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Handy Coffee Hacks That You Can Try at Home

In this blog, we will recount some useful coffee hacks, uses for coffee grounds, and other coffee tips that will be useful in the home! Read on to discover some ways to get the most out of your home coffee brewing equipment and technique and some inventive ideas for reducing coffee grounds wastage.

With a range of ideas on how to make your coffee go further, this guide will move through the different aspects of coffee brewing. Hopefully, you will discover something you did not already know about the wonderful world of coffee and some of the strange coffee hacks that populate it.

Coffee Hacks & Coffee Tips

Coffee is beloved by millions. It is the world’s most popular drink and one of the world’s most valuable crops. Millions of tonnes of it are traded, brewed and enjoyed every year. The coffee industry is booming, employing millions in roles from barista to farmer. This means that new things are being discovered in the world of coffee constantly!

Whether you get your coffee in a coffee house or cafe or brew it at home, there are ways you can get more out of your favourite cup. Here are a few hints and coffee hacks to help you do just that.

Use Fresh, Whole Bean Coffee

Use Fresh, Whole Bean Coffee

Always buy fresh whole bean coffee and grind it yourself for the best results. Extra points for buying coffee from a known single origin!

Not only will you get better, more exotic, more exciting coffee this way - you will contribute to the revolution in the coffee industry that is putting the power and the profits in the hands of the farmers who produce the finest coffees in the world, rather than the big coffee companies who have traditionally exploited them!

Use a Burr Grinder

Even one of the cheaper burr hand coffee grinders outperforms less mechanically precise types of grind. The very best coffee grinders are all burr grinders. The reason for this is that burr grinders produce evenly-sized grains as each grain must fit through the space between the burrs to pass out of the grinder.

Consistent grind size is vital for a predictable, controllable extraction. 

Grind For Your Method

Use the best grind size for your brewing method: very fine for espresso, where the contact time between the hot water and the coffee is very brief and as much surface area as possible is needed to maximize extraction.

Medium-fine for pour overs, drip brewers, Aeropresses and Moka pots and medium-coarse for French presses and other immersion brewers where the contact time between hot water and coffee is longer and too fine a grind will result in extraction of more undesirable and bitter aromatics.

Water Temperature

Brew your coffee at the correct temperature. Brewing coffee is a process of bringing aromatic and flavorful compounds out of the coffee grounds and into solution with the hot water. 

If the temperature is too low then there are aromatic compounds that will not dissolve out of the coffee grounds, and if the temperature is too high then undesirable, bitter, foul-tasting compounds will also be picked up at the high temperatures and spoil the brew.

Most coffee experts agree that the best results come from the water being at 92-96 degrees Celsius when it comes into contact with the coffee. Even better if the water remains at that temperature throughout the brew, but we will cover that in our next coffee hack about pre-heating and pre-wetting your equipment.

Pre-Heat/Pre-Wet All Your Equipment

By running hot water through your equipment (pre-heating it) prior to your brew you will ensure that less energy (and therefore heat) is lost during the brew to heating the equipment. This is true for all equipment, from espresso machines to Aeropress.

Pre-wetting your equipment you ensure that there will not be any binds or blockages or coffee puck channels resulting from surface tension between the water and the materials of the equipment. The water will smoothly flow through pre-wet equipment and you will retain more control over your brew - never a bad thing!

Looking After Your Equipment

Looking After Your Equipment

When taking care of your coffee brewing equipment there can be a lot to remember. With so many ways of brewing coffee available on so many different brewing devices and methods it can be difficult to keep track! Here we have collected some tips and coffee hacks for keeping your equipment in perfect condition.

For all coffee equipment: always rinse with cold water immediately after you have finished brewing. This will wash off oils, micro grounds, and coffee chaff from the surfaces of your equipment before it can dry and stick on. If you have the time and energy it can be beneficial to wash the equipment first in hot water and then with cold water; this allows you to wash away the oils while they are still hot without cooling them and making them more stubborn.

Wash your coffee brewing equipment with mildly soapy water worked into suds, or put the equipment through the dishwasher if it is appropriate for your devices, at least once a week (more often if you drink several coffees per day) to ensure optimal performance and lifespan.

For simple devices such as Aeropresses, V60 funnels, Chemex funnels and the like, the above routine should be all you need! Always take care when cleaning glass and with the rubber seal of the Aeropress (damage to the rubber can ruin that easy, smooth press).

For more intensive equipment, such as espresso machines, Nespresso machines, hand-presses, stovetop percolators, Moka pots, or cold brewing and auto-drip brewing machines, proportionally more intensive care routines are required.

At the top end, an Espresso machine should be thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, every day that it is used. This can be done by cycling the machine with only boiling water mixed with espresso machine cleaning powder and the use of a cleaning blank. 

The group heads must be individually cleaned with a group head cleaning brush and all the portafilters and baskets must be submerged in boiling water and soaked before being wiped down. 

A similar process is necessary for Nespresso machines, though less regularly. Simply cycling the machine with boiling water daily with weekly or monthly deeper cleans including use of cleaning compounds should suffice.

