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    Here’s How To Make Really Goddamn Good Coffee At Home

    Without spending a lot of time or money.

    I’ve been making pretty alright coffee at home for a couple years now. But until recently I've been afraid to try to learn more about how to do it even better.

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    When you dive into coffee subreddits and enthusiasts’ websites, shit gets extremely technical pretty quickly, and it's all very intimidating. Coffee gets its deliciousness from a series of chemical reactions, so I get it. But even if I understood all that science (I got a “D” in chemistry), the thing is, I’m actually not that interested in investing a ton of time and brainpower in understanding all there is to know about coffee. Basically, I want to invest some time and brainpower so I can know enough about coffee to brew it well at home.

    Happily, I finally found a resource that splits the difference between knowing pretty much nothing and knowing every goddamn thing there is to know about coffee.

    Jessica Easto’s Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home is the medium place for coffee nerdery.

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    Easto, a craft coffee enthusiast based in Chicago, explains the basics of brewing, how beans are processed, coffee varietals, understanding flavor, and a lot more. It could be a coffee 101 textbook, but Easto is engaging and fun, writing for people of varying levels of interest in coffee —  from vaguely curious to well on their way to getting pretty damn obsessed.

    The book focuses on manual brew methods (like French press, Aeropress, Chemex, various pourovers, etc.) because automatic coffee machines — other than pretty high end ones — tend to not be able to reliably make great coffee. Easto provides information on and instruction for 10 different manual brew methods, and rates each one on its cost, availability, and the technique required to use it well. I especially appreciate this last factor because for ages I used a Chemex, the most beautiful of the brewing devices (it's literally on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art), but could never really use it as expertly as I’d seen it done in coffee shops and YouTube videos. It turns out that the Chemex is considered one of the most difficult manual brewing techniques to really master, which I didn't know till I read Easto. Luckily, my Chemex fell off a shelf and shattered, so I don’t really have to worry about getting better at it.

    Now that I've experimented with a few different manual brewing methods Easto describes, I'm going to share my current favorite with you. It uses the Clever dripper and is the perfect method for people who are new to manual brewing.

    So! Let's talk about my new favorite method: the Clever dripper.

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    I bought my Clever from Amazon for $22, which includes 100 paper filters to get you started.

    There's one thing you need to know. Brewing with a Clever is minimal effort compared to a lot of other brewing methods.

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    Leveled-up coffee brewing is not a set-it-and-forget-it type deal, so if that's what you want, reading further will annoy you, and make you want to comment something like "I'm fine with Starbucks, thanks." I respect that and I respect you.

    But, more or less by default, getting more into coffee means that you have at least some interest in the fussiness of it — messing with variables like brew time, coffee to water ratio, pouring technique, and a ton of other very nerdy shit.

    Having said that, the Clever dripper is comparatively unfussy — think of it as your gateway to more intense and elaborate home brewing.

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    The Clever looks like a plastic pourover cone. But unlike pourover methods, which drip coffee into your mug as you pour, the Clever holds the coffee and water to steep, and doesn't drain until its release mechanism is toggled, which happens when you set the dripper on top of your mug or carafe.

    Here's how to brew coffee with the Clever.

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    This recipe comes from Easto and her husband, who’s a barista. I’ve tried it myself and it’s a great starting point; depending on how you like your coffee you can play around with it.

    Just as Easto does, I’m going to provide the instructions for anyone who wants to weigh their grounds and water, as well as anyone who wants good ol’ fashioned volume measurements. (More late on measuring by weight vs. volume.)

    Coffee: 26.5g or ¼ cup (Grind your coffee to a medium-fine grind, which should look like fine sea salt.)

    Water: 400 grams or 13.5 ounces plus a little extra for pre-wetting the filter

    1. Set up your Clever. Insert a filter and place the rig on its base.

    2. Bring the water to a boil. Once it boils, remove it from the heat and thoroughly wet the filter and then discard the water. This gets rid of any paper-y taste that would leach into your cup. (Note: If you're making a darker roast coffee, the water should be cooler than just off the boil. I primarily brew dark roast and don't let the water get hotter than 180 degrees.)

