From choosing your coffee beans to brewing at the optimal temperature, there are small things you can do to turn up the flavors of your morning brew. We caught up with Jesse Gordon, educator at Counter Culture Coffee, to share his top tips for brewing better coffee at home. 

Bonavita: What things do you consider when choosing the best coffee beans for your home coffee brewer?

Gordon: Going to your favorite local cafe or grocery store and seeing the wide variety of coffees available can sometimes be intimidating. When I’m looking for a coffee to purchase, there are two main things I consider. First off, I would look for whole bean coffee from a reputable specialty coffee roaster. Purchasing whole bean coffee and grinding it fresh right before you brew is going to lead to the best flavor a coffee has to offer. Another important piece of information that reputable specialty roasters will provide is the roast date. Look for coffees roasted within the last month for the best flavor. 

Second, look for tasting notes that appeal to you. If you enjoy coffees that are more fruit-forward in their flavor profile look for tasting notes like citrus, berries, or stone fruits. If you enjoy more chocolatey, nutty, or roasty flavors, look for tasting notes that evoke those ideas! Personally, I’m less concerned with the roast level of a coffee and more concerned with finding flavors that I might enjoy.

Water sprays out of the coffee brewer showerhead.

Bonavita: At what water temperature should your coffee be brewed for optimal flavor extraction? How does temperature affect flavor?

Gordon: According to the Specialty Coffee Association, a water temperature of 195-205℉ is ideal for brewing delicious coffee. If your water temperature is too low, it’s not able to pull some of the soluble materials out of the ground coffee that contribute sweet, vibrant flavors to your cup and it ends up tasting sour. If your water is too hot, you can pull some compounds into your cup that cause excess bitterness. If the water temperature is just right, you’re giving yourself the best chance at a cup that exhibits a harmonious balance of sweetness, bitterness, and pleasant acidity. 

If you’re buying an automatic drip coffee maker for your home, make sure it can get up to an appropriate water temperature. Bonavita brewers are SCA Gold Cup Certified, which means they’ve gone through a ton of testing and have shown the ability to consistently produce coffee within their strict guidelines.

Bonavita: Does water quality matter?

Gordon: Water quality is one of the most important but least considered components of brewing delicious coffee. Drip coffee is just over 1% soluble coffee material which means that it’s almost 99% water. That’s crazy! What this means is that the quality of your water is incredibly important. The most simple way to think about it is that if your water tastes bad, your coffee will taste bad. Using filtered water that is free from taste and odor is ideal.

One important thing to note is that you don’t want to use distilled water or reverse osmosis water without having some kind of minerals added back in. If you want to make sure you’re using ideal water for brewing coffee at home, you can check out Third Wave Water. Third Wave Water makes mineral packets that you add to distilled water which add the ideal mineral content for brewing coffee. 

A glass carafe with coffee sits atop a modern kitchen countertop.

Bonavita: Do you recommend any other equipment to use alongside a brewer?

Gordon: Aside from buying freshly roasted whole bean coffee from a reputable roaster, there are two tools I always recommend to folks who are looking to make better coffee at home. First, you want a digital scale. There is a wide variety of scales available, but don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money on one. A simple scale that allows you to weigh in grams with at least a 2000g capacity is ideal. Weighing your coffee dose each time (and water for that matter) is one of the easiest ways to consistently brew delicious coffee. I would recommend a recipe of 60 grams of whole bean coffee for every liter (or 1000g) of water. 

Second, you want a quality burr grinder. Grinding your coffee right before you brew is going to give you the best shot at capturing all those lovely aromatics that make coffee taste delicious and vibrant. My personal favorite for use at home is the Baratza Encore. I think along with a quality brewer and scale, a grinder is one of the best investments you can make for better coffee at home.

Bonavita: Are there other tips you would like to share on how to brew better coffee?

Gordon: The one hack that I love to share with people these days is the Ross Droplet Technique or RDT. This is a simple trick to eliminate static when you’re grinding coffee. To do this, add a small amount of water from a fine mist spray bottle to your dose of coffee just before grinding. I like to put my whole bean coffee dose in a small metal tumbler or a coffee mug, add one small spray, and then shake or stir it around before pouring it into your grinder. The reduced static leads to less retention in your grinder and keeps grounds and chaff from flying all over the place.

A man with glasses and baseball cap pours water from a kettle to make pour over coffee.

Photo c/o Jesse Gordon.

Bonavita: How can our readers learn more about brewing coffee?

Counter Culture Coffee invites folks to our Training Centers every Friday morning at 10am local time for our Tasting at Ten. You can join me in Durham or hang with one of our other amazing regional teams across the country. Each week we taste one of our coffees together and learn a bit about it. 

We are also reintroducing various classes for the home enthusiast over the next few months. These classes include Espresso at Home, Brewing at Home, Latte Art, Cupping & Palate Development, and Cold Coffee. You can find those events and purchase tickets by searching for Counter Culture Coffee on Eventbrite and selecting your local Counter Culture training center.