How to Brew Coffee for Your Best-Ever Cup
If the baristas at your local coffee shop know your drink order by heart, it might be time to save yourself the expense of a daily trip to the coffeehouse. See how to make coffee at home that tastes just as good (or better). Try our tips for how to make French press coffee, manual drip coffee, and automatic drip coffee so no matter your coffeemaker style, you'll brew the perfect cup of coffee.
Most of us like our coffee a particular way, whether it's extra strong, super hot, iced, or cold brewed. So rather than relying on a barista to make your order exactly as you like, it pays to learn how to make coffee just right. Start with the basics by learning how to make brewed coffee, then branch out into fancier coffee drinks like cappuccino, cafe au lait, mocha, and espresso. We can show you how to make coffee without a coffeemaker or espresso machine, too—just grab a French press or a manual coffee cone dripper.
Before you get started (and especially if you're just learning how to make coffee in a coffeemaker), follow these tips for choosing the right beans, grinding them to the right texture, and more.
- If you're new to brewing coffee, start with an automatic drip coffeemaker. They're easy to use and make reliably delicious coffee.
- Always use fresh, cold water when brewing coffee. Use filtered water if possible.
- Use 1 to 2 tablespoons ground coffee for each 6-ounce cup. Add more or less depending on your preferred strength. Finely ground coffee is stronger than coarsely ground.
- Ground coffee loses its freshness quickly, so for the freshest coffee possible, buy whole beans and grind them each time you make coffee. Keep in mind that whole beans stay fresh for about a week, so buy only what you'll need for the week. Store beans at room temperature in an airtight container. You can also store ground coffee up to 3 months in a cool, dark place.
- If you grind your own coffee, follow the manufacturer's instructions for your coffeemaker for how fine or coarse to grind the beans. Too coarse, and you might end up with weakly flavored coffee; too fine, and it'll taste bitter and could clog your coffeemaker's filter.
- When you purchase beans, look at the color. Coffee beans turn darker the longer they are roasted. Select light beans for lighter-flavor coffee and dark beans for stronger flavor.
- Clean your coffeepot on a regular basis. Rinsing it out will work most days, but you should occasionally wash it in hot soapy water.
How to Make Coffee in an Automatic Drip Coffeemaker
Automatic drip coffeemakers (including single-cup brewers) are the most popular method for making coffee, and there's a good reason for it. They are reliable and consistent once you work out your preferred ground coffee-to-water ratio. Follow these steps for making coffee in an automatic drip coffeemaker:
- Add your desired ground beans to a coffee filter (you can use a disposable, single-use filter or a reusable filter). Use 1 to 2 tablespoons ground beans for a 6-ounce cup (depending on how strong you want your coffee).
- Pour 3/4 cup fresh cold water (ideally filtered) into the water compartment of your coffeemaker.
- Press the start button to begin the brew cycle.
How to Make Pour-Over Coffee
Making coffee with a manual drip coffeemaker (aka pour-over coffee) takes a little bit longer than automatic drip, but it lets you control the temperature of the water you're using to brew your cup. Here's how to do it:
- Add your desired ground coffee beans (again, 1 to 2 tablespoons) to the cone filter of your manual drip coffeemaker.
- Bring 3/4 cup water to boiling in a kettle. Once it's boiling, remove from heat and allow the temperature to drop to 195°F to 205°F.
- Test Kitchen Tip: Water that's just under boiling works the best to release coffee's flavorful compounds.
- Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the water over your coffee. Let stand 30 seconds.
- Pour the remaining water over the ground coffee, then gently stir and serve.
How to Make French Press Coffee
Using a French press to make coffee might sound like a fancy coffee shop method, but it's easily done at home, too. A French press will produce a richly flavored coffee that's filled with natural oils. Some sediment will also remain in the coffee, which gives your brew extra character. To use a French press for your morning cup of joe, follow these steps:
- Measure your ground coffee into the carafe (1 to 2 tablespoons).
- Bring 3/4 cup fresh cold water to a boiling in a kettle.
- Steadily pour the water over the coffee, making sure all the grounds are saturated (you can also give the coffee and water mix a gentle stir to guarantee a more even distribution).
- Put the lid on your French press and let the coffee steep 4 to 5 minutes.
- Slowly press the plunger to the bottom of the carafe to trap the coffee grounds, then serve.
Specialty Coffee Beverages
You can also satisfy your caffeine cravings with any of these specialty coffee beverages. Let this guide help you with your next coffee shop order or inspire you to learn how to make more than classic brewed coffee at home.
Café au Lait: A French drink that means coffee with milk. Just add 1/3 cup milk (warm it first so your drink doesn't get too cold) to each cup of coffee. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or sweetened cocoa powder.
Cappuccino: An Italian version of café au lait that's made with espresso and frothy milk or cream. (Steam is forced through the milk portion to make it hot and foamy.) Cappuccino is usually served with a cinnamon stick or a sprinkling of cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, or nutmeg. To make one at home with foam, you'll need an espresso machine with a wand for steaming milk.
Demitasse: A double-strength coffee beverage served in a small cup. A favorite in France, demitasse is served black with or without sugar.
Espresso: An Italian beverage of strong, concentrated black coffee brewed under pressure using finely ground, dark-roasted coffee. Serve it in a small cup with a sugar cube and lemon peel.
Iced Coffee: Iced coffee is a refreshing drink similar to iced tea. To make, fill a glass with ice and pour in coffee. If you like, add milk and/or sweeten with sugar.
Irish Coffee: A slightly sweetened coffee served in a tall, stemmed glass with Irish whiskey and a layer of whipped cream. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon or cocoa powder for additional flavor.
Mocha: A favorite drink for chocolate-lovers. Simply add 2 tablespoons chocolate-flavor syrup and 1/3 cup milk to each cup of coffee. Or, if you prefer, you can stir in 2 tablespoons cocoa mix or make a white chocolate mocha.