How to Make Better Coffee: From My Favorite Barista

Ada Dunlavy, daughter of Katie Dunlavy, blogger at The Pearl Pages, wearing a blue and pink patterned LuLaRoe dress and sitting on a kitchen counter smiling holding an empty Bodum French press next to a coffee scale and Baratza Encore coffee grinder.

I’ll admit it—I‘m a coffee snob. If I didn’t live with a barista, I’m pretty sure I’d be going CRAZY right now. I don’t do Starbucks. I don’t do K-Cups, or whatever they call that “put a cup in and push the button” situation. And don’t even get me started on the whipped coffee craze…INSTANT coffee? NO!

Listen, if you enjoy these things, I’m not knocking you. I ALSO lived on that stuff! Then my husband became a barista at The Clay Cup, a local coffee shop here in town. Freshly roasted beans? Ground right before my cup? Let me tell you, it was a WHOLE NEW coffee experience. 

Are you intrigued? Let me introduce you to this new, maybe better, way to make a great cup of coffee. I’m going to walk you through the basics of coffee-making and show you how easy it can be. Even if you’re already an at-home coffee expert, you just might learn something new!

Start with “good coffee”

Start with whole beans for the best flavor

When I asked my barista-husband how to make good coffee, he said, “Well, first you need GOOD COFFEE.” Insert eye roll here. So what’s “good coffee?” You’ll get the best-tasting coffee when you start with whole beans and grind them at home.

Coffee is grown in different regions all over the world. As the coffee beans are roasted, certain flavors develop. And these flavors change depending on the roast level, meaning there are a plethora of options to taste. Your palate will never get bored in the coffee world!

If you’re lucky enough to have a local specialty roaster, hit them up first. Being a specialty roaster is a hard gig and they need the love. Support local! If you want to click your way to good coffee, that’s fine too. These are our go-to favorite coffee beans you can order online.

Onyx Coffee Lab’s Southern Weather

Onyx Coffee Lab

Onyx Coffee Lab is out of northwest Arkansas. They have a super cool origin story and a great variety of products. If you’ve never been to one of their locations, GO! (When it’s safe, of course.) You can pick up their Roaster Sampler Box for only $25. Their best-seller, Southern Weather, tastes like milk chocolate, plum, and candied walnuts. It’s smooth and sweet enough to drink without milk or sugar!

Monarch’s Gildardo Chincunque Colombia


Another one of our favorite roasters is Monarch in Kansas City. The coffee is delicious and the packaging is beautiful! We love Monarch’s Gilardo Chincunque Colombia, which has notes of vanilla, baked apple, and hazelnut. YUM!

Invest in a quality grinder

Our favorite at-home coffee grinder, the Baratza Encore

A good, quality grinder is almost as important to your coffee as good beans. Not all beans in the same package taste the same, and getting the right mix is key. The more uniformly your coffee is ground, the more evenly-extracted your coffee will be. Grinders come in 3 main types: burr, blade, or manual. Burr grinders grind your beans between plates and give you more even grounds than a blade grinder. And manual? No thanks, electricity exists for a reason. 

We use the Baratza Encore, which has been the top-rated at-home burr grinder for years. We like this grinder because it’s reliable and has 40 different grind settings for dialing in flavor. Baratza makes nothing but grinders, so you know they’re world-class.Now don’t cringe at the price. Think about how much money you spend at your coffee shop of choice. You’ll probably SAVE money after purchasing the Encore! I could list a few less expensive options, but they don’t give you nearly as consistent a grind. Honestly, the extra $30-$40 is worth it: the Baratza Encore is THAT good at what it does and it LASTS. If you’re serious about upping your at-home coffee game, my recommendation is definitely this grinder.

Use a French press

Bodum’s classic Chambord French press

So to brew our coffee, we’re going to use a classic French press. You could also do a pour-over, AeroPress, or a few other methods, but for the sake of keeping this user-friendly, we’re going with the French Press. Don’t have one? You’ll be happy to hear a French press is SUPER affordable. Here’s the one we use: the Bodum Chambord French Press. We like the Bodum because it’s a simple, durable option. Plus, it has a glass carafe so you can see what’s going on with your coffee as it brews.

Get accurate with a scale

Coffee scale with timer

This one is optional, but we use a coffee scale to measure our beans and water. We like this scale because it’s accurate and weighs in multiple units like grams, ounces, and more. The batteries last forever and it also has a timer, which comes in handy when you’re using a French press or pour-over. Plus, it’s less than $20! You can use measuring spoons and cups instead, but it won’t be as accurate. Measuring the time, temperature, and weight of your coffee all help you stay consistent. You’ll also learn which variables to change up when you’re experimenting to get your perfect cup!

How to make French press coffee

So you have your coffee, your grinder, and your French press. Now what?

Step One: Fill a kettle with clean filtered water and bring it to an almost-boil. You want your temperature around 205 degrees or just off boil.

Step Two: Weigh and grind your beans. Start with 25g of beans to 400g of water (following a 1:16 ratio) for about 12oz of coffee. We use a scale to measure both the coffee beans and the water. If you don’t have a scale, use roughly 4 Tbsp medium-coarse ground coffee.

Step Three: Pour some hot water (about a cup) into the French press to pre-heat it.

Step Four: Empty out the water and add your ground coffee to the pre-heated French press.

Step Five: Bloom: add roughly twice the amount of hot water to your coffee (so 50g of water for 25g coffee). Stir bloom.

Step Six: Wait 30 seconds and then add the remaining water to bring your total up to 400g or about 14oz.

Step Seven: Let your coffee brew for 4 minutes. Stir the crust of ground coffee that forms on top and then lightly scoop off the top layer of floaty foamy bits.

Step Eight: Wait another few minutes until everything has settled to the bottom of your French press (this is why we like the glass Bodum).

Step Nine: Add your plunger screen, but don’t push it all the way down. This will only agitate the grounds at the bottom and give you loose grounds in your coffee. You want to just simply break the surface of the liquid.

Step Ten: Pour your freshly-brewed coffee gently into a beautiful mug. And enjoy!

Notes: The total coffee in the cup will be roughly 12oz, not the 14oz you put in. The ground coffee absorbs some of that water, about twice its weight to be exact (thanks Mike!)

If your coffee liquid isn’t passing through the plunger screen easily, your coffee is probably ground too fine. The small grounds can get stuck in the screen—try going with a medium-coarse grind.

So there you have it! The best at-home cup of coffee is a simple as the right beans, right tools, and a little bit of time. Got questions or suggestions for more great roasters? Leave them in the comments. Let me know how it works for you—use hashtag #thepearlpages so I can see what you make!



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