Moka pots and stove top percolators can be washed with washing up liquid and water, though special care should be taken to thoroughly clean the basket and steam pipe, which can be fiddly and difficult to reach. Boiling water in a Moka pot without any coffee will get hot steam into all the nooks and crannies and help sterilize it.

Always take special care when caring for and cleaning your coffee brewing equipment. Coffee can be a very precise science and the slightest speck of dirt or unseen damage to your coffee brewing equipment can completely wreck your brew. If there is one coffee hack you take away with you today it is this: love your tools and they will love you!

Uses for Coffee Grounds

Uses for Coffee Grounds

Before Brewing

Flower Beds and Plant Pots

Found an old bag of ground coffee? No idea how long it’s been sitting there? Chances are it’s no good for brewing now - coffee ages, losing freshness and becoming stale rapidly. But that doesn’t mean that the old, unbrewed grounds are completely useless. No need to throw the bag away just yet.

Unbrewed coffee grounds, even very stale coffee grounds, can be a delightful source of nutrition for your flower beds and potted plants! Mix the coffee grounds with crushed eggshells or use them on their own; mix into the soil of the pot or bed. If you only have a small amount of coffee grounds just sprinkle them over the flower bed or pot instead.

The benefits of doing this are twofold. 

First, acidic soil-loving plants will thrive as the coffee enriches the soil and drives the pH down in their favour. Examples of plants that thrive in acidic soil include dogwoods, beeches, willows, oaks, rhododendrons, mountain heather, evergreens, hydrangeas, camellias, daffodils, blueberries, and nasturtiums, azaleas, and hollies. That’s a lot of plants that would love to make use of your old, unused coffee grounds! 

And there are many others as well. It’s worth looking up the plants that you care for and their soil preferences to make sure that you’re giving your plants the best care possible.

The second benefit of mixing coffee grounds with plant soil is that earthworms love unbrewed coffee grounds. Mixing coffee grounds with flower bed soil will increase earthworm activity, churning the soil mechanically as the worms burrow and enriching it through the earthworm’s metabolic activity - both great things for the lucky plants growing in the coffee ground soil!

Compost Mulch

Unused coffee grounds can make a great addition to the compost mulch-making process. 

A mulch is a layer of, usually organic, material that is applied to surface soil. Mulches are applied to improve water retention in soil, improve the health and fertility of the soil, encourage earthworms, reduce weed growth, stabilize soil on banks and around trees, and for purely aesthetic reasons.

A compost mulch is used to improve soil health and fertility and is gradually incorporated into the soil by microbes and worms. Compost mulches are similar to other compost materials; fibrous materials providing structure for organic decay processes and their nutritious products. Unspent coffee grounds provide plenty of fibrous material but they are also rich in oils and aromatic chemicals that assist in the decomposition process.

Place the coffee grounds in a mulching container with some paper, and any vegetable and fruit leftovers you can get your hands on! Leave the container to compost and when it’s done you’ll have a nutritious, bio-active compost mulch with which to landscape and fertilize your garden!

After Brewing

After Brewing

Spent coffee grounds can be used as plant fertilizer, just like unspent coffee grounds. Spreading spent coffee grounds on your soil or mixing them with your soil helps reduce the impact of any heavy metal concentrations in the soil, and provides a wealth of active bionutrients to the soil composition. 

Spent coffee grounds can also be mulched and composted in the same way as unspent coffee grounds! Most hacks that work for one also work for the other, but you should be aware of the higher concentration of oils and acidic compounds in unspent coffee. Spent coffee grounds are a less harsh, less acidic way to fertilize your soil - though the benefit will still mainly be for acidic soil-adapted plants. 

There are other uses for coffee grounds and coffee hacks you can try with spent coffee grounds though…

Spent coffee grounds can be used as an abrasive in cleaning surfaces, cleaning pots and pans, and in exfoliation! Simply rub handfuls of coffee grounds on the surface you want cleaned or the skin you want scrubbed. 

Coffee grounds are also said to have anti-aging effects on the skin when applied in poultices or mixed with moisturizer or coconut oil and rubbed on the face. Great for crow's feet and laugh lines.

Spent coffee grounds can also be used as a natural, cruelty-free insect repellant and as a natural dye.

Finally, you can mix coffee grounds with water and vinegar in a 1:1:1 ratio to create a natural varnish that will disguise scratches in wooden furniture!

Coffee is a gift that keeps on giving; useful long after the last drops of coffee have been drunk! Don’t miss out on your chances to make coffee do the most for you it possibly can.

Wrapping up…

Wrapping up this blog about coffee handy hacks and uses for coffee and coffee grounds that you can try at home:

We’ve looked at some tips and coffee hacks for getting the best brew out of your equipment and how to keep that equipment in tip-top shape. We’ve explored some little-known facets of coffee and the surprising ways it can come in handy around the house. And we’ve looked at the many uses for coffee grounds, spent and unspent, in the home and in the garden.

With the information in this blog, you should be ready to start making the coffee in your homework for you - even more than it already is! 

So much more than a beverage, a new age of recycling, reusing, environmentally conscious living is seeing coffee find new ways to bring us joy. We hope that you’ve found something in this blog that you didn’t know before and that you continue to enjoy the world’s favourite drink: coffee!

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