Be Your Own Barista

Prepare your best cup of homemade coffee with this guide to different brewing methods.

  • Good coffee beans are the start to a great cup of joe.
    Photo by Getty Images/karamba70
  • Set your automatic drip the night before so you can wake up to a fresh pot of coffee in the morning.
    Photo by Getty Images/ladysuzi
  • This single-serve pour-over coffee funnel fits a coffee mug.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/ogustudio
  • A French press is easy to use and doesn't require a coffee filter, making it a low-maintenance choice.
    Photo by Getty Images/ktasimarr
  • Brew your own espresso at home with a stovetop espresso maker.
    Photo by Getty Images/Hin255
  • If you prefer a strong brew, a stovetop espresso may be the right choice for you.
    Photo by Getty Images/anilbolukbas
  • Gritty loves a good cup of coffee.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson Illustration
  • Ideally, coffee beans should be used within a week or two of their roast date and kept whole until used.
    Photo by pidjoe

Coffee is personal. Raising the topic in a crowd — whether how to brew it or how to drink it — starts discussion rivaling religion and politics in enthusiasm. Maybe not quite to that level, thankfully. But no matter how you brew or drink it, experts agree that controlling certain factors in the process is the secret to a perfect cup.

A good cup of coffee starts with a good bean — freshly roasted and properly stored. Ideally, coffee beans should be used within one to two weeks from the roast date and kept whole until used.

“If you buy your beans from a specialty roaster and you let them go longer than two to three weeks before using them, you lose what you’ve paid extra for,” says Kevin Fox, roastmaster and owner of Crazy Fox Coffee Roasting Company in New Market, Virginia.

Fox says coffee beans should be sold in a bag that allows for the outgassing of carbon dioxide through a small valve, protects the beans from light, and provides the roast date.

To preserve their unique flavor, grind your beans immediately before using. Grinding exposes more surface area of the bean to the air, thus accelerating the oxidation that makes them stale. If you don’t know what stale tastes like, do your own taste test between ground coffee bought in a can at the grocery store, and freshly roasted and ground coffee purchased locally.

To preserve the flavor of your coffee, only use fresh, nonchlorinated water. “If you buy water, do not use distilled water,” says Fox. Distilling removes the minerals that give your coffee flavor. On the other hand, Fox says if you use well water heavy with iron or sulfur, it will adversely affect the flavor of your brew. In addition, coffee requires water between 195 to 205 degrees. Any hotter and you extract the oils that create a bitter flavor. Any cooler and your coffee tastes flat.

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