5 tips for making coffee like a pro

Become a home barista with these tips for the perfect brew…

15 Apr 2021

A lot of us have a go-to coffee shop, but that’s not an option in these lockdown days. Here’s the good news though – you can make coffee at home that tastes like it’s been created by a pro. Check out our 5 top tips on becoming a homegrown barista below…

 

Buy fresh beans

A hessian bag of coffee beans

For a proper coffee, buy proper fresh roasted coffee beans. Look for a ‘roasted on’ date on the label, and go for the most recent. Coffee tastes best when it’s brewed right after it’s been roasted.

You’ll probably want to try a few different roasts before you decide on a favourite type. Dark roasts are best for intense espressos, medium roasts are great for standard coffees. There are lots of degrees of roast, so try a few and compare the colours of the beans.

Barista tip: Buy no more than two weeks’ worth of coffee, so you’ve always got a fresh batch.

 

Store your beans properly

Keep your coffee beans in an airtight container. If they’re exposed to light, heat, moisture or air, they’ll lose their flavour.

Keep your container at room temperature. Cool, dark places are great. If your home’s too hot you can keep the container in your fridge, but keep it sealed shut. Beans absorb odours - so if you leave the container unopened in the fridge, they’ll start smelling like that delicious roast chicken sitting beside them.

 

Get grinding

Use an electric coffee grinder to grind your coffee beans before you brew them. Try not to do this too far in advance, as beans start losing flavour as soon as they’re crushed.

How finely do you need to grind? It all depends on how you’ll be making your coffee:

  • Make a coarse grind if you’re using a French press.
  • Make a medium grind for drip coffee.
  • Make a fine grind for espresso.

 

Choose how you brew

A woman pouring a coffee into a mug from a moka pot.

Now comes the big decision on how you’re going to brew your coffee. The