Whatever Your Tastes, Make Your Own Cup Of Coffee At Home
Unless you’re a coffee nut, you probably make your morning cup without putting much thought into it.
And that’s fine. But broaden your horizons and spend a little time experimenting, and chances are you’ll find an even better way to brew.
Different coffee-making techniques can have a big impact on taste, and some are better suited than others to be drunk black, or with milk.
Whether you’re wondering how to find the perfect grind for your filter or espresso, how best to store beans or simply what the experts really think of instant coffee, here’s what you need to know to make the best cup for you, no matter how you like it.
The many ways to make a coffee
There are more ways to make coffee than you can imagine.
There are espresso machines and espresso-like stovetop coffee makers. There’s filter coffee, which can be done in a plunger, as a “pour over” or in a machine.
And that’s just the start: there’s also pod coffee, cold drip, a variety of air-pressed methods and — for the mad coffee scientists —
vacuum or siphon coffee. While your perfect cup will depend on your taste and preferences, there are some broad rules of thumb.
Espresso machines and stovetop coffee makers extract coffee from the beans quickly. They tend to work better with darker roasted beans, and due to the intense flavour of espresso, it tends to pair better with milk, says Penny Wolff, who owns and operates a speciality coffee roasting business in Brisbane.
Filter coffee — whether its a pour-over, plunger or made with a drip machine — is extracted more slowly, as it spends more time in contact with water. Because of this, many people prefer their filter coffee made with a more lightly roasted bean, Ms Wolff adds. Filter coffee can be more delicate than robust espressos. This means many people prefer to drink it black, as the subtle flavours of filter coffee can be overpowered by milk.
At the end of the day, what really matters is how you like your coffee. “Some people enjoy using a more developed bean and a filter brew,” Ms Wolff says. “Or you might like espresso or stovetop made with lighter roasted beans. If that’s you, go for it!”
IMAGEIf you want to make a great cup of coffee, you need the right beans. (Unsplash: Nathan Dumlao) Making a perfect filter coffee
Andrew Kelly is a coffee-mad Melbournite who runs a small-batch roastery. Mr Kelly imports beans from around the world and likes his coffee black. His favourite way to make a great cup at home is the pour-over method.
To start, you’ll need a pour-over device (they look like a cone that you put over a cup), a cup (or any other vessel), a kettle, and some roasted coffee beans. Here’s how to do it.
For filter coffee, your bean should be ground to the consistency of coarse pepper or sand. You don’t want the coffee to be ground too fine or powdery: it can clog up the filter and leave you with a muddy-tasting cup. For a pour-over, you’ll need 60 grams of coffee per litre of water. You can scale that recipe as you like, but you’ll need at least 20 grams of coffee and 333 millilitres of water for a cup.
Put a paper filter into the pour-over device and add your coffee. Once that’s done, you can start your first pour, with about one-third of the water, stirring a few times. “The aim is to wet all the coffee in the first 15 seconds and to prevent any dry patches developing at the bottom of the cone. That essentially starts the brewing process. It allows gases to start escaping from the ground coffee particles. Those gasses need to escape for the water to be able to extract the flavours out,” Mr Kelly says. This first pour should take about 45 seconds.
Once that’s done, you can pour another third or so of the water (so you’d be up to 200 millilitres if you were working with 20 grams of coffee). Try to pour gently over the water already in the cone: it’ll help the coffee extract properly. This step should take another 45 seconds or so.
By this stage, you should be about a minute and a half in. Pour in the rest of the water. Andrew likes to give the grounds another stir, and he’ll also give the cone a bit of a shake — just to make sure there’s no way for the coffee to filter through the paper too quickly. Wait until the liquid has filtered through the paper and there’s no more water sitting on top of the coffee bed, and you’re done.
IMAGEFor Andrew Kelly, the pour-over method is the best way to prepare coffee at home. (Unsplash)
If you’re using another filtering method, such as a plunger, Mr Kelly says the basics are the same.
Use the same ratio: 60 grams of coffee per litre of water. Once you’ve added the water to the coffee, Andrew suggests leaving it for between four and eight minutes (yep, that long) before plunging.
Why homemade espresso can be tricky
Unlike filtered coffee, good espresso requires specialised machinery and expert know-how.
Good baristas make hundreds of coffees every day. They know their machines and are constantly tasting, adjusting and re-tasting to produce a quality cup, Ms Wolff says.
“Many people at home just want to make their coffee, drink it and be gone. If you’re a barista and your life is making coffee you will, throughout the day, continue to taste coffee and make sure the flavour is where you want it to be,” she says.
Serious coffee makers (and drinkers) will note that differences in temperature and humidity can affect freshly ground coffee. This is something professionals bear in mind, often making incremental adjustments to their coffee grinder through the course of a day.
IMAGEKeep in mind that it takes a lot of practice to create that lovely, textured milk in your latte or flat white. (Unsplash: Louis Hansel)
Tim Williams runs a business that helps speciality Melbourne cafes and coffee lovers roast their own beans. He says espresso at home is more for the serious hobbyist, rather than those looking for a quick and easy fix.
If you’re looking for an espresso-like cup without the hassle, a stovetop coffee maker could be what you’re looking for: it’s as simple as packing coffee in the basket, filling the vessel below it with water, and putting it on the stove.
Andrew Kelly’s tip is to use hot water, which will help speed up the extraction. Like espresso, stovetops work well with milk and darker roasted beans.
After considering all this, you might be wondering about the simplest option of all: instant coffee. After many years of being maligned by coffee connoisseurs, instant coffee is having something of a renaissance, with many speciality roasters bringing out their own lines.
“We’re trying very hard to break that stigma with instant coffee. Once you start talking about speciality coffee as an instant, it’s very different from the normal instant coffee that everybody is used to,” Ms Wolff says.
Of course, at the end of the day, it’s down to personal preference. It’s easier than ever to brew quality coffee at home, so why not try something different? You can always make another cup.
(This story originally appeared on ABC Life)