Great Coffee for Beginners:  Do just these 3 Things for Better Coffee

coffee pouring

If you’re reading this it likely means you’re on your way to better coffee, starting today. It also means you are probably curious about how to enjoy better coffee but need a little help on how to get started. You might be overwhelmed by the coffee world of today – Chemex Third Wave Single Origin Geisha Barista competitions whaaaa?  And – this is for certain – you thoroughly enjoy your morning cup and know that you deserve a good, no, great cup of coffee.  So where to begin?  Here are just three things you can do today to get a much MUCH better cup of coffee.  The best part being you don’t have to break the bank, buy fancy scales or take a coffee class…yet.  


1.Get Fresh Coffee

Depending on where you’re getting your coffee beans, you may be drinking coffee that was roasted not so recently.  The exact day the roaster took fresh coffee beans and roasted them to perfection is called the Roast Date and you should be able to find when your coffee was roasted noted somewhere on the bag.  So if your coffee was roasted weeks or months ago, it’s no big deal right? Oh, but it is my coffee loving friend!  Did you know that those beans you brew every morning are actually the seed of a fruit?  As your roasted beans start to get further from the roast date, the aroma and taste of the coffee start to suffer.  At about two weeks, the beans are considered to be just about beyond their time.  Have I personally drunk coffee beyond this point?  You bet.  I mean, I’m not about to waste a dope ass Single Origin from Ethiopia (we’ll get to that later).  The flavor is just not going to be as fresh or intense as it was right away. So don’t stress too much and just go by the golden rule: the fresher the coffee, the better your cup.  


2. The Grind

First, let’s make sure you are in fact buying whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself.  I’ll take that silence as a no, but that’s an easy fix.  I remember the day when I was drinking (not enjoying mind you, just drinking) pre ground coffee from a large scale grocery store that I’d rather not name.  Then I was introduced to freshly roasted beans that I was grinding just moments before brewing, and I totally got it.  Ah, coffee actually tastes good and is something to savor.  The second you grind a coffee bean it starts to lose its aroma and flavor. Until the beans are ground, the flavor is trapped inside the bean.  Once the coffee is ground and its surface area is vastly increased, flavorful aromatics start to release and the flavor starts to dissipate thereafter. Not grinding your coffee right before you brew is like taking a perfect hamburger patty and forgetting to season with that pinch of salt and pepper. It’s such a simple step and it makes a world of difference in the resulting flavor.

So do yourself a favor, respect the grind.

The next question that is going to pop into a lot of your minds is “what grinder should I be using?”  There are two kinds available, a blade grinder and a burr grinder. Coffee is actually a rather fragile product and that whirly blade grinder is doing more rough “chopping” than grinding, producing really uneven grounds, which means that your cup won’t brew as evenly. The absolute best cup of coffee is going to be ground by a burr grinder. Burr grinders offer control and precision, like a nice sharp Chef’s knife. If you aren’t at a point to invest a little money on one yet just know that it’s something to work up to, and hey if you are at least now grinding your coffee fresh then it’s a great start.  But just trust me that if you scour the web you’ll find that hands down all coffee fans, from the novice to the barista champs of the world, will stress that the Burr Grinder makes a huge difference.


3. Ditch the Drip

The way you brew, say it with me “freshly roasted and just ground,” coffee makes a world of difference.  Barring just a few (or otherwise fairly expensive) options the majority of drip coffee machines don’t even come close to getting the water hot enough to extract the full flavor of any coffee.  If you are totally tied to your drip coffee maker there are ways to skirt around this temperature issue but I strongly encourage you, my Coffee Grasshopper, to get yourself a French Press, Clever Dripper or Hario V60 stat!  These bad boys are affordable, fun, and easy to use and let your coffee flavors shine.  

After all, life is too short to drink bad coffee.  Cheers!

Want to learn about the best coffee in San Francisco? Or learn how to perfectly brew coffee at home!