Last year, it came to my attention that I was doing an incredibly sh*tty job of making coffee. After taking this extremely personally, I went to Nepal, studied with the monks, ate a hypnotic flower, fought a bunch of weird shadows, and returned with basic knowledge about coffee preparation.
Here are the 10 things I was doing wrong. I fixed them all, and now I am officially addicted to caffeine. Damn it.
1. Buying pre-ground beans
Grinding beans before brewing is probably the easiest way to improve your coffee, since coffee beans lose most of their mojo soon after being ground up.
2. Not using a burr grinder
If you’re using a classic bladed coffee grinder, it can be tough to get the right grind or get uniformly-sized particles, especially if you want coarse coffee for a french press. Burr grinders can be expensive, but the hand-cranked ones are affordable
. If you want to go electric, you can hook a Hario up to a drill
, or get a Baratza Encore
3. Experimenting with different-sized grinds
Recently, I realized that I had been grinding too fine for my pour-over setup, and the water was taking too long to travel though the beans. I went a little more coarse and now everything tastes markedly better.
4. Screwing up the water-to-coffee ratio
If you’re making single cups, a small change in the amount of coffee or water you use will affect your system. Use a cheap kitchen scale ($15) to measure out the amount of beans—it takes two seconds. You can also use the scale to measure water. I put my mug, coffee maker, coffee (17 grams), and filter on the scale, zero the scale, and pour in 300 grams of water. Perfect ratio and no spillage.
5. Using the wrong kettle
Sometimes I consider this overkill, but if you have a kettle with a long spout, it’s really simple to control where the water goes and soak all the grounds evenly with your pour.
6. Not rinsing the filter
If you’re making pour-over coffee with most filters, you can ditch the paper taste—and preheat your mug—by rinsing your filter with hot water before you put the coffee in.
7. Using water that’s too hot
Some people pour their coffee straight off a boil. Turning off the heat and waiting 30 seconds allows the water temperature to get down to about 205°F, a slightly lower and optimal temperature that won’t burn your precious grounds.
8. Buying bad coffee
Bad coffee will not taste good even with the finest barista. There are a ton of farms with ethically-sourced beans that are exporting phenomenal products. Shop around, and you'll find one you'll love.
9. Storing your coffee in a humid, airy, sun-kissed location
This will straight-up ruin your coffee. Keep it in an airtight, dry, room temperature container out of the sun.
10. Using old coffee
Coffee goes bad, people. Some experts give coffee just a few weeks after its roasting date before it expires. Only get one bag at a time.
Ethan Wolff-Mann is Supercompressor's deputy editor. He is ashamed of the complexity of his coffee setup, but pushes on nonetheless. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.