Finding your own favourite method of brewing coffee can be a lot of fun – after all, there are so many methods to choose from. It’s an individual thing. Everybody has their own coffee ritual, so we don’t want to suggest that you brew a particular way. Saying that, it’s hard to beat a good old-fashioned plunger coffee or an espresso………….the perfect espresso is guaranteed to provide that all-important coffee epiphany!
We’ve provided some suggestions designed to help improve your coffee drinking experience for each of the main brewing methods. Whichever method(s) you choose, following these four golden-rules will help ensure an amazing coffee:
- Buy fresh Hands-On coffee beans and use within 14 days of opening (see freshness advice).
- Grind your coffee at home on demand. Treating yourself to a good coffee grinder (burr type) is the single-most important step you can take improve your coffee at home.
- Use fresh soft water. In Cornwall and South West England tap water is usually fine, but in hard water areas it’s best to use a good water filter.
- Children don’t mix well with hot water (or caffeine). Keep them away so they don’t get scalded (or get all hyper).
Plunger or ‘French Press’ is the purist’s way of brewing coffee (we use it for tasting our coffee at the roastery), and also the least expensive. It happens to be the simplest method too as there are no capsules or filters, you only boil as much water as you need, and there are no electronics involved.
- Use 10g of ground coffee per 150ml of water (so that’s around 45g for your average 8-cup plunger).
- A coarser grind is necessary, but not too coarse. There should be soft resistance as the plunger is pushed down.
- Boil the kettle with fresh water and use a small amount to swill around inside the pot to warm the glass and plunger. Pour away the water and add the appropriate amount of ground coffee.
- Wait a minute or so after the kettle has boiled before pouring onto the ground coffee – the temperature needs to drop to about 95 degrees C, otherwise your coffee will taste bitter.
- Allow the coffee to steep for five minutes.
- Stir softly with a metal spoon before carefully plunging, and pour immediately.
Espresso Coffee Domestic machine
In true Italian tradition, a perfect espresso is hard to beat for that intense coffee experience. What better way is there to kick start your day? Espresso is also the base for a range of fantastic coffee drinks, ranging from the classic ‘cappuccino’ to the antipodean ‘flat white’. This variety of options makes investment in a quality domestic espresso machine worthwhile. Most of the bargain-basement machines really aren’t worth the money, but there are some reasonably priced machines that make great coffee – much better than most of the coffee’s we’ve tasted from the high-street chains, especially when using quality beans like ours!
We can’t cover every variation of machine, but here are some general tips:
- Make sure the tank inside the machine has sufficient water before turning on.
- After turning on, flush hot water through the group head briefly.
- The grind of coffee is critical – use finely ground.
- Fill the filter basket to just below the top with the freshly ground coffee (approx. 7-8g for a single shot of 30ml).
- Tamp the coffee in the filter basket, finishing with a slight twist of the wrist to ensure it’s level.
- Secure the portafilter containing the filter basket onto the group head of your machine. Things get messy if you don’t.
- Turn on the hot water – if the grind and tamping is correct the coffee should pour out of the handle like warm honey. The crema should be an auburn (red/brown) colour if ground very fresh.
- If the coffee pours out too quickly it will taste sour – you need a finer grind of coffee, and perhaps tamp with a bit more force. If the coffee pours out too slowly or is dripping through it will taste bitter and burnt – you need a coarser grind of coffee. Have fun getting it just right!
- Turn off the hot water after the coffee colour changes from auburn red to pale white (approx. 20 -25 seconds extraction time). This is crucial to a good espresso. The blonde colour has a bitter taste which will taint the coffee.
- If making milk based drinks, always use full fat milk directly from the fridge (soya milk is good too).
- Use a small stainless steel jug (approx. 300 ml), the weaker steam from most domestic machines means bigger volumes of milk will not be steamed effectively.
- Submerge the end of the steam wand under the surface of the milk, then turn the steam on full. Slowly lower the jug until you hear a quiet sucking noise (air being sucked into the milk), and try to have it spinning around in the jug.
- We think that holding your hand against the side of the jug is the best way to detect when the milk is ready – at the point it becomes uncomfortable to keep your hand in contact, raise the jug so the steam wand goes further into the milk and at the same time turn off the steam.
- When pouring the milk into the coffee, be gentle. Pour at a constant rate of flow, and try pouring figure eight patterns slowly into the middle of the crema.
Italian “Stove top” or “Moka”
This is a clever and yet simple device that produces an espresso-like coffee with a strong aroma. Despite the name, this method doesn’t produce a true espresso because the pressure generated isn’t high enough – but it’s still possible to achieve a crema.
- We think the stainless steel stove tops are best.
- You can use cold water in the bottom of the pot, or alternatively use a kettle to pour in hot water.
- A medium-grind coffee should be used – fine enough to create a small amount of resistance, but not clog. The quantity should be enough to fill the basket of the stove top flush with the rim.
- Pack the coffee with a moderate force – firm, but not forceful.
- Use a low to medium heat on the stove to bring the coffee to the boil. If you used hot water in the bottom pot then the coffee will start to come through within a couple of minutes, when using cold water it will take five minutes or more.
- Remove the stove top from the stove as soon as you see the coffee coming out into the upper half (gurgling sound). It will finish percolating by itself.
This is a very common method of brewing coffee in the USA, but isn’t so common in Europe. That’s a shame because when it’s done well it can make a great coffee! There are lots of variations, but they are all based upon hot water being poured over medium-ground coffee contained within a filter (usually paper). Here are some tips for automatic drip filter coffee makers:
- Try to use a machine that can heat the water to around 95 degrees C. Many drip filter machines do not heat this high and get a weaker extraction as a result.
- Preheat the coffee pot with hot water before use.
- Use only cold water in the reservoir.
- Drink immediately after brewing rather than letting it sit and bake on the heating plate.
- Paper filters produce the weakest taste as they hold back some of the essential coffee oils, and some say they can leave a paper taste in the coffee. Cloth filters produce excellent results and are reusable, so we prefer these.
- Metal filters are good too, particularly the gold and Swiss-gold ones, but they do let a little bit more sediment through to the cup.
There’s an ever-growing range of coffee making equipment available, some of which are rather unusual and challenge some of the more traditional methods covered in our coffee brewing tips. We plan to launch an online store in the near future with a range of carefully selected equipment for purchase. So watch this space.