Great Coffee at Home: The Top Five Tips I Learned from Stumptown Roasters

by Rebekahcooked up on September 26, 2012

I don’t know about you, but making really good coffee is so important to me.  We have at least three coffee machines, if you count the single cup, the standard drip and the espresso maker. We also have a stovetop espresso pot and a French press.

This is more than we need. I am aware of this. 🙂

But that’s the beauty of making coffee at home. Many fine beverages can be made in your kitchen, and sure, we love to do that too! But good coffee at home – that, my friends, is EASY. So much easier. And so much less expensive. Less expensive, even, than many drop coffee machines out there.

Some may characterize this coffee obsession as snobbery. Others, conissourship. But I like to think of it as yet another side of my many-faceted geekdom. That’s why I was really excited when I got press credentials to attend a class on coffee at Feast, a great seminar about making your home coffee out of this world. And I wanted to share the best tips that I learned.

Here’s the setup in Director’s Park, by the way:

1) You don’t need expensive equipment to brew a truly high-quality cup of coffee. The fanciest coffee carafe that they demo’ed during the class (a Chemex) is 40 whole dollars. That is the cost of a low-to-mid-market drip machine. A French press, which is what I use in my kitchen, costs about the same (we use the classic Bodum Chambord – not sponsored. But it is one of my top 5 favorite gadgets in my kitchen.). A pour-over setup for one cup at a time costs even less. Stumptown says what you should be spending money on is your coffee grinder. I have to admit that while I have done a little research, I haven’t acted on this one yet.

This is a super funky device called an Aeropress – they are $25-30. Word on the street (class?) is that it’s good to take on trail runs, which the New Yorkers on the panel found hilarious.

2) Get a scale. Like all other aspects of cooking, if you want true exactitude you must go by weight and not volume. This is the one that we use in our kitchen – it’s about $30. You can get them for much less. Also, get a timer or reach for your phone. Four minutes is the magic number for a French press.

3) Consistent heat is essential to getting the best flavor and temperature out of your coffee. The best way to make this happen is to heat more water than you need to when you go to make your morning IV bag cup or pot. Pour a cup or so of near-boiling water into your French press (or what have you) and swirl the water around to heat the glass vessel (you’ll then dump it out/save it for plants elsewhere/etc).  Cold glass sucks the heat out of your coffee. If the glass is already hot, that doesn’t happen – or at least happens to a much lesser degree.

It should be noted that when I tried to be all impressive for our brunch guests while doing this on Sunday morning, I unthinkingly turned the heat off for the water on the stove when I took some out to heat up the French press. By the time I was ready to brew coffee, it had cooled considerably, but since I assumed the water to be very hot, I did not stick my finger in to find out its temperature. I then attempted to make coffee with lukewarm water. It was not a success.

Not that that says anything about the tip itself.

This is the amount of water they had set up at the class – a lot of it was used to heat and rinse things.

4) If you are using something that uses filters, it is best to get white paper ones (which you can compost). It is also important to give them a heavy rinse with clean, hot water (again, heat more water than you need) to remove anything residual on it – chemicals, smells, tastes, etc. Do this by putting the coffee filter in place in the carafe or pour-over brewer, and running the hot water through it as if you were making coffee. Just dump the unneeded water out when you are done, but keep the wet filter.

5) Ready to take your coffee to the next level at home? The French press is the best way to start. Why, you ask? Because a) it’s inexpensive. b) You don’t have to be as precise and c) It makes enough coffee for a couple of people to enjoy at the same time (this may seem like an odd statement, but a few methods we talked about in the class are for single-cup-use only).

I learned so much at this class, and we didn’t even cover espresso. Speaking of espresso…

Later in the day at the Stumptown coffee cart at Feast, someone made me this latte. It is the prettiest latte I have ever had. Thanks, guys!

1 Comment

  1. Great tips, thanks! But when I’m weighing my coffee, how much should I be using?

    Comment by Ashley — September 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm

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