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How to Make Good Coffee at Home Like a Pro, According to Real Baristas

The owners of El Union, Commune, and Papakape spill the beans on tips and equipment!
How to Make Good Coffee at Home Like a Pro, According to Real Baristas
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/rosjuanxi, INSTAGRAM/papakape
The owners of El Union, Commune, and Papakape spill the beans on tips and equipment!

The pandemic has seen the rise of new hobbies. From plantitas, to homecooks, to cyclists, less hours in transit opened up more time for discovering passion projects. With most cafes closed at the beginning of the lockdown, a good number of folks were inspired to take matters into their own hands and up their coffee game at home. FYI, one of them is actress Ashley Garcia

Whether you’re a java junkie looking to stock your coffee corner, or a café enthusiast who wants to get to know more about the people behind the bar, you can never go wrong with learning from the hands-on owners of El Union, Commune, and Papakape

We asked 3 café owners to spill the beans on how to have the perfect coffee at home:

1. Kiddo Cosio of El Union

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY instagram/elunion
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The founding barista and manager of El Union led a largely uncaffeinated life before he and his wife, Amy, opened their then tiny parking space-sized shop in 2013. He may not have been drinking as much coffee at that time but he explains that “cafe culture always appealed to me, particularly how coffee shops intersect with art, design, and progressive thought.” Today, not only is El Union a staple perk up stop in every La Union itinerary, they have also expanded to being a coffee roastery that offers retail and wholesale programs, too. 

As a hands-on cafe owner, are there differences with how you make coffee in El Union and at your own home? 

"Though I don't believe there is dogma when it comes to coffee brewing, I tend to follow the same best practices that we have at work, when brewing at home. This means freshly roasted, high quality coffee (1-6 weeks from roast, ideally); clean water and equipment; grinding fresh with a burr grinder if you can; and brewing by hand with focus and intention. I find that mindfulness is the foundation for good coffee making, regardless of gear, brew method or the kind of coffee. Attention to variables affecting your drink can elevate even modest produce; and when it comes to brewing high quality coffees, that mindfulness helps bring the coffee to its full potential. Lastly, and this may sound silly, don't forget to breathe well when brewing; It makes a difference for me!"

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What are your must-have coffee tools and supplies for your own home?

"At home, I use a Comandante hand grinder, a ceramic dripper by Blue Bottle Coffee (my favourite brewer) that uses paper 'crown-shaped' filters; a Fellow Stagg gooseneck kettle; and, a small weighing scale. While these pieces of equipment are considered geeky tools, one doesn't need to spend much. Coffee knowledge is abundant and accessible thanks to YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook groups—and knowledge is far more important than expensive gear."

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Kiddo Cosio
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Can you share with us what your typical coffee at home is like? 

"A typical coffee at home is a black filter coffee using the tools I just mentioned. I enjoy and believe in the Filipino coffees we source and roast at El Union, because of the ethics that inform our company culture, and our sourcing philosophy, which favours direct trade with some of the best farmers and producers in the country. So when at home, I am usually brewing a local coffee; sometimes, I am brewing an imported specialty coffee from other reputable coffee roasters. What I like about coffee making at home is that it is also a way to approximate what our online customers would likely experience without access to cafe gear; so there is an R&D component to my home coffee brewing. Using simple tools is a must for me when drinking at home."

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY instagram/elunion
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Bagulin Forest Robusta (Whole Bean), P450, EL UNION COFFEE

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Fellow

Stagg Pourover Kettle, P9000, FELLOW, Lazada


For more information, you may visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Location: MacArthur National Highway, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union 

2. Rosario Juan of Commune

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY INSTAGRAM/rosjuanxi
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The Chief Extractor of Coffee in Poblacion’s beloved Commune has been working with the bean for most of her life. Starting as intern for a local coffee company, she then went on to being an Area Manager in Shanghai where she handled operations and marketing for four years. Taking a break from food and beverage upon her return, she delved into digital marketing and advertising before making her dream of owning a cafe come true in 2013. “My exposure to the Philippine coffee industry inspired me to take on the advocacy of promoting Philippine coffee in Commune,” she shares.

As a hands-on cafe owner, are there differences with how you make coffee in Commune and at your own home? 

 “I used to spend all my time in Commune. My first cup of the day would always be a coffee prepared by one of our baristas. I usually order whatever I feel like drinking that day or I'd try whatever our baristas were experimenting on ... When I am at Commune, I focus on the roasting and cupping of the coffees. Most of my brewing is done at home. Since the pandemic, I have been brewing coffee daily. I will usually have a nice and slow drip coffee. I'd mix it up by trying different coffee beans and using different drippers. “

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What are your must-have coffee tools and supplies for your own home?

“The essentials for me would be a dripper and its corresponding paper filter, my PureFresh electric coffee grinder, and a variable temperature swan neck kettle. The most important supply: freshly-roasted Philippine coffee.”

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Ros Juan
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Can you share with us what your typical coffee at home is like? 

“I always need to start my day with a cup of coffee. I like to say that it's for my sanity and for the safety of the people around me. (LOL!) I'm a night owl so a cup of coffee is how I get warmed up for a new day."

"I'm a moody brewer. I usually stand in front of my coffee counter and decide what coffee I'll be having depending on my mood. On days I want a predictable brew, I'll reach for Commune's Single Origin Arabica coffee from Atok, Benguet. I grew up drinking Benguet coffee and the familiarity of its flavor is something very soothing for me. On days that I feel like I want to shake things up a bit, I try a new coffee from other roasters then I peer into my cupboard and play eeny, meeny, miny, moe as I browse through my various brewers. Some days it's my v60 or Cafec flower dripper. If I need to rush out right away, it's my Espro or Kinto cafe press. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll take out my Origami or Chemex. And if I'm on the road, it's my AeroPress.” 

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barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Commune

Ceramic Dripper, P1350, CAFEC, Commune

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Starbucks
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8 Cup Classic Coffee Maker, P3195, CHEMEX, Starbucks

For more information, you may visit Commune’s official website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Location: 36 Polaris corner Durban Streets, Poblacion, Makati City, Metro Manila

3. Manu Reyes of Papakape

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY INSTAGRAM/papakape

The father and son owners of this up-and-coming glasshouse coffee shop in Makati only started planning three months before officially opening in January 2021. A chef for six years before moving on to fitness, Manu has come full circle, “I kinda went back to my roots when we did the coffee shop.”

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As a hands-on cafe owner, are there differences with how you make coffee in Papakape and at your own home?

“While our menu has a lot of careful thought into it and usually our home coffee is as basic as press and drip, what we make sure is that we serve our customers just how we would extend hospitality to our home guests.”

What are your must-have coffee tools and supplies for your own home?

“A classic french press is a staple in our house. As much as I’d love to geek out, what works better for our home is the simple routine of the french press.”

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Jom Carreno via INSTAGRAM/papakape
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Can you share with us what your typical coffee at home is like? 

“So I grew up with my dad [Rex Reyes, being a] super fan of stuff like Folgers, Taster's Choice, and the like. We have a coffee maker as old as I am but in the recent years it’s been the french press. For beans, we’re happy to have friends who regularly gift us with beans so we never run out of things to try. Hahahah. But maybe generally, you can say we’re very typical. We enjoy full-bodied coffee so you can imagine waking up to weekends with the scent of coffee and the sound of the machine brewing and my dad’s jazz playlist.

Nowadays, daily coffee has changed. We now use our little espresso machine and make sure the shop is ready because now we have coffee with regular guests and first time visitors.”

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barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Folgers

Classic Roast Coffee, P944.25, FOLGERS, Landers

barista tips for coffee at home
PHOTO BY Omega
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French Press with Stainless Steel Filter, P1017, OMEGA, Lazada

For more information, you may visit Papakape’s official Facebook and Instagram.

Location: 5641 Ampere Street, Palanan, Makati City, Metro Manila

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