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1st Lake Blog

New Year, New Brew: The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Home Barista

If you start every day with that phrase, then you’re in the right place. Coffee is the world’s favorite drink to wake up with, and it’s become the center point of a modern culinary revolution. Today’s coffee shops have transformed a common cup of Joe into a meticulously measured art form. Lattes and cappuccinos are topped with beautiful foam creations, iced coffee is brewed for 24 hours before it’s ready, and hot brews are poured at specific temperatures for the “perfect flavor profile.”

In addition to being a bit intimidating, the coffee shop can also be a bit overpriced, but with a few basic lessons and a couple pieces of brewing equipment, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your 1st Lake kitchen into the best java joint in the neighborhood!

Coffee Beans & Roast Types

Coffee beans come in a variety of sizes, colors, and flavors. The variations of flavors depend on the region and conditions in which they were grown. According to The Spruce, “Most regional varietals will fall into two main categories, Robusta or Arabica.”

Robusta coffee beans tend to be used in large-scale commercial brews, and they’re considered to have a more acidic taste and higher caffeine levels. Arabica beans tend to have more diverse flavor notes, but they’re difficult to grow, which increases the demand and price of this superior bean. If you buy your beans from a local coffee shop, you’re most likely buying Arabica beans.

Darker beans mean a stronger “roasted” flavor profile.

The beans you buy come in a range of caramel to chocolatey brown colors, but they don’t start off that way. The original green colored beans are roasted with a dry heat, but their roasting times play an important role in the coffee’s brewed flavor. The three main categories are light, medium, and dark.

Light roasts retain a larger amount of the bean’s original flavor. They tend to be a little more acidic and feature brighter, sharper tastes and little to no “roasted” notes. Medium roasts have a darker color, an oily appearance, and tend to have a balance between the roasting effects and the bean’s original flavor. Medium beans tend to be the most popular of the three categories. Dark roasts focus heavily on the flavors derived from the roasting process. The bean’s original flavors are almost completely overcome by the roast, so your coffee will have a powerful smoky taste. Dark roasts are typically used in espresso drinks, like lattes and macchiatos.

Brewing Styles

Gone are the days of basic automatic coffee makers. With this new knowledge, you’ll be able to find the roast you’re the most interested in and brew coffee at home like a pro. If you plan on buying your coffee pre-ground, it’s best to use it as fast as possible. The Perfect Daily Grind says, “Coffee has a shelf life. This will vary, but a good rule of thumb is to only buy the coffee you’ll drink that week. Store your coffee in an airtight container at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.”

If you’re buying roasted beans, you can either grind the beans at home with a hand grinder or electric grinder, or you can bring your bag to a grocery store for grinding. A lot of coffee shops will grind the beans they sell to you before you leave the store. If you’re grinding your beans at home, it’s best to grind only what you will need to brew for that day and store the rest away.

So, you’re probably asking, “What do I do with my coffee now?!”

There are two techniques that have grown in popularity over the past few years: pour over brewing and immersion brewing. You can achieve both of these at home, but you will need some equipment to properly brew using these techniques.

The pour over technique retains a lot of the grind’s original flavors.

Pour over coffee can be achieved using a coffee-specific glass pitcher, a porcelain dripper, a coffee filter, a kettle of hot water, and a kitchen scale. The porcelain dripper can be placed on top of either the glass pitcher or the coffee mug you intend to drink from. We like Blue Bottle Coffee’s easy-to-follow guide to the perfect pour over coffee.

Immersion coffee is most commonly associated with the French press or AeroPress. You can find French press and AeroPress coffee makers in home goods stores across the Greater New Orleans area. French press style is one of the easiest brewing styles, and unlike the single-serve pour over technique, it allows you to make larger amounts at one time. Follow The Kitchn’s guide to French press brewing here.

Im-press your friends with a handmade pot of divine French press coffee.

You Brew It!

Not only will making coffee at home save you money, it will help keep our environment clean of plastic cups and harmful plastic straws. If you’re interested in learning more about the complex range of coffee flavors and roasting styles, you can visit a local coffee shop for one of their free “cupping” lessons. This is a great way to find the flavor profile that suits your tastes and puts you on the fast track to home-brewing glory.

But first, coffee.