    3. Add your grounds to the filter and shake it so it levels out. If you’re using a scale, zero it out now.

    4. Now you want to bloom the coffee. Blooming is just prewetting your grounds with a bit of hot water before you do the main pour. This releases carbon dioxide, which means less of it — and its bitter taste — ends up in your final cup. Getting the carbon dioxide out of the way also makes it easier for the water to extract flavor from your grounds because the gas naturally repels water. When the carbon dioxide is released, it should cause your coffee bed to bloom — it kind of looks like your coffee bed has been inflated with air. (If this doesn’t happen, your coffee is probably stale.) To bloom, start a stopwatch and pour enough water on your grounds so that they’re thoroughly saturated (if you’re weighing, pour until the scale reads 50g). Pour in concentric circles.

    5. When the stopwatch reads 00:30, pour in the rest of the water. Easto says to pour in half-dollar-sized circles in the center of the coffee bed. Pour until your scale says 400g or until the water is finished.

    6. Cover the Clever with its lid and let the coffee brew until the stopwatch reads 3:00.

    7. Now it’s time to decant it into your cup! Just place the Clever on top of your mug (or whatever container you’re dripping it into) and the Clever will drain.

    The resulting brew should be a clean, well-extracted cup of coffee.

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    And know that the recipe above is a place to start; mess around with the amount of coffee or water. You can change the grind and steeping time, try different beans, etc. You can even check out other brew guides. But as Easto explains, unless you really go to serious extremes with your variables, the Clever will deliver a great cup of coffee.

    If you still aren't convinced, here’s my case for starting your manual brewing journey with the Clever.

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    • It’s relatively inexpensive.

    • The filters are widely available; you should be able to get them at most supermarkets. And you can get 100 for $7.99 on Amazon.

    • The clean-up is really easy compared to other full immersion methods like French press or Aeropress.

    • You don’t need a gooseneck kettle as you do with pourover methods.

    • And here's the most compelling thing, which Easto explained to me in an email: "In my experience, [the Clever is] generally pretty forgiving, as it is designed to reduce the possibility of user error (i.e., you don't need a pour technique here to achieve great results!). So in that regard, it's pretty easy to get a consistently good cup day after day."

    So far, I've only noticed one downside about the Clever — it can really only make about 14 oz. of coffee at a time. This means it's great for one nice big mug or two really paltry servings.

    And now just a couple notes on how to make your home-brewed coffee even deliciouser.

    Most coffee experts, including Easto, will tell you that if you're going to do one thing to improve the coffee you make at home, it should be grinding your beans just before you brew. And if you're going to do two things, it should be grinding and using a digital scale to weigh your coffee and water (instead of measuring by volume with measuring spoons and cups).

    Because it can be difficult to decide just how gadget forward you want to be, I'll explain what I learned from Easto about how to decide on investing in a grinder and/or scale.

    First up: scales and measuring your coffee by weight instead of volume.

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    Coffee beans vary in size and density, so measuring by volume won’t really give you a consistent brew that you can repeat each time. This makes it difficult to pin down the exact recipe you like. If you’re going by weight, once you find and dial in the recipe you like, you’re going to get that exact cup every time.

    Until recently, I didn't use a scale. But I finally realized that I'm now fully committed to tweaking the minutiae of my home brew. If you do decide to level up, get a digital kitchen scale that can measure to a tenth of the gram. I recommend this $25 digital pocket scale from Amazon.

    Second: grinders, and whether you need to buy one of your own.

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    In short, the more freshly ground your beans, the better the coffee you brew will taste.

    The best grinder to get is a burr mill, which grinds by pushing beans between two surfaces called burrs. Coffee people, including Easto, recommend burr mills because they're made to deliver a uniform grind, unlike blade grinders, which are cheaper, but lead to an erratic grind.

    You can get a manual burr grinder on Amazon for $32.50. Electric burr mills are super convenient but you typically have to spend at least $100 to get a really good one. If you can/want to invest in an electric, I bought this burr grinder for $98 a year ago and it's great.

    If you don't want to deal with grinding yourself at all, consider buying your coffee and getting it ground at a local speciality coffee shop. They'll sell you beans that are fresh, and will have a properly maintained burr grinder. (Supermarket grinders use blades, and they're often not cleaned/maintained well, which means you take home stale coffee detritus and rancid oils when you use one.)

    TL;DR: Buy a burr mill (manual or electric) or have your beans ground by a specialty coffee shop.

    In conclusion, I really can't recommend Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home enough.


    If you're even mildly curious about brewing coffee at home, it's absolutely a go-to resource.

    Get it at Amazon for $13.49.

    How do you brew at home? Tell us all about your coffee journey in the comments!