Every day, millions of us go through a daily ritual of preparing our morning cup of coffee. For some of us, it’s a sacred process of getting us the quality coffee we deserve. For others, it’s strictly about finding the fastest way to get that sweet, sweet caffeine into our bodies.
Regardless of which group you fall into, you’re likely to make a mistake along the way, whether due to sleep deprivation or ignorance. Unfortunately, those little mistakes in brewing your coffee can have a massive impact. Take a look and see if you’re making these 5 coffee mistakes that could be sabotaging your brew. Fix ‘em and you’ll be on your way to a better cup in no time.
1. You’re Not buying Fresh Whole Beans
If you’re lucky or just a bit more into your coffee, you might have a local roaster or coffee shop that you like to buy from. Hopefully, there’s a barista there who can guide you based on your preferences. If so, great!
However, in reality, most people buy their coffee from the grocery store. Here, your coffee is usually stocked alongside hundreds of other options and in the same aisle as dried fruits and nuts.
The problem is that coffee doesn’t have a very long shelf life. Once it’s roasted, it begins rapidly degassing and going through oxidation. This means that your coffee begins going stale and losing the flavors and aromatics promised on the bag. And if it’s pre ground? The increased surface area has already sped up that process long before the coffee ever got to you. In short, if it’s preground, just say no.
As a rule of thumb, coffee should be purchased more like any other perishable grocery item, such as milk or vegetables: only buy what you’ll consume in about a week. If you can, buy from a local roaster who can tell you the roast date and buy according to that instead of a “best by” date.
2. You’re Not Following a Recipe
You wouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe. So why would you brew your coffee without one? Put simply, brewing coffee is the act of extracting coffee flavors from coffee beans. This process is heavily dependent on the ratio of water to coffee. Things like time, grind size, and brew method all play an important role in this process as well.
It’s hard to care about ratios when you’re still fighting off the morning fog but coffee is a game of consistency. You want to repeat the steps that worked well and eliminate those that didn’t. Recipes help by setting guidelines so that you’re not just blindly throwing mashed coffee particles into some water and calling it a day. Once you’ve gotten comfortable, you’re free to experiment as you wish, tweaking variables and creating a recipe of your own!
3. You’re Not Using the Right Water
It sounds crazy but it’s true. Coffee is 98% percent water. This means that whatever you put into your coffee brewer ends up in your cup. Though it may be safe to drink, low quality and tap waters often contain minerals and chemicals that can drastically affect the taste of your coffee. Whenever possible, it’s best to use filtered or bottled water to ensure that it is free of any strong taste or odors.
Beyond taste, the temperature of your water greatly affects the rate at which your coffee brews. According to the SCAA Coffee Brewing Handbook, Your water should be between 195F and 205F (91-94 C). The problem is that most home drip coffee makers don’t even produce water hot enough for proper coffee extraction. There are electric kettles that allow you to set the temperature of water, but a simple kitchen thermometer will do just fine. If you can’t be bothered with that, just let your water come to a boil, which happens at 212F (100C) and let it sit a minute to cool.
4. You’re Not Adjusting Your Grind
All brew methods are not created equal and consistency is key. Immersion methods like the french press call for a very different grind than an espresso or pour over. Some methods require a coarser grind if water will be in contact with the coffee for longer. For faster methods, you’ll usually be grinding quite a bit finer. Grinding your coffee the same size for each method is like cooking a thick filet mignon the same way you would a thin sliced flank steak. You run the risk of burning (over extracting) one or undercooking (under extracting) the other.
Your best bet for consistency is to invest in a burr grinder instead of a blade grinder. Blade grinders don’t offer much control over the size of your grinds, leaving you to rely on the pulse method that give you giant pebbles and some ultra fine dust. If you aren’t ready to spring for the electric models, a quality hand burr grinder can still provide a major upgrade in terms of consistency.
5. You’re Not Trying Something New
The great thing about coffee is that all about experimentation. It’s important to remember that what works for someone else might not work for you.
Maybe you have a friend who has begged you try coffee from their amazing french press, but it just wasn’t for you. Maybe you decided to treat yourself to a siphon coffee at the cafe and it completely changed the way you thought about coffee. You might be an espresso lover or a pour-over-or-nothing type of person. Who knows?!
The possibilities are endless with coffee. You can tweak and try new things to refine your palate and find out what you like. Coffee tools like a simple pour over or french press can be had for minimal investment. Find one that sounds interesting to you and try something new!
Zach is a writer and content marketer, specializing in coffee. His work has also been featured on Sprudge.