Many of us are sheltering in place, which probably means forgoing that morning trip to the coffee shop. Fear not though, it’s possible to make coffeehouse-quality coffee in your own kitchen.

Engineering a better cup of coffee isn’t difficult. But first you need to figure out what “better” means to you. There is no single right cup of coffee, there’s just the best version of what you love. Do you love your coffee rich and dark—thick enough to stand a spoon in, as my grandfather used to say? Or do you prefer something brighter, more of a medium roast that doesn’t overwhelm you with bitterness? Or perhaps you prefer a light coffee with some cream and sugar.

Once you figure out what you like, then you can start to improve it until you hit on a home-brewed cup of coffee you love more than anything the local coffee shop has to offer. And make no mistake, I still spend my days at the coffee shop, working and enjoying coffee I did not make. Or at least I did, and I hope to again when this pandemic ends, but I also know that if coffee shops for some reason disappear from the world tomorrow, I can still enjoy a great cup of coffee at home.

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The Daily Grind

Photograph: Oxo

When it comes to food, the better your ingredients, the better your meals. The same is true of coffee. You have to start with good beans. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on rare beans that have been crapped out by a civet (yes, that’s a thing), but it does mean that this is the place to start if you want to brew a better cup at home.

I’ll start with the most obvious upgrade: Nothing will improve your coffee experience more than switching from ground coffee to whole-bean coffee you grind yourself shortly before making it.

The flavor (and caffeine boost) of coffee comes from the oils inside the bean. Once that bean is ground up those oils begin to break down. Ground coffee generally has a shelf life of less than a week. In most cases the ground coffee you see in the supermarket will have been on the shelf far longer than that. This is why I suggest you buy whole-bean coffee and grind it yourself.

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