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A Beginner’s Guide To Brewing Coffee At Home

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: December 29, 2023

It’s pretty funny—many people worldwide associate the United Kingdom (UK) with tea, little finger daintily out and all that (thank you, Downton Abbey and Bridgerton). Still, the good people of the UK drink an average of 2 cups of coffee per day, with Brits alone spending about a billion pounds on a good brew.

There’s no denying it—coffee is the world’s most popular drink, second only to water. About 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily worldwide!

If, like me, you need a good cup to wake you up in the morning, and if you’re picky about your coffee quality, there’s nothing like brewing your mug in the morning instead of relying on your local Starbucks.

I’ve often been told that I have coffee running in my veins instead of blood (not that I’m saying that’s necessarily a healthy or good thing), which means that I wasn’t satisfied with just about any cup of coffee—only the best brewing methods would do.

After much research, honing, and taking things into my own hands, here’s my beginner’s guide to brewing coffee at home.

Once you nail the art (because it is one) of brewing the perfect cup, you’ll find that it takes you hardly any time to get your coffee ready—and it doesn’t hurt that you save quite a bit of money, too (sorry, Starbucks).

So grab your favourite mug, and let’s go!

How To Brew Coffee At Home

You need three main things for the perfect brew—the right coffee, the right equipment, and the right method. So let’s take a closer look at all three…

The Right Coffee

With so many different varieties of coffee available, choosing the right one can be confusing.

Much of it comes down to what taste and flavour profile you’re looking for in your final cup. Nutty? Fruity? Bitter? Floral? There’s a coffee bean variety for every tastebud. Till you find what works for you, asking your local barista for recommendations is a wise idea.

coffee beans and an orange cup and saucer

The most basic choice comes down to whether you want dark, medium, or light roast. Darker beans are more robust, while lighter beans are milder.

Whichever variety you choose, always buy your beans and grind them. If possible, there’s nothing like getting them freshly roasted (oh, the aroma!).

However, remember that the coffee beans alone won’t define the taste of your brew—water temperature, brewing method, and grind size all play essential roles.

I highly recommend researching your coffee brand—in today’s day and age, it makes zero sense to support brands with unethical sourcing practices and labour policies, so do your bit where you can!

The Right Equipment

Some of the equipment that will help you brew a good cup of coffee:

  • Scales
  • A grinder
  • Filter Papers
  • Thermometer
  • Timer
  • Equipment related to your method (explained later)

None of these is mandatory when brewing coffee (you can brew a cup even with something as basic as a metal pot and a fire). Still, when you want a quality cup that’s almost as good as (or better than) your local baristas, I’d say that you seriously consider investing in these.

Here’s a more in-depth look at each piece of equipment.

Scales

Many people think that kitchen scales are for indulgent chefs with too much time on their hands—I wouldn’t know about other recipes (my kitchen scale’s only use, other than coffee-related tasks, is to sit prettily on my counter) but trust me when I say that measuring the amount of coffee and water you use is vital to your coffee’s taste and consistency, giving you the perfect brew every single time.

Most pro coffee recipes you look up will recommend or require a scale. Apart from giving you consistent results, this will help you figure out how much coffee powder/beans you should be using when you switch brands or varieties, as different coffee beans have different densities.

You can measure both ingredients by weight or volume—I find the former more consistent and accurate, and I’ve noticed that it’s also what my (very impressive) go-to barista sticks to.

You don’t need fancy equipment—look for a pair of scales that can measure 0.1 grams or beyond.

Grinder

It’s a no-brainer—the best coffee is made from freshly ground coffee beans.

portafilter with ground coffee

Amateur or professional, buying whole beans and grinding them is a step toward the perfect brew. If there’s only one piece of equipment you’re going to invest in, I would say that it should be a good grinder.

You can choose between blade and burr grinders. The latter grinds coffee more evenly but is more expensive. For a beginner, a decent handheld burr grinder is a good option.

Which grinder you pick out will also define the grind size or vice versa. The more finely ground the coffee, the more flavour you can extract from it, but a coarser grind will let water filter through more efficiently. See what works for you. If you find your coffee too sour, grind more finely, and if your coffee is too bitter, make the grind coarser.

Timer

How long you let your brew steep will impact the flavour of your coffee. This is standard across all coffee recipes.

For standard immersion methods, it’s about how long you leave the grounds in the water, but for a more acidic and fruity blend, add the water early on when using a filter. As you learn more techniques, you’ll find that a timer greatly helps.

Until you’re experienced enough not to need a timer, use one. You don’t need a separate device—your phone will work fine.

Filter Paper

Depending on the method (the manufacturer of your coffee brand usually specifies which type of filter paper should be used), pick out your filter paper.

used coffee filter paper

Thermometer

It might seem like I’m nit-picking, but hey! If you want professional-tasting coffee, you’ve got to go the whole way!

This brings me to thermometers.

