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How can I make good coffee at home?

A really sharp, tasty black coffee in the morning starts my whole day off on the right track.

I think it’s because the coffee-drinking is a moment of concentration before anything is set in motion. Everything is yet to come and all roads are untaken. So if the coffee goes well, then I feel more relaxed (aka less grumpy about being awake).

Such a simple, basic desire to begin my day. Except, I rarely experience it because my morning coffee tastes bad.

For years- thousands of morning- I’ve been making coffee at home, taking a sip and feeling disappointed. Even with the best quality ground coffee from one of my favourite nearby coffee shops, my home coffee never tastes as good as the coffee I pay for from any independent cafe. My home coffee is too weak or too strong, tasteless water or bitter sludge. What am I doing wrong?

I wish, on a daily basis, that I liked instant coffee, but to me, it just tastes burnt and chemical. Coffee pod machines like Nespresso or Keurig lock you into one brand and, again, taste charred and synthetic. I even find that more upmarket ground coffee in supermarkets, brands like Starbucks and Lavazza don’t taste much better than instant coffee, they still have that scorched aftertaste.
I currently use a French press, which seems the cheapest and easiest way to brew coffee at home. Do I need to invest in an expensive machine or learn a more complicated technique like a pour over??

5 Tips for Good Coffee at Home:

Anna Brones, in her new excellent Kitchn column on coffee, gives 5 tips on how to make sure your coffee tastes as good at home:

  1. Make sure your coffee beans are recently roasted and keep them in a dark airtight container. Not in the fridge! Condensation from the cold actually damages the coffee.
  2. Experiment with different origins of coffee and different brands to find one that suits you. If the coffee tastes too bitter it’s probably because it’s been over roasted- many of the big brands do this to create the ‘strong’ flavour that they think we want from coffee (WE DON’T).
  3. Make sure your equipment is clean.
  4. Think about the brewing time and process- if you let it sit too long, overheat the coffee, or don’t use the right amount of coffee, this will affect the flavour. 
  5. Make sure your water quality is good- filtered water will taste better than tap water.

And a few more facts:

  • A darker roast doesn’t mean a stronger cup of coffee, it just has a stronger flavour, there’s actually less caffeine because some of it is lost in the longer roasting process.
  • Coffee beans go stale almost as fast as ground coffee, even in good packaging. It’s better to buy less and often.
  • The grind of your coffee really does make a difference to the taste, so check which coarseness is best for the type of coffee apparatus you use and then either hand grind your beans or get them ground to that specification.

What coffee making system works for you? All advice gratefully received.

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