The Beginners Guide to Brewing Coffee at Home
Starting a new hobby or taking an interest to the next level can be intimidating. How do you know what are the right tools to get started? What’s the most cost-efficient way to start while still producing outstanding results? Whether it’s diving deeper into making cocktails at home, new cooking techniques, or vegetable gardening, I always start at the same place—wholly lost. I bombard countless search engines looking for what’s “best” out there, like “best bar equipment,” “the best way to cook sous vide,” or “the best way to start gardening.” The results often lead me to search multiple sites with countless sources, and I’m still usually left with a relatively vague idea of what to do.
While having a Yarai Mixing glass and fancy bar spoon is nice, you can easily mix delicious cocktails at home without them. Here’s our all-in-one guide for “the best way to start brewing better coffee at home” for those who want to take your coffee to the next level.
The grinder is the singular piece of coffee equipment you can’t skimp on, no matter what. To make delicious coffee, you’ll have to get a good burr grinder to get started. We recommend the Baratza Encore for a good quality grinder at a reasonable price point. Suppose you’re looking to up your coffee game. In that case, a significant upgrade option is the Fellow Ode. If you're mobile or you lack counterspace, your best bet is to skip the blade grinders and go for a hand burr grinder like the Eureka Baby hand grinder, which is also great for traveling and camping. A hand grinder will at least get you started, and you can always upgrade later. Again, please remember to skip the blade grinder.
This area is more flexible, as everyone enjoys their coffee differently. Stick to manual brew methods like the V60, Aeropress, French Press, or Chemex. Remember, these are just a handful of manual brewers out there, and we love plenty of others that we didn’t include there. A simple guide for which brewer to get is to think about what type of cup and mouthfeel you enjoy the most, then go from there. If you enjoy drip coffee and like a light to medium body emphasizing flavor clarity, we recommend a pour-over style like the V60. If you want a more full-bodied and round cup, check out the French Press.
If you don’t have the time to jump into manual brewing right away, check out this fantastic automatic brewer—the Ratio Six.
You will need some way to deliver hot water to the brewer for manual brewing. For most people, that’s going to be a kettle. Deciding which kettle to get is likely to come down to 3 things: cost, aesthetic, and how you’re going to brew. Suppose you will brew on an immersion-style brewer like the French Press or Aeropress. In that case, the ability to control the volume and direction of the flow isn’t as important, and you can simply use any old tea kettle, or even a small pot will boil water in a pinch.
However, a kettle with a long, thin “gooseneck” spout is ideal for brewing coffee on a pour-over. You can’t go wrong with the Fellow Stagg for a solid stove top model. I like the electric models, but they are generally pricier. The Fellow Stagg EKG Pro is a fantastic kettle that boils water, has a hold setting, and a programable timer—it even has an adjustment based on which altitude you're brewing at.
The use of a scale is no longer optional. Full stop. If you’re making pour-over at home, please use a scale. Your taste buds will thank you. If you want the math to be done for you, the Fellow Tally scale does it all. No matter what, any scale that can fit a brewer on it and can at least weigh within .5 of a gram will do.
Just like you can’t make good food without superior ingredients, you can’t brew a good cup without fresh, high-quality coffee and good water.
Coffee: We recommend regularly buying freshly roasted whole-bean coffee from a quality-focused roaster. We are lucky to work with some of the best roasters nationwide who source amazing coffees and roast them in small batches. Check out our coffee subscriptions, and we can pick your perfect coffee and have it shipped to you on your schedule. Fresh coffee from the best roasters, delivered straight to you? What’s not to love?
Water: Water makes up over 98% of the coffee you drink, so using fresh, filtered water is critical to getting the most out of your coffee and producing the best-tasting results. Tap water is different everywhere you go and is often too hard for brewing. An elegant solution is to create your own water by starting with distilled water as a base and then adding Third Wave Water Minerals that are safe to use and are flavorful.
There are many information sources about brewing online, and they all range in quality and accuracy from being downright wrong to overly complicated and techy. My best coffee sources are educational, approachable, and fun to read. One of my favorite places to learn about coffee as a beginner was Sweet Maria’s, a green coffee and home roaster site based out of the Bay Area and run by industry veteran Tom Owen. His information is thorough but easy to digest and extremely approachable. You can learn about roasting coffee and even get into roasting your own at home, but I think his information on brewing is a solid foundation for any level learner.
If you want something more hands-on and tangible, check out the book “The World Atlas of Coffee,” written by esteemed coffee professional and owner of Square Mile Coffee in London, James Hoffmann. The book is as straightforward as it gets, with gorgeous aesthetics and accessible information about everything from how and where coffee is grown to how to brew.