7 Steps To Making The Perfect Cup Of Coffee At Home
By Mike James
There’s nothing quite like a good cup of coffee to start the day, is there? But if you’re relying on your local barrista to provide you with your regular morning pick-me-up on the way to work, you’re missing a trick. Making great coffee at home is simple, satisfying and a lot cheaper than your daily coffee shop habit.
All you need to do is follow these 7 steps to understand the basics of what makes great coffee, and then try it out for yourself. Who knows, it could become an unmissable part of your morning routine.
- Choose a good coffee
You don’t have to be a coffee snob to be able to appreciate good coffee. A bit like with wine, we all have our personal likes and dislikes. Finding a great coffee is the Holy Grail for those who truly value the quality of their morning brew.
Not that this is necessarily an easy task. There’s an astonishing variety of coffee tastes to try from all over the world for those who can be bothered to venture beyond the mass marketed commercial brands. Speciality coffees will state the country, region or even estate of origin. Why not sample coffee beans from Ethiopia and Kenya, Colombia or Indonesia?
Select from two major types of coffee beans on the market. Arabica beans are generally considered to have a wider range of flavours and are preferred to the cheaper, harsher Robusta beans. For the best coffee, choose 100% pure Arabica beans.
- Buy fresh coffee beans
The best coffee is made from freshly roasted beans. Make sure you get the best quality by buying coffee beans, not ready ground coffee, from a local coffee roaster so you know you’re getting the freshest quality beans.
Be careful about buying your coffee in bulk, especially from large retailers who may have been storing the beans for too long. Oxygen and bright light are the enemy of good tasting coffee, so unless your chosen store is particularly conscientious about selling fresh coffee beans, you may find that storage containers get coated with coffee oils which can turn the taste rancid.
For a better result, The Bag Broker (a specialist coffee bag manufacturer) claim the quality is in the seal – and that you should seek out quality conscious coffee roasters in your area, preferably those that choose freshly roasted coffee beans packaged in sturdy, vacuum-sealed bags.
- Store your coffee beans properly
Proper coffee storage is key to getting a great tasting result. Contrary to popular belief, you should never put coffee in the fridge; the moisture and other food odours can penetrate the roasted beans and spoil the taste. Similarly, taste experts consider freezing coffee a no-no.
Ideally you should only ever by 5-7 days’ worth of fresh coffee beans at a time to guarantee the best taste. Keep your coffee beans in an airtight container such as a glass or ceramic storage jar with a rubber gasket seal, so that the oxygen doesn’t spoil the taste.
Finally, make sure you store the container in a dark, dry place at room temperature – a kitchen cupboard is ideal. Daylight is another one of coffee’s enemies, while excess heat (before brewing, that is) can cause the beans to lose flavour.
- Grind your own beans
Did you know that coffee starts to lose its quality almost immediately once it’s been ground? That’s why the best tasting coffee is made by freshly ground beans. Coffee grinders don’t have to be expensive (though they can be!) and if you’re planning to make coffee at home on a daily basis, it’s well worth investing in a coffee mill for your kitchen.
There are three types of mill: hand, blade and burr grinders. Hand mills are manually operated and require a bit of elbow grease. Blade grinders cut the beans, while burr grinders crush them, producing a more consistent and better quality result.
- Use the right water
The taste of the coffee is not only determined by the coffee beans but also by the water used for the brew. Surely, nothing can ruin a cup of coffee more than tap water that tastes of chlorine or other strange flavours.
Coffee connoisseurs know this and will use bottled spring water for their favourite hot bev, or install activated charcoal or carbon filters in their taps. Beware, though, that distilled or softened water doesn’t do anything for your coffee flavour!
The water temperature should ideally be 93C or 200F, just below boiling point. If the water is too hot, the bitter coffee compounds will be extracted rather than the delicious ones, which is not what you want at all. Once your coffee is brewed, the flavour is volatile, meaning it won’t last for long – so pour and enjoy straight away.
And in case you were in any doubt, prolonged boiling, reheating your coffee in the microwave or keeping it warm on a hot plate are all anathema to a good cup, able to turn even the best quality coffee bitter and foul tasting. You have been warned.
- Use the correct amount of coffee
Regardless of your preferred choice of making coffee or the equipment needed, if you don’t put enough coffee in, you’ll end up with weak and unpleasant tasting cup.
If you’re using a cafetiere:
- Place the cafetiere on a dry, flat surface and hold the handle firm while you pull out the plunger
- Put a heaped tablespoon of ground coffee per 200ml of water into the pot
- Pour in the required amount of hot water and stir gently
- Place the plunger on top, stopping just above the water level, and let stand for 3-4 minutes
- Press the plunger down slowly and with steady pressure
If you’re making filter coffee:
- Place the porcelain dripper on top of your coffee pot and insert a paper filter
- Rinse the paper filter with boiling water, while warming the pot for a few minutes, then discard the water before brewing
- Add 2-3 level teaspoons per mug of coffee to the filter
- Slowly add just boiled water and let the coffee drip into the coffee pot
If you’re making espresso in a Moka Pot:
- Fill the bottom of your Moka Pot with cold water
- Place 2-3 tablespoons of coffee into the metal filter basket
- Put your Moka Pot on top of the stove and heat over medium heat
- When the water comes to the boil, the pressure will push the water through the coffee into the upper chamber.
- When a hissing sound appears, the coffee is ready. Remove from heat, stir and serve.
- Clean your coffee making equipment
Finally, whichever coffee making equipment you use, it’s important to keep it scrupulously clean. This isn’t just a hygiene issues, it can also impact the taste of your favourite morning drink.
After each use, wash up your coffee pots and makers with hot water and washing up liquid, and dry thoroughly. Make sure you clean your grinders and storage containers every few weeks so that no oil can build up that could negatively affect the coffee taste.