I miss coffee terribly. There are few things like sitting in a café with a new book or pile of work to do that brings me the comfort of place and sense of belonging to the culture of this city. Until that routine returns to my life, I am slowly perfecting my at home coffee game. Here are a few tips for making great coffee from home.
THE BEST BEANS IN TOWN
Finding high quality coffee beans in Buenos Aires isn’t as difficult as it used to be. But for novices (hi!) the learning curve to make a quality cup of coffee at home is pretty steep. This starts with learning how to choose the right beans for your palate. To simplify, there are two factors to weigh out when choosing a bag of coffee: the bean’s origin and the roast.
There are four-main coffee growing regions: South America, Central America, Africa and Asia. Like wine grapes, coffee beans have nuanced flavor profiles that depend greatly on the microclimate they are grown in and the soil conditions of a specific region. In Buenos Aires, the most common beans come from South America, specifically Colombia and Brazil, although plenty of shops sell beans from Sumatra, East Africa and Central America.
Brazilian coffee tends to be higher in acidity than its Colombian counterparts, which turn out more balanced brews. No matter what you choose, talk out your options with your chosen coffee provider and seek out single-origin beans. Brewers that import their own beans are brewers that have invested their time in discovering high-quality beans from a particular region or farm (and cut the supply chain to boot). This is the case of Cafe Z, who source their beans directly from Capucas, Honduras.
Buying direct should also ensure a quality roast. Coffee has a small window of peak flavor after roasting. This varies depending on the brewing method but the general rule of thumb is that the best flavor between 2 and 14 days from roasting. Whether you buy beans whole or ground will affect the freshness as well. In any case, the difference between fresh roasted beans and a bag of ground coffee will taste profoundly different.
Expect to pay upwards of $450 for a ¼ kilo from high end vendors. If your budget only allows mid-level or grocery store blends, make sure to stay away from cafe torrado, which is roasted with sugar. For more information on independent coffee vendors, check out this continuously updated spreadsheet.
DISCOVER THE RIGHT COFFEE MAKER FOR YOU
We’ve likely still got a ways to go before we can enjoy a cup of coffee in a cafe, so it might be the right time to invest in a solid coffee maker. It doesn’t have to be an expensive investment, either. You can find inexpensive French Presses for as low as $1000, step up your drip game with a ceramic Hario V60 starting at $2500 or get real serious with a Chemex for upwards of $6000.
For newbie coffee makers looking for a serious cup of coffee that can be made simply every day barista Diego Bustprado recommends looking into an Aeropress, which according to Bustprado is “new, portable, very easy to clean and can make coffee with a metal filter that allows you create less waste.”
He recommends consulting with Modo Barista and Tienda del Barista to which I would add Manifiesto Cafe.
LEARN FROM THE PROS
Plenty of online workshops have been popping up from baristas who have been economically displaced by the pandemic. Learn about the world of coffee and the best methods for brewing at home from some of our favorite baristas, including Diego Baetcker of Café Cigalo, Pastor Valero (class scheduled for May 15) and Diego Bustprado (classes scheduled for May 16 and 17).
MAKE IT A COFFEE DATE
Why not order some facturas while you are at it. My go to baker is Juan Olivares of Centinela de la Luna, who makes excellent cinnamon buns and croissants. For the café del barrio experience, check out Bar de Viejes on instagram with a constantly updated list of old school bars to grab your ham and cheese sandwich fix. Or check out our continuously updated spreadsheet for bakeries and cafes in your hood.