Food and Drink

How to brew great coffee at home: a beginner’s guide

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Yasmin Khatun Dewan
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Whether its a stovetop Moka pot or an Aeropress, the method of brew is key to an excellent cup of coffee to suit your taste – and I’ve been through them all.

Having spent more time at home this year than many of us might have imagined, it’s no wonder sales of caffeinated drinks have gone up. Many shops reportedly saw an extra £24m in tea and coffee sales over the summer

As coffee shops up and down the UK shut shop for their safety and ours during the coronavirus pandemic, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in upping my coffee game (and countertop) to match. 

I have been through a journey of deep coffee research, starting with my first frappuccino at fifteen to the espresso I drink now. I’ve always loved the smell of a freshly brewed cup but couldn’t stand the bitterness that came with it. I’ve now realised that the sharp bitterness isn’t necessarily a trademark of coffee, but the type you’re drinking and the way it’s been brewed.

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It’s when I became a mum that the real research began, though. I suddenly very much needed the caffeine. So as I moved into my new home just a few months ago, I decided it was the perfect time to let my brew and the way I made it start afresh. 

I’ve been through the journey and done the research so here are my pointers for fellow novice aficionados who want to give up the instant, and make better coffees at home - coffees even to rival some of the best you may have had thus far.

What type of coffee should you use?

There are so many different types of coffee – narrowing down what you want to achieve in your cup is the first step to figuring out what you might want to invest in.

Do you want it to taste like you’ve just stepped out of east London’s beloved Climpson’s & Sons or do you like the rim of finely ground beans to linger at the bottom of your traditional Turkish cup when you’ve finished drinking it? This first all-important question is your best starting point from where you can think about your beans and their type of roast.

Hand holding espresso cup of coffee in the shadow of window blinds

Choosing your coffee beans

Whether you go for light, medium or dark roast, to get the ultimate coffee experience at home I recommend going from bean to cup. If you’re being exacting, you want your coffee beans to be freshly roasted when you use them.

I get my beans from Union Coffee who hand roast their coffee in east London and will deliver them to you wherever you are – roasting to order. One of my favourites is the Maraba from Rwanda, and I always have a whiff as soon as I receive my batch it is the most divine smell ever.

When choosing where you get your beans from, have a look at the sourcing practises and focus of different coffee brands and companies, ensuring the coffee farmers working hard at the beginning of your coffee’s chain aren’t left behind. 

Brewing method - to capsule or not?

Nespresso and Lavazza machines have been an easy choice for many with little time, but the waste that comes with a capsule cup when all that’s inside is a scoop of ground coffee doesn’t make it the most sustainable practice - especially if you don’t use biodegradable pods.

I’ve used a machine myself in the past and they are a quick and easy way into making a decent coffee but they leave out a part of the process you can really come to enjoy, reducing your own footprint in the process.

Bean to cup machines are beautiful things but they come with a pretty hefty price tag and to get the pressure right for a good shot of your favourite espresso, it’s an investment you need to be ready and willing to make. Machines, as with most things, also need maintenance and cleaning. If you’re not looking to invest about £500 and really show the machine some love, get yourself a grinder like I did and try one of the options below.

Which coffee grinder should I use?

A burr grinder is best for making sure your beans are all milled perfectly and most importantly uniformly (this will impact the taste of your end product). If you’re not fussed about buying a new one, though, you can get going with a manual spice mill that’s suitable for coffee beans which should work fine.

KRUPS Expert Burr Electric Coffee Grinder

How to brew coffee at home

Coffee press method

For a quick, easy and portable method, give something like an AeroPress a go. It’ll give you a beautiful clear espresso that’s much cleaner than what a French press will deliver.

The AeroPress is relatively cheap in the coffee world and super easy to clean (none of that grime or oil from beans is stuck in any hole you can’t clean). To make yourself a great cup of coffee, team this product with a frother and you’ve got a perfect latte or add a little water to make an americano. Just remember to make sure the water for your coffee is between 85-90 degrees – any higher is too hot. 

AeroPress Coffee Maker

Drip brew coffee

A Chemex, or any coffee dripper with a heavy filter, will eliminate all of the unwanted oils you don’t want in your cup, giving you a smooth and tasty coffee. The only downside is that it’ll take a little more time for the end result.

Simply put your freshly ground coffee in a filter rested on top of the glass brewer, pour over just enough hot water to cover the grounds, allow to settle for about 45 seconds (per Chemex’s expert advice) before slowing pouring the rest of your water through the coffee filter over a couple of minutes for a perfect brew.

Chemex 1-3 Cup coffee maker with wooden collar

Moka Pot brewing

Using a Moka Pot includes a bit more faff (boiling water to fill the base, filling the internal basket with ground coffee, monitoring the colour of steam once you set the pot on the stove, etc) but it will give you a well-balanced cup of coffee. 

The bigger the pot, the more coffee you can make – which can be a good option for a bigger household.

Alessi Moka Espresso Coffee Pot

Alessi Moka Espresso Coffee Pot

If acidity isn’t a concern for you, a French Press is still an easy option for a traditional cup of coffee with a little bit less of the admin that some of the other devices require above. Or you might even want to try a traditional Turkish pot, in which the ground coffee and water are heated together in the small coffee pot instead of using a filter to separate the two. As much as I generally prefer a cleaner brew, every so often I use my traditional Turkish coffee maker with some super fine grinds and brew up this heady and heavy concoction to devour. 

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My coffee brew routine

I get my beans delivered every two weeks and grind them every two days; grinding for a filter brew to use with my AeroPress. Depending on your method of brew, though, you’ll need to adjust how fine you grind.

I grind enough for me and my husband now we are both working mostly from home. Grinding the beans may sound like a faff but it’s really not and takes seconds.

I then scoop up my finely ground beans and drop into the base of the AeroPress while I have my kettle boiling at 80 degrees - I use the Kitchenaid artisan kettle which allows you to adjust the water temperature, and if you’re particular about your tea and coffee being perfect, I’d highly recommend a kettle that boils at different temperatures.

I then put a little milk in my frother – for my macchiato, my husband’s latte and my toddler’s babyccino. While the milk froths, I put the water in the AeroPress and I press down to get the most beautiful espresso. As I pour it into our cups, I drop in a little milk and for my daughter a sprinkling of cocoa to finish - giving us all cups of coffee to rival the best.

With many coffee shops turning their hand to selling more coffee making equipment online, I think our new homebound coffee culture is likely to be one to stay. 

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Yasmin Khatun Dewan

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