10 barista-approved tips for making high-quality coffee at home

Brew Brew Coffee Lounge—located in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, on the corner of Diversey Parkway and Avers Avenue is a local, hidden gem. Like other communities throughout the city’s Northwest Side, Avondale is a diverse, blue-collar neighborhood. Framed two-flats and three flats line the streets. Brick storefronts selling flowers and discounted home goods are scattered along Milwaukee Avenue—one of the area’s main thoroughfares. Ethnic grocery stores offering homemade sausages, paczki and cabbage soup are plentiful.

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The corner of Diversey and Avers isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a coffee shop. This is precisely why siblings Jazmin and Christian Medrano decided to open Brew Brew. As residents of the neighborhood for nearly a decade, the Medranos often wondered why they had to venture outside their community to find a place to gather for coffee.

Recognizing a need for a coffee shop in Avondale, the siblings decided to open Brew Brew in September 2014. Since opening its doors, Brew Brew has become a fixture in the area. Even earning itself a spot among other beloved Chicago coffee shops in Chicagoist’s list of The 14 Best Coffee Shops for Getting it All Done. Besides serving exceptional, high-quality coffee and espresso drinks, Brew Brew is dedicated to partnering with local businesses and supporting new and established artists throughout Avondale.

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Jazmin and Christian’s passion for coffee and their community impressed us so much that we decided to tap into the sibling’s coffee expertise. We wanted to learn how to make high-quality coffee shop coffee at home. From using a scale to precisely measuring your coffee beans to brewing coffee with filtered water, the Medranos had a lot to teach us about what goes into making the perfect cup of coffee.

Follow these steps to make your own gourmet coffee at home:

1. Buy whole bean coffee
When it comes to coffee, it’s OK to splurge. As Jazmin told us, “… if you want a good cup of coffee, you need good coffee beans.” That’s why Jazmin and Christian buy all of the coffee and espresso beans used at Brew Brew from a Chicago-based, small-batch artisan coffee roaster.

If you can’t find a local coffee roaster in your area, you can still make high-quality coffee at home by purchasing whole bean coffee and grinding the coffee beans yourself. Why whole bean coffee? Compared to ground coffee, whole bean coffee is fresher and more flavorful.

2. Invest in a scale
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To brew better coffee at home, Jazmin recommends using a scale. Before becoming a barista, Jazmin measured her coffee at home with a spoon. “It doesn’t taste the same,” she said. She now understands the importance of accurately measuring your coffee.  “You need to know how much coffee you’re going to use in order to make the perfect cup.”

At Brew Brew, baristas measure 180 grams of whole bean coffee per carafe. Each carafe makes 12 8 oz. cups. At home, for a 6-cup, automatic drip coffeemaker, Jazmin recommends measuring out 90 grams of whole bean coffee onto a small, inexpensive scale before grinding and brewing.  

3. Grind only what you need
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Don’t grind all of your coffee beans at once. Keep your at home coffee as fresh as possible by only grinding the amount of coffee beans you plan to use.

4. Store coffee in a ceramic canister
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Once opened, coffee should be stored in a canister that shields sunlight. According to Jazmin, you should always “store coffee in a dark colored-ceramic or glass container—this keeps the coffee fresher.” It’s also important to avoid freezing your coffee. When you freeze coffee, there’s a chance that it will absorb moisture, which can affect its taste.  

5. Use filtered water
When it comes to brewing coffee—water matters. That’s why Brew Brew uses filtered water to make all of their coffee and espresso drinks. At home, Jazmin suggests keeping a pitcher of filtered water in the refrigerator and brewing coffee with filtered water that’s heated to between 195°F and 250°F.

6. Brewing methods matter
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Not all coffee brewing methods are created equal. The device you use to make your coffee at home will have an impact on the strength of your coffee. Choose the brewing method that meets your taste preferences. Automatic drip coffeemakers tend to brew an even, mild pot of coffee while a French Press provides a bolder, darker flavor.

7. Clean your coffeemaker often
“Coffee beans have oil,” Jazmin told us. “If you don’t wash your coffee pot—well, then the oil is going to stay. The next day you’re going to brew more coffee and the oil is going to affect the flavor.” This is why Brew Brew cleans their coffee and espresso machines daily. At home, Jazmin explained, if you don’t clean your coffeemaker often, “… the coffee is going to taste like it’s burnt because of all the oil that’s been left in the pot.”

8. Know your coffee bean
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Knowing where your coffee comes from is important. Acidity, strength and flavor are dependent on the growing region the coffee derives from. “Usually coffee beans from Africa are dark and acidic,” Jazmin said. “Coffee beans from South America are less acidic and more of a medium roast.” If you’re unsure of what type of coffee to start brewing with, Guatemala is a good place to start. Grown in Central America, Guatemalan coffee is complex while still being balanced in flavor and medium in roast.

9. Flavor your coffee with spices
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Brew Brew’s most popular seasonal, specialty drink is their Lavender Honey Latte. While Jazmin and Christian wouldn’t reveal the ingredients that went into their best-selling latte, they did provide some tips for flavoring coffee at home without using syrups. The baristas suggested stirring pieces of chocolate into your coffee or topping your coffee drink with whipped topping and ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

10. Steam your milk
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Did you know that you can steam your own milk at home? If lattes and cappuccinos are a morning must-have, Jazmin suggests buying an electric milk frother. Not interested in investing in additional coffee equipment? Visit The Kitchn’s website to learn how to froth milk for cappuccinos in your microwave.

For more information on Brew Brew Coffee Lounge visit their website.

*As told to Erin Nederbo

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