Coffee aficionados will go to extreme lengths for the perfect cup of coffee and a lot has been written on this complex and subjective topic. Our own coffee enthusiast Nick sets out his top tips to ensure a consistently good cup at home:-
The Coffee Beans – Always buy beans rather than ground coffee. The taste of freshly ground coffee is richer, sweeter and more complex than pre-ground coffee which often dries out and goes stale. Store the beans in an airtight container. It doesn’t need to be in the fridge but avoid warm places.
There’s an ever growing choice of beans to buy and it’s all down to personal preference – rich roast or light roast, blended or single estate, Arabica or Robusta. Its important to get fresh beans but the greatest impact is made by grinding and brewing. There are some great local coffee companies – Ouseburn Coffee Company and Pumphreys to name but two and Taylors of Harrogate are very reliable too.
Grinding – grind them using a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder. They don’t need to be expensive. I use one produced by Krups on which the grind (i.e. how fine or course) and the quantity to be ground can be set – available for £36 from Lakeland. If you already have a blade grinder you can use that to grind spices. The level of the grind should be set according to the brew method – see below. Beans should be ground no more than 15 minutes before brewing to preserve the oils and aromas.
Cafetiere or French Press – use a coarse grind of about one table spoon of coffee per cup. After the water has boiled let it stand for a few minutes to cool so it does not scald the coffee which creates a more bitter brew. Let it stand in the cafetiere for about 5 minutes before plunging and serving. A cafetiere is convenient and quick – many cups can be made at once. Ideal at the end of a dinner party.
Macchinetta Stove Top Italian Machine – every student should be packed off to University with one of these machines and a kilo of coffee. They are virtually indistuctable and produce a strong and rich brew. They are perfect for morning coffee – particularly after an indulgent night out and with high roast beans. Use a medium-fine grind.
Aeropress – They are more fiddly but really do product a very fine coffee. Finely ground coffee (finer than espresso grind) is placed in a filter chamber in the aeropress – a sort of inverted plastic cafetiere. Water at 75 – 80C is poured into the chamber, stirred with a paddle for 20 seconds and then plunged. The pressure in the chamber during the plunge is high and the and the fllter is fine – giving a quite different result to a cafetiere. This method is particularly suitable to single estate coffees or more special blends.
Espresso Machine – Katie bought me a Kitchen Aid machine for my 40th birthday and it has become one of my prized possessions. I only really use it a weekends but that just makes one or two cups on Saturday or Sunday mornings very special. A decent domestic Espresso machine can product excellent results for an espresso or a cappuccino. Don’t waste your money with a cheap machine – the pressure usually isn’t high enough. Use a fine grind, pre heat the cups and follow these instructions for frothing the milk if you’re making a cappuccino.:-
Insert the wand just below the milk, tilt the jug, create a vortex as the steam is injected into the milk and as it gets frothy raise the jug so that the steam is right into the milk – heating it rather than frothing it any more.
Pour Over Machine – I wouldn’t bother with a pour over filter machine – you’ll get better results with one of the other methods if you take a bit of care. If you do use a pour over machine then use medium fine grind and do not let the coffee stand too long on the hot plate.
If you’d like more information I’d thoroughly recommend the book How to Make Coffee by Lani Kingston – available in Forum Books Corbridge – 160 pages of detailed information! Enjoy your coffee….