I’m a little obsessed with coffee. (Ok, maybe more than just a little). But that wasn’t always the case.
Here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on — a few years before launching Dreamweaver , I wasn’t even sure I liked coffee all that much. Outside of crazy sugary drinks from Starbucks, the coffee I made at-home tasted like hot, muddy water.
Turns out, I was just bad at making coffee and had no idea how to make good coffee. Once I learned the secret, my coffee tasted nothing short of magical. I was hooked.
Let’s cover the 5 biggest at-home brewing mistakes people often make that lead to "meh"-tasting coffee.
1. Not buying fresh coffee
Coffee has two main breakpoints after which it starts losing freshness.
Breakpoint #1 --> After roasting
Any time the chemistry of the coffee beans is altered it starts “leaking” freshness.
The first major change happens after roasting, which is why it's always best to buy freshly roasted coffee. The problem is you won't find fresh coffee in most grocery stores. The stuff off-the-shelves is often roasted MONTHS before you buy it.
To solve this, buy local or online from a premium, "craft" coffee shop (like Dreamweaver Coffee Co). Even though technically coffee lasts for months after it's been roasted, within 1 month is the sweet spot for the best taste.
When making your own coffee at home, fresh is always best.
Breakpoint #2 --> After grinding
The second major change happens after the beans are mashed up during the grinding process, leading to another release of freshness. If you've ever wondered why people go through the trouble of buying whole bean coffee and grinding it themselves, this is why.
After coffee is ground, it loses freshness at an even faster rate than after roasting. The act of breaking down the beans further releases the coffee’s gases and freshness into the atmosphere.
Coffee will always have the best flavor immediately after grinding, which is why it’s best to buy whole bean and grind it yourself just before brewing.
However, if you don’t have a grinder and are forced to buy pre-ground coffee, don’t fret. Yes, your coffee won’t be the absolute cream of the crop, but chances are you won’t notice that much of a difference until after several weeks of the coffee being ground.
That means you can still enjoy fresh-tasting coffee even if you buy pre-ground — it’s just that much more important to buy FRESH coffee.
2. Using the wrong ratios
Not measuring your coffee may be more convenient but it’s a mistake. Best tasting coffee is found between 1-2 tbsp of coffee per 1 cup water.
Use a 1:1 ratio for medium flavor and 2:1 for stronger flavor and more caffeinated coffee. Or, settle somewhere in the middle if that’s more your style. It’s always a good idea to experiment until you find what you like best.
We covered using ratios and the “golden ratio” in this article here, so that’s all we’ll say in this one.
3. Using low-quality water
Coffee is 98% water, which means the quality of the beans you use means virtually nothing if you also use crappy water.
Unfiltered water from a dirty sink --> grungy tasting coffee
Clean, filtered and purified water --> awesome tasting coffee
It's OK to use water somewhere in the middle, just know the trade-off and lean as much toward the clean side as possible.
4. Brewing at the wrong temperature
Coffee, like Goldilocks, is stingy. It doesn’t like "too cold" water or it won’t release enough flavor, and it doesn’t like "too hot" water or it’ll release too much flavor (and taste very bitter). Water temperature has to be "just right": 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, aka near-boiling.
If you can nail this target every time, great. But it's hard to control water temp in many coffee machines, and boiling temps vary depending on elevation (higher elev. = lower boiling point). Fortunately, there's another variable that's much easier to control that also affects the flavor extraction rate: grind size.
If you've done everything else right and your coffee still tastes off, try varying your grind size.
Slightly smaller grind size --> Increases extraction (counteracts "too cold" water)
Slightly larger grind size --> Decreases extraction (counteracts "too hot" water)
5. Not cleaning your coffee maker
Lastly, maintenance is never sexy and often gets skipped, but in your damp, dark coffee machine, that means funky bacteria leaking into your “fresh” cup of joe.
It’s super important to clean your coffee pot, filters, and pan daily, and do a thorough cleaning of your machine at least every couple of weeks. If you drink coffee as much as I do, this is key to ensuring maximum freshness (and no nasty health consequences).
Then, profit from bomb-ass tasting coffee.