So you love coffee. You drink multiple cups a day and your Keurig is your best friend. But you want to know more, so you walk into an artisan coffee shop to feel like a real coffee drinker.
There’s music playing from the festival circuit, local art on display for decoration and an exposed brick wall for aesthetic. In the corner, there are big couches occupied by people you’re too intimidated to approach. A barista with a long beard and a man bun whose name is something like Bartholomew looks at you through his round glasses and asks for your order. You fight the urge to lie and say you’ve never used a Keurig in your life.
When you sip the coffee, though, it just tastes better for some reason. It’s probably because baristas like Bartholomew have brewing coffee down to an art form.
It’s no surprise that these impossibly cool coffee shops have so much business. In 2016, coffee retail sales in the United States reached over $177 million and are continuing to grow. These caffeine-crazed hipster breeding grounds aren’t going anywhere.
Aside from being cooler than you will ever be, the baristas at these shops really know what they’re doing. However, with some tips and tricks from the experts, you can make that perfect brew right in your own home.
Shelby Slauer, former New York City barista, had to move all the way from Georgia to NYC to learn the art of brewing coffee. Her first piece of advice is to pay attention to your roasts.
Find Your Brew
Before you go nuts and start looking up the science behind coffee brewing and how to do the perfect pour-over, learn what roast you like. Slauer said the different coffee roasts pertain to how you draw out the flavor of a coffee bean through roasting.
“A light roast coffee has a lighter body, which produces clearer flavors, whereas a darker roast coffee has a heavier body, which produces wilder flavors,” Slauer said.
Lighter roasts are the most acidic. A medium roast will be sweeter than a light roast, but a dark roast will taste the most bitter.
Once you know which roast you like, the next step is to find the right beans.
The way coffee beans are processed and where they originate plays a huge part in how the coffee will taste, so do your research. Factors like where the beans grow, the climate of that region and the elevation of that region determine taste.
Slauer said the highest quality beans come from specialty coffee shops. So throw on some thick glasses and a beanie and head into your local shop. For bonus points, ask the barista if their coffee beans are single-origin. (This means the beans come from the same geographic location.)
Buy Whole Bean
Any barista will tell you to buy whole bean. Buying pre-ground beans may be easier, but once coffee is ground, it begins to lose its flavor and aroma.
By the time a bag of ground coffee makes its way to your kitchen, it could be weeks since it has been ground, leading to stale-tasting coffee. Baristas always grind coffee beans themselves in an effort to keep the coffee fresh.
Find a Brewing Method You Like
Once your fresh beans are all ground up, it’s up to you to decide how you want to brew. Expert barista Matthew Hood, of Blackbird Coffee, said that there are many brewing methods that work well.
“They’re all gonna have a slightly different taste,” Hood explained.
His personal preference? The French press. A French press is a device that pushes the grounds down to the bottom of the pot when the coffee is finished brewing, resulting in a full and strong cup of coffee.
“A French press is going to have a lot of body to it,” Hood said.
Slauer agrees. “I mostly use a French press at home,” she said. “It’s the easiest at-home brewing method in my opinion.”
Hood said one of the most popular brewing methods is the pour over.
“It’s a much finer taste,” he said. “Much more saturated.”
A pour over involves pouring hot water over your grounds in a cone filter, saturating them to bring out the flavors of your coffee.
Try out a few different brewing methods to see what you like best. Coffee is always about personal preference and creativity.
Enjoy Your Homemade Brew
Now that you’ve made it this far, congrats! You’re your own barista now. Though your coffee may be done, there is still more you can do with it to make it even fancier, such as steaming milk to make it into a latte, maybe even playing with a little bit of latte art. Experiment with your process and find your own taste.
At this point, geometric tattoos have probably spontaneously appeared on your skin, and you may find yourself wearing skinny jeans and a beanie. Don’t worry, just head into your local coffee shop to sit on those big couches and judge the Keurig-user who walk in and don’t even know what a pour-over is. Amateurs.