The temperature of your water will affect the quality of your brew. Different brews require different temperatures; the higher the temperature, the more the extraction from the coffee.

The Right Method

Now, down to the last big player—the brewing method.

There are five main brewing methods that I rotate between—Chemex, cafetière, Moka pot, Aeropress, and the V60.

Aeropress

Let’s start with a classic.

The coffee press method is probably the oldest and most accessible, and an Aeropress can help you with this. The result is a clear, lovely espresso, and in my opinion (though I may have people wanting my head for this!), it is a better result than a French press can give you.

The Aeropress itself is easy to handle, easy to clean, and a very cost-effective investment. You can make the perfect brew without worrying about beans getting stuck in hard-to-reach spots or oil and grime making a mark on the equipment.

aeropress

If you’re craving a latte, add a frother to the equation.

To make coffee in an Aeropress, use the following steps:

  • First, set the kettle to boil, and once it does, let it cool slightly (around 85-90℃ is the ideal temperature).
  • Place a filter paper into the Aeropress’s plastic cap, wetting it slightly by pouring some water through (this removes the papery taste). Discard the water.
  • Next, add about 18 grams of ground coffee. To measure this, place the Aeropress upside down on your scales.
  • For dry coffee, add double the amount of water (double the amount of ground coffee used) and give it 30 seconds to bloom.
  • Depending on how concentrated you want your brew, add up to 300 millilitres of water. Give this a minute, and then stir your coffee.
  • After this, put the plastic cap back on the Aeropress and place it over a jug or mug while applying slow downward pressure (pro-tip—if the coffee filters through too quickly, your grind is too coarse, and vice versa).
  • Once you’re done extracting, you can enjoy your perfect cup of coffee!

Cafetiere

The cafetiere method doesn’t need filters and is the easiest way to make coffee, especially for a group. In this method, boil the water as you would with an Aeropress, and then add 18 grams of coffee (coarsely ground) to the cafetiere.

cafetiere

Next, add 300 millilitres of the boiled-and-now-slightly-cooled water. Stir well, cover with a lid, and let this steep for three and a half minutes.

Then, push down the filter of the cafetiere until you can feel it against the grounds. Your coffee is now ready!

Moka Pot

Moka pots are the OG gods of coffee brewing, giving you a strong, thick brew. To make coffee with a moka pot, follow the below instructions:

  • Fill your moka pot with water, filling it up to the valve. There’s no need to boil the water.
  • Next, add your ground coffee to the filter basket, levelling the surface. Place a coffee filter (though you can skip this at the cost of a minimal amount of sediments trickling through) on the Moka pot’s base and then replace the top of the pot.
  • Place your Moka pot on the hob, letting the water boil. Once it does, slightly lower the heat so the brew is consistently simmering. When this happens, the water will rise through the coffee grounds and up through the spout, forcing the coffee to enter the top part of the pot.
  • When your coffee is ready, the pot will start hissing. Enjoy a hot cup (though I often water it down before drinking this extremely strong brew!)
moka pot

V60 And Chemex

The Chemex and V60 are extremely similar, with the only exception being how the coffee is ground for each method. For the former, a coarser grind will work, but the latter requires a fine grind, owing to the varying thicknesses of the filters used.

filtered coffee

Here’s how you can brew a cup with a V60 or Chemex:

  • Boil water and let it cool slightly.
  • In the meantime, place a filter in your Chemex or V60 and slightly wet it by pouring water through. Discard this water.
  • Add ground coffee to the filter paper (about 18 grams for a V60 and about 30 grams for a Chemex; the latter will give you about 500 millilitres of coffee).
  • Add water that’s double the amount of the coffee you’re using (use the same unit of measurement, which is grams). Let this bloom for 30 seconds for the flavour to seep into the water fully.
  • Let the filter do its thing for about 3.5 to 6 minutes in a Chemex and about three minutes in a V60. Your coffee is now ready.

Some Important Tips

  • When grinding, grind only as much as you need, as ground coffee has an incredible shelf life—all of 15 minutes!
  • Clean all your equipment after you use them, taking care to get rid of all the oils (unless you want to taste these in your next cup).
  • Instead of placing the filter and pouring water through, you can wet the filters in hot water before using them. This will give you a cleaner brew due to the removed papery taste.
  • When you roast your coffee also matters. Coffee has a shelf life, so it’s wise to only buy enough for a week.
  • Preheat your coffee equipment and cup for even extraction. Clashing temperatures will cause the hot water to cool immediately.
  • Store coffee at room temperature in an airtight container (never in the fridge unless you want your coffee to smell like last night’s fish). Make sure it’s not placed in direct sunlight.

A Beginner’s Guide To Brewing Coffee At Home: The Bottom Line

There are few things more satisfying than brewing your own cup of coffee, and it only gets better when you manage to nail it. It may take some experimentation to get there; don’t lose heart. Having the right equipment will lower the number of times you mess up, though, so consider investing in some of them.

May the (coffee) force be with you!

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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