Spirit Week

10 Simple Tricks for Better Home-Brewed Coffee

Make coffee the best part of your day.

April 28, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

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If you’re like me, nothing puts you in a better mood than the smell and flavor of your morning coffee. However, depending on your personal taste or the season, you might be looking for more than just a simple, hot cup of brewed coffee to start the day.

If there’s anything I learned in my five years as a barista, it’s that there’s a world of options when it comes to making coffee. Sure, experimenting with different roasts, ratios, and brewing methods may sound daunting, but it can also be fun.

Say goodbye to boring at-home brews and long lines at the drive-thru for your favorite specialty drinks: Here are 11 easy ways to elevate your coffee that’ll even turn almost anyone into an at-home barista.

1. Grind it Yourself

When it comes to making a flavorful cup of coffee, starting out with freshly ground beans will yield a better consistency and flavor compared to pre-ground beans, as it preserves the flavor and aroma of the coffee. Oils and compounds within the coffee bean add to their flavor, and as the grounds sit for weeks, they will start to lose their aroma and flavor.

It’s also important to understand the different types of grind, which should vary depending on the style of coffee you are brewing. Espresso, for example, requires beans that are finely ground, but a coarser grind is better when using a French press or making cold brew. I like to use a burr grinder, and my favorite is the Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill. This grinder has 18 different grind sizes, ranging from ultra-fine to ultra-course.

2. Spice up the mix

Consider adding cardamom pods, a dash of ground nutmeg, or even whole cloves to the grinder (along with the beans) for a coffee mix that smells and tastes incredible. When using a French press, add spices like cinnamon, ginger, or pumpkin pie spice to the grounds before topping them with water. For a citrusy twist, add freshly grated orange zest to your grounds.

3. Froth your instant coffee

If you find yourself in the islands of Greece this summer, you will most likely see the locals sipping on frappé. It is without a doubt the most popular way to drink iced coffee in Greece, and it can be made in three minutes using instant coffee, water and a frothing wand.

Fill a tall glass with 2 tablespoons of instant coffee, 3 tablespoons of water, and sugar to taste. Froth the mixture with a milk frother until a thick, creamy foam forms. Add half a cup of ice, and fill the glass with water. Add a splash of milk, and you are set.

4. Add Chocolate...

This simple and sweet way to enjoy a double espresso comes together in seconds. Simply add a square of your favorite chocolate or a round truffle to your espresso cup before pouring in your espresso. You are left with a silky and sweet shot of espresso without any extra work.

5. ...Or butter

I was skeptical of this combination—known in the wellness industry as “bulletproof coffee”—but ignoring the disputed health claims surrounding it, the blend coffee and butter is actually delicious. Mixing butter into coffee transforms its taste, giving it a nutty flavor and creamy, latte-like texture.

6. Blend it!

Make your favorite blended coffee beverage at home by blending together ⅓ cup of chilled brewed coffee with a ¼ cup of your preferred milk and 1 cup of ice. For a yummy caramel flavor and extra silky texture, add a spoonful of dulce de leche before blending.

7. Make a Café Cubano

If you have a moka pot on hand, try making a creamy, sweetened Cuban-inspired espresso. To start, fill your moka pot with water and espresso as you normally would, and place it on the stove over medium-high heat to brew. Once the espresso is ready, add several drops to a cup filled with 3 to 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir the sugar and those few drops of espresso vigorously until a thick, creamy foam—known as espumita—forms. Once foamy, add the rest of the brewed espresso while stirring slowly. Pour the coffee into espresso cups and enjoy.

8. Make Your Own Syrups

Sure your store-bought creamers and syrups may taste good, but making them from scratch will taste even better. To make a vanilla simple syrup, boil 1 cup of water with 1 cup of granulated sugar for a few minutes, just until the sugar is dissolved, and take the mixture off the heat. Add 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract, mix, then let it cool completely before adding a splash to your hot or iced coffee.

9. Add sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk is a common addition to desserts and candy, so why not add it to coffee, too? Replacing cream and sugar with a tablespoon or two of sweetened condensed milk will elevate your morning coffee tremendously, giving it a creamy, dessert-like finish.

10. Make Cold-brew

There are a ton of cool ways to brew coffee, and each method will give you a different-tasting product. Cold brew coffee is a smoother, less acidic, and highly caffeinated way to drink iced coffee—and it’s fun to make and customize.

To make your cold brew, combine a ½ cup of coarsely ground coffee to 2 ½ cups of cold, filtered water. Seal the bottle, and shake the mixture several times. Let the mixture steep for 20 to 24 hours. Then, use a coffee filter or fine mesh sieve to filter out the grounds. Experiment with flavoring your cold brew by adding spices during the brewing stage (see tip #2!), or add flavored syrups when serving.

How do you make your morning coffee more special? Share in the comments!

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Lena Tzivekis

Written by: Lena Tzivekis

Lena Tzivekis is a food and culture writer