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No matter how hard I try, the drinks I craft at home are never as good as my standing orders at my favorite coffee spots. As I continue to work from home and try to concoct my own beverages, I find myself needing some help from the professionals. In an effort to help caffeine fiends everywhere, I tapped Penny’s Coffee Beverage Director Arrik Lentz to share his tips for brewing the best at-home cup of coffee.

Photography provided by Penny’s Coffee

There are so many ways to make coffee at home. What’s your favorite way to brew?

Not to sound like a coffee snob, but my favorite way to brew at home is with my Chemex. It’s so difficult and expensive to recreate a quality cafe experience, so I’d rather just make sure I can bring an excellent method home instead. Also, it’s such a fun process. It allows for the time to focus and relax before your cup of coffee is even in your hands.

What are some easy ways to upgrade an at-home coffee routine?

One easy way to upgrade your routine is knowing what type of grind you need for the brew method you’re going to use. Doing some simple research into water-to-coffee ratios and brew methods can go a long way, too. You’ll find guidelines that you can use to direct your palate and some fun things to ask or chat about with your baristas once the cafe services come back in full swing. (We at Penny’s truly cannot wait for that day.)

Are there any essential gadgets you recommend? 

A scale that can weigh to the tenth of a gram. We’ve all got our home methods and recipes that we use every day to make our coffee. But when you start to look at the science of coffee extraction, you can see how weighing things out and applying a measured process can really change your coffee. A burr grinder is a must, as it keeps your coffee grind size consistent. And if you’re doing pour-over methods, a gooseneck kettle is great for keeping consistent flow rate and water weight.

Photography by Hannah Toutge

How does one navigate all the different roasts and blends?

It’s a trial-and-error process based on your palate. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to the taste of coffee, so no single roast is a “one size fits all,” so to speak. However, there are some general rules of thumb when you’re approaching light- versus dark-roasted coffee. Lighter roasts tend to taste brighter and have a fruit-focused flavor profile. The mouthfeel is going to be rather quick and acute as the typically citrus-like flavors take over. The packaging will mention floral and citrus notes. Darker roasts are going to have nutty and chocolate-like flavors. Expect a nice, smooth experience that coats your mouth while enhancing those rich flavors. These roasts will have notes of nuts, stone fruits and chocolates.

The top recommendation I have for buying coffee is to buy local, preferably from your favorite cafe. The roasters put a lot of time and effort into making sure they’ve achieved the best flavors from each batch of coffee they receive. The baristas can help guide you in store much more effectively than a Google search can. I personally enjoy Brandywine Coffee Roasters out of Delaware and Big Watt Coffee Roasters here in Minneapolis.

What are some easy tips and tricks for the best at-home coffee?

For iced coffee, I always swing toward a cold brew. It’s a simple but surefire way to get what you need. There are an abundance of methods available online with common household materials that can reduce the hassle and stress of trying a new method. I’ve heard people talk about how they dislike cold brew as some places brew it rather strong. But the beauty of home brewing is that you can adjust the concentration for a more personalized experience.

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