7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When Brewing Coffee, According to a Barista

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You've been perfecting your pour-over coffee technique and buy your beans from a local shop. That makes your home-brew automatically good, right? Not so fast. We talked to Selina Viguera, barista and café leader at Blue Bottle Coffee in Los Angeles, to get the lowdown on all the sneaky pitfalls to avoid. And don’t worry: She has some quick fixes, too.

Buying Pre-ground Coffee Beans

We get it, there’s a major convenience factor to buying the pre-ground stuff. But freshness is key with coffee. There are a lot of aromas and fragrances trapped in the beans; once you grind them, they’re released. Grind them too far in advance and all of those flavor components won’t make it into your cup. A quick tip on freshness: If you can’t smell it, it’s already stale.

Using The Wrong Type Of Grinder

Grinders are grinders, right? Not so fast. Skip the inexpensive blade grinders, which will grind your beans unevenly and result in watery, acidic brew (from the bigger chunks) and burnt flavors (from the finer ones). Instead, opt for a burr grinder, which shaves the coffee into small, even coffee grounds.

a pot of french press coffee is being poured into a coffee mug the french press is rose gold

Not Using Your Brita (seriously)

Think about it: Water makes up more than 98 percent of a cup of coffee, so it’s pretty darn important. Instead of using tap water, opt for filtered, which makes sure your H20 has just the right balance of minerality and pH. Sounds pretty science-y, we know, but Viguera assures us that the wrong balance might make your coffee taste completely flat.

Following The Recipe On The Back Of The Bag

Hot tip: It’s important to nail an ideal water-to-coffee ratio. Use too much coffee and your joe will taste too strong; use too little and it’ll turn out weak. While the recipe on the back of your bag of beans might seem like a good place to start, the basic golden ratio is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to 6 ounces of water, no matter what kind of beans you’re using.

Using Boiling Water

When brewing coffee, baristas typically use water that’s in a specific temperature range: between 195°F and 205°F. But don’t worry, we’re not going to ask you to use a thermometer. Instead, just make sure you don’t use actively boiling water, which will over-extract the beans and make for bitter brew. Try this: Bring your water to a boil, turn it off and let it sit for 30 seconds. That will take you to the ideal temperature for brewing.

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Storing Your Beans In The Fridge

Guys, coffee beans are delicate. You want to store them away from moisture, heat and oxygen. So, ideally in an airtight container in your pantry. Stash them in the fridge and they’ll definitely absorb all the odors and flavors from your garlic (no thanks). What about the freezer? It’s preferable to the fridge but still not ideal.

Forgetting To Clean Your Machine

Over time, coffee oils get stuck up in those hard to reach areas in your machine, making your coffee taste bad. You don’t have to clean after every time you brew, but do yourself a favor and run some natural detergent diluted with water through your grinder or machine once a month to clean it out. 

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Additional reporting by Phoebe Bloom.

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Food Editor

From 2017 to 2019 Heath Goldman held the role of Food Editor covering food, booze and some recipe development, too. Tough job, eh?