Coffee is the second-most-consumed drink in the world behind tea, so I don’t need to convince you to drink it. You probably already are drinking it. Right now.
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What I do want to convince you of, however, is to step up your coffee game so you’re drinking better coffee every day.
Most people use an automatic drip coffee brewer or a pod-brewer. These are okay and will do in a pinch if you aren’t using terrible coffee, but you can do better without adding time to the process.
Downsides of common brew methods
Automatic drip coffee makers: Slow, hard to clean, mediocre filtering and poor temperature control. These are okay but aren’t worth the hassle over something like a Chemex that can be used and fully cleaned in less time total.
Pod coffee-brewers: There are both terrible and okay pod-brewers, but I have had none that are as good as a manual method and due to the ease of manual brewing, I have no reason to switch.
Brew Manually and Drink Better Coffee Instead
These improvements are really easy to learn and implement and will yield a significantly better cup of coffee.
Here is everything you need to brew manually and make a much, much better cup of coffee. You’ll need:
- Your choice of brewer (Chemex, French Press or AeroPress)
- A way to heat water (electric kettle)
- A way to measure water temperature (long electric thermometer)
- A way to weigh your coffee and water to get your ratios correct (electric kitchen scale)
- A way to grind whole beans (manual grinder)
- A recipe (how much water and coffee to use)
- Whole coffee beans
All of this stuff is very affordable, and I’ve taken care to include a balance of the best, low-cost items in each category.
Choose Your Manual Brewer
1. Pour-Over: The Best Replacement for Your Automatic Drip Coffee-Maker
Chemex 6-Cup Glass Handle Series Coffeemaker
This is what I use every single day to make coffee for myself, my family and guests.
The magic of this coffee-maker is really in the filter. The filters are very thick and robust and do an excellent job of filtering out even the finest sediment as well as all the fats and oils you don’t want to drink. This makes for a very smooth and clean-tasting cup of coffee.
Though I consider the filter to be the most important part of this coffee-maker, Chemex says that the angle of the cone and the general construction of the glass pitcher also makes a big difference by exposing coffee equally during the brewing process and creating an optimal steeping time (the amount of time the coffee is exposed to water and how long the water takes to drain into the pitcher).
2. The French Press: Another Solid and Easy Way to Make Great Coffee at Home
A french press is a little quicker to brew than a pour-over, but produces a completely different cup of coffee. While the Chemex above features maximum filtration of sediment, fats and oils, the french press does very little filtering. They always feature a re-usable stainless-steel mesh filter that does a good job of filtering the majority of the coffee grounds but usually not all of them. You will likely have significant sediment in a cup brewed in a french press, and sometimes that’s what you want. It’s a more extreme, dirtier cup of coffee.
Generally speaking, a french press is a french press, and there are many great ones to choose from, so I’ve included four very highly-rated ones you can choose from depending on your aesthetic preference, or whether you prefer metal or glass. I usually pick glass over metal, but got a metal one after my glass one smashed in the sink with very little provocation.
3. The AeroPress: Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine (and regular coffee, too)
Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker
This is a super-fast brewing method that produces great coffee. It brews 1 – 3 cups in less than a minute, so if your main goal is speed, this is faster than your automatic drip brewer, by a lot.
Coffee will come out a little less-filtered than a Chemex, and way more filtered than a french press. You can also use this to make espresso!
Other Stuff You Will Need
4. Use An Electric Thermometer: Don’t Burn Your Coffee Ever Again
Lemontec CP1 Meat Thermometer Digital Cooking Thermometer [5.9 Inch Long Probe] with Instant Read, LCD Screen, Anti-Corrosion
Did you know that you can burn coffee? Just like with every other food, coffee tastes better when exposed to a certain temperature when it’s prepared.
This is another easy thing to get right. Your water temperature when brewing should stay between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: Certain coffee-brewing methods or devices (like the AeroPress) will advise a different temperature for brewing their way. I’d try it their way first and then default to the 195 to 205 Fahrenheit default and see which you prefer.
There are a bunch of thermometers you could use for this (most of them meat-thermometers), but I use this one. Simple, dirt-cheap and with a long enough probe for coffee-brewing purposes.
5. Weigh Your Coffee: You Don’t Have To, But it’s Easy and Will Make Your Coffee Better, and is Super Helpful when Making Iced Coffee
Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale
Weighing coffee and water is a more precise, often easier way to get your coffee/water ratios right every time. This is another way to make sure your cup of coffee is great every day.
It’s also easier to make iced-coffee (50% hot water poured over 50% ice) when weighing ice and water as opposed to trying to get ice and water ratios correct in a measuring cup.
6. A Decent Grinder: Grind Your Coffee Right Before Before Your Brew It
JavaPresse Coffee Company Manual Coffee Grinder
This is one aspect of coffee-brewing that actually has a significant affect on the flavor of your coffee. Pre-grinding coffee (something I used to do) and leaving it for even a day can significantly change the flavor of your coffee for the worse. It exposes all that coffee to the air and makes it prematurely stale. You can taste the stale when you do this.
It’s so easy to measure and grind at the same time and barely adds any time to the process, so stop pre-grinding your coffee in a big batch to save time.
So now that we have that out of the way, what grinder should you buy?
Oddly enough, the highest-rated most-popular grinder on Amazon is a manual hand-grinder. The benefit of this grinder over a cheap electric burr-grinder is that you get a cooler grind. The cheap electric grinders produce a lot of heat while grinding and that changes the flavor of your coffee.
This has a lot of adjustability, enabling you to get your grind just right not matter what device you’re brewing in. Customers love this feature, according to reviews, and find it very easy to use and adjust.
A final benefit of this grinder is that it can be used while camping or traveling because it does not use electricity. Not important to me personally, but it seems to be a commonly mentioned perk in reviews.
Last But Not Least: The Recipe for Good Coffee
7. How Much Water and How Much Coffee to Use
This one is easy. For normal drip-style coffee, if you don’t have a scale, measure one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.
If you do have a scale, measure 1.6–2 grams whole bean coffee per 1 oz (28 grams) of water, depending on your personal taste.
To sum this up:
- 1 – 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water (or 1.6 – 2 grams of coffee for 1 oz. (28 grams) of water)
- Water heated to 195 – 205 degrees fahrenheit
Here Are Some Good Beans You Can Buy on Amazon
Beans are highly up to your personal taste, but a good rule of thumb is to look for coffee beans that have a “Roasted On” date printed on the bag. Starbucks coffee beans do not have this, and I drink it anyway, but fresher is better. These are the most popular, highest-rated whole-bean roasted coffees on Amazon: