Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been making my own coffee at home using a moka pot, and I make a pretty good cup. But for whatever reason, it never tastes as good as the lattes I used to get every day from my neighborhood café. A lot of factors go into that — the milk, the beans, the machinery — but there’s also technical know-how that makes a professionally made cup of coffee taste, well, professional.
So I asked Erika Vonie, a certified Q grader (i.e., a coffee sommelier) and consultant for tips on how to make pour-over coffee at home the way a barista does. “Eyeballing recipes while making coffee at home is always hit-or-miss,” Vonie says. “But there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re brewing more hits than misses.” Ahead, all of the necessary gear you need.
First off, you’re going to need a good digital scale, which is one of the most powerful kitchen tools you can own, especially where ratios are concerned. “We don’t often measure by volume in coffee,” Vonie says. Instead, it’s all about the aforementioned ratios. According to Vonie, the generally accepted ratio of coffee to water is approximately two tablespoons of ground coffee to eight fluid ounces of water. The approximation depends on what kind of roast you’re using. Ground dark roasts take up more volume than ground light roasts, as do medium grinds versus fine grinds. “So keep that in mind as you’re measuring,” Vonie says, adding that she typically brews 37 grams of coffee with 16 fluid ounces/500 milliliters of water when using her Chemex.
If you’re obsessed enough with at-home coffee-making, then you’ve likely heard the Chemex versus Aeropress argument. Sure, the Chemex is inspired in its simple design, but the Aeropress can make a cup of coffee in under a minute. Vonie says don’t fret over it; she recommends either. “Buy brewers that have visual cues to help you know exactly how to make coffee in them,” she says. “Both the Aeropress and Chemex come with instructions on how to eyeball or measure your coffee by volume.” And suddenly making your own coffee becomes much less daunting.
When making coffee at home, the whole bean is the way to go. They tend to stay fresher longer just like pre-ground pepper versus whole peppercorns, and once you make the switch, you’ll want to purchase the right kind of grinder. “Spice and blade grinders will haphazardly chop the coffee into random sizes,” says Vonie. So, she suggests a burr grinder. “It’s adjustable and can grind your coffee to specific sizes, which makes brewing more uniform and consistent.” She’s a fan of the grinders from Baratza, which typically retail for between $140 and $200. “But they also sell refurbished grinders for discounted prices,” Vonie adds, “and they have one of the most informed and helpful customer service teams out there.”