Brokensuit's guide to coffee
I'm a fan of coffee, the true aqua vitae, water of life.
I brew my coffee at home by hand, using fresh beans of high quality and meticulous care.
Without going in to any kind of details regarding brewing technique, here's a list of things I've learned about brewing great coffee.
1. Use good water
It cannot be stressed enough that water has the ultimate power to affect the flavor of your coffee. In almost any country, it would not be advisable to use tap water to brew with, as it has way too much calcium in it. Calcium reacts with the flavors in the coffee and turns them bland.
Instead, use filtered water. There are several brands out there that sells jugs with replaceable filters that fit in the refrigerator door. If you never tried brewing with filtered water before, prepare to be amazed about how large a difference it actually makes.
You can also move to Norway, where the tap water is from mountain springs and virtually free of calcium.
2. Invest in a good grinder, and clean it!
There are basically two types of coffee grinders out there: One with a knife, and one with ceramic burrs.
Get the latter. It's not that much of an investment, and as opposed to the knife-based one, it doesn't mess up the oils in the beans.
If you have a good grinder, you must clean it regularly. Every week at least. Otherwise old coffee will affect the taste of your coffee.
Cleaning it regularly will also prolong its life.
I own a Baratza Virtuoso. It is not the cheapest but it is not crazily expensive either. Spare parts are readily available to it, so should something break, it's easy to fix.
3. Learn a method, and stick with it
There are a number of different pourover methods; different filter holder systems like Clever, Hario V60, Chemex, Kalita, etc., but it doesn't matter too much. Learn one system and stick with it.
Your coffee brewing will be all about tuning in to the beans you have bought, and this process of experimenting will be so much easier, if you have as few variables as possible.
So it doesn't matter too much whether you like the Rao method of V60, immersion brew your Clever dripper, or whatever you do, just as long as you do more or less the same thing every time. Then the only variable you have to adjust is the grind - coarser or finer depending on the beans you have.
In that regard it is immensely helpful to get a set of scales, preferably with a built in stopwatch. That way, you are sure to use the same amount of coffee, and brew it the same amount of time every time.
A gooseneck-type kettle is also a good investment, as it is much easier to pour slowly and precisely with one.
4. Get good, fresh beans
Besides water, the only other ingredient to coffee is ground coffee beans. Make sure they are of a high quality and relatively fresh.
Coffee tastes the best if they have been roasted within the last month.
Remember to store them dark in a sealed bag with the air removed.
5. Your taste buds rule
In the end, you're the one drinking the coffee, so when you brew it, taste it and figure out whether it is to your liking. With time, you should be able to tell whether the coffee has been overextracted or underextracted, and adjust the grind accordingly. Once in a while, you will find that your taste buds are so confused that you can't figure out what's up and down, and in that case, you should go to a good café and drink a few cups of their best pourover, to remind yourself of what it is supposed to taste like.