee beans. Think of it like searing your steak to well-done, you’ll naturally lose some of its flavours and yet at the same, undercooking your steak could be a flavorous catastrophe. Some kettles come with a built-in thermostat function, which makes life easy, but others require a separate thermometer unit that you can stick in through the kettle ports. In that case, be vigilant to ensure the tip of the thermometer comes into contact with water and not the kettle body.
Here’s the last bit, and arguably one of the most vital ones on the list. A timer. Your brew time, along with the other factors we have touched upon briefly, has a significant impact on your coffee’s resulting flavour. Again, it does not matter which recipe you use, you are going to need a timer. Lucky for us, most dedicated coffee scales come with a built-in timer on display, again making life easy, but most of us have smartphones, and we have never seen a smartphone incapable of measuring time.
As a general rule of thumb, the longer water gets to sit with the coffee, the bolder the flavours get. On the contrary, a quicker brew time means your coffee emanates this fruitier, more acidic taste.
And there it is. The beginner’s guide to home-brewing your next cup of coffee. It may sound like a tall order, but believe us when we say it is easier than it sounds. Fortunately for us, there are a lot of good resources out on the internet for brewing recipes personalised to the different brewing styles and equipment you have at home.
Once you’ve gotten the hang out of some of the recipes, it’s time to tweak them a little bit. Play around with the grind size, the temperature, the brew ratios, and perhaps the brewing methods as well. At least once the ordeal has subsided, you can brag to your friends about your seasoned skills as a home barista and treat them to a delicious cup of coffee in the office.