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How to Have a Better Cup of Coffee at Home From a Starbucks Barista

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSC chapter.

Ever wondered why the coffee shop’s five dollar cup of coffee tastes better than the cup of joe you make at home? Well wonder no longer, because I’m about to change the way you make coffee.


The easiest way to change your cup of coffee for the better is to stop buying ground or instant coffee. Ground coffee is most likely already stale when you pick it up off the shelf. And instant coffee… just no. The caffeine isn’t worth destroying your taste buds. Instead, start getting your coffee whole bean. Whole bean coffee stays fresher longer, giving you better coffee for longer. ‘But Elise, it’s whole bean! How am I supposed to grind it?’ Well, that depends on where you get your coffee. If you buy your beans during your runs to Safeway, you can grind it there! Most grocery stores have industrial coffee grinders in the coffee aisle, so all you have to do is pop the bag open and pour it in. These grinders will usually have some popular coffee makers on the dial for you to choose. Or you can buy coffee from a local coffee shop and you can ask the barista to grind it for you. This way is great for my next piece of advice…


Repeat after me: different ways to make coffee require different grinds. Grinds refers to how coarse or fine the coffee needs to be for your machine. For example, french press coffee needs a really coarse grind, while espresso is always a fine grind. This is important because your machine pushes water through the coffee in different ways, and if the grind isn’t correct, it can lead to weak coffee or overly bitter (which is another reason not to buy pre-ground coffee). Unsure about what grind is best for your coffee making technique? Ask a barista! Go to your favorite coffee shop, buy a bag, and ask them what they would recommend. Most should have a general idea of what would work best. (My recommendations? French press is extra coarse grind, a Keurig is coarse grind, and pour-over should be a medium-fine grind). 


My last bit of wisdom is just to find coffee you like. You would think it is a given, but let me explain. Coffee beans are roasted to one of three levels; light (or blonde at Starbucks), medium, and dark. Light roast coffees have a more mellow, sweeter flavor while having more caffeine. Dark roasts have a stronger and more deep profile and offer the least amount of caffeine. For a long time, I thought I only liked coffee at my favorite cafe because it tasted the best. Turns out, I just didn’t like the coffee my family had at home. I tend to gravitate towards lighter roasts because I find dark and some medium roasts too bitter for me. So now I stick to lighter roasts. Depending on where the bean is grown and roasted also changes the flavor profile of the coffee. Take Starbucks’ Siren Blend as an example. Siren Blend is a medium roast coffee with notes of chocolate and citrus. Now, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a cup of coffee that tastes like chocolate covered lemons. But what that does mean is that the bean is going to have a more acidic taste dulled by a rich sweetness. So even if you like most medium roasts, you might not want to go for that if you’re not a fan of those flavor notes. My best advice when starting out is choose coffee with flavor profiles of things you already like. I like salted caramel and one of my favorite coffees is Holler Mountain from Stumptown Coffee which is a light roast that is described as “creamy and caramel.” As you experiment more, try new brands and new flavor profiles! There are a lot of good small and local coffee roasters waiting for you. 


So, to recap:

  1. Stop buying pre-ground or instant coffee and start getting whole bean.

  2. Figure out what the best grind is for your coffee machine.

  3. Learn what kind of coffee you like!


You are now armed with knowledge and ready to have a better cup of coffee. Let us know if you use these tips! Go forth and be caffeinated.

Hi y'all! I'm Elise and I'm a History and Politics double major and Classical Studies minor. When I'm not holed up in the library, I love to hike, journal, make coffee, and wander through museums.