If coffee is the only thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, you’re probably committed to making the perfect cup of Joe. Whether you take your coffee black or with a hefty dose of cream and sugar, it’s essential to get it just right, even if only to make waking up that much better.
After speaking with a half dozen leading coffee experts, we can safely say there are countless ways to take your coffee up a notch. But there’s only one way that consistently comes up as the most effective. Here’s the easiest way to get a better cup of coffee at home.
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The #1 tip for better coffee? It’s all about the grinder.
If you’ve ever had a glass of wine a couple of days after opening the bottle and thought to yourself, “This tastes nothing as I remember,” you’ll understand this tip right off the bat. “Much like wine, coffee beans oxidize due to contact with—you guessed it—oxygen,” says Jordan Karcher, founder of Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. “By grinding the coffee, you’re increasing the surface area of the coffee and greatly increasing the rate of oxidation, resulting in muted flavors and subdued aromatics. I recommend waiting until the last possible moment to grind your coffee before beginning the brewing process.”
That means you’ll always want to buy whole beans (versus coffee that is already ground) and invest in a home coffee grinder so that you can grind your freshly roasted beans right before making your cup of coffee. For French press coffee, you’ll want a coarser grind than with other types of at-home coffee.
Already grinding beans at home? Remember that coffee grinders wear out over time, which can impact the taste of the coffee.
“If your coffee is tasting too weak and under-extracted, try adjusting your grind setting a little finer. If that doesn’t help, contact the manufacturer, and consider replacing the burrs in the grinder,” says Douglass Barrow, co-owner and roastmaster of Luna Gourmet Coffee & Tea Company.
How should you store coffee beans?
While your beans are waiting to be used, store them in an airtight container in a dark, cool area to limit the beans’ exposure to moisture, light, heat, and air. And make sure they’re stored away from spices and other potent odors, as the beans can absorb them. “Also, avoid buying bulk bags of beans—even if it seems like a good deal—because you’ll be left with stale, less flavorful cups of coffee by the time you reach the end of the bag,” says Zach Winzelberg, owner of Winz Market.
As for what kind of grinder to buy, Will Shurtz, a Level 1 barista and the co-owner at Methodical Coffee, suggests a conical burr grinder, such as the Baratza grinder. “A precision coffee grinder can grind beans to the correct size, which makes all the difference for a good cup of coffee,” Shurtz says.
Now that you know how to make a better cup of coffee, here are some other tips to make sure you get the best-ever cup of Joe. And for even more coffee tricks, This Is the Absolute Best Way to Store Coffee Beans, According to Experts.
Add orange zest and honey
Buying flavored coffee beans isn’t the only way to add dimension. “One of my favorite tricks for amping up my coffee is to make a great coffee from El Salvador and add orange zest and honey,” says Klatch Coffee vice president Heather Perry.
If you’re really invested, Perry suggests taking things one step further by making your own coconut milk by blending shredded coconut and water and then straining it. “When I want to make it really interesting, I toast the shredded coconut first until it’s slightly brown,” Perry says. Now that makes for delicious coffee creamer.
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One of the easiest ways to boost your morning brew’s taste and health profile is to add a dash of cinnamon. “The mixture is anti-inflammatory and works well with any milk or milk alternative,” says Ara Dalzell-Patterson, the vice president of food and beverages for Equinox Hotels.
If you’re looking for a little nosh to go with that cinnamon coffee, Dalzell-Patterson recommends pairing it with ashwagandha coffee cake, which you can make with raw cacao, tofu, ashwagandha, flour, eggs, and a smidge of butter. “The ashwagandha herb helps with stress and has anti-cancer fighting properties, while raw cacao is high in antioxidants, full of magnesium, and is a natural mood elevator,” Dalzell-Patterson says. “This breakfast pairing makes you feel good while also actually being good for you.”
And for more coffee tips, This One Trick Will Make Your Coffee Taste Better Instantly.
Check the roast date
Checking the roast date on your coffee is imperative to ensure quality beans—and be wary of any roast dates that are very far off. “Many people don’t know the lifeline of coffee lasts a maximum of two to three weeks after roasting (if stored properly), and most beans are optimally consumed seven days after roasting,” says Claire Chan, owner of Bar Beau.
You could try storing the beans in the freezer to prolong shelf life, but in that case, Shurtz says you should freeze them in the portions you’re going to use and make sure they’re sealed airtight by using a vacuum sealer. That way, the beans will stay fresh and won’t absorb smells from the freezer.
Not interested in freezing your beans? “No need to throw them away—just turn to cold brew coffee,” says Michael Phillips, Blue Bottle Coffee’s director of coffee culture. “The flavor of cold brew is much more forgiving of beans that are past their prime in terms of freshness.”
And once you’re done with those coffee grounds, don’t throw them away! They make a great addition to your compost pile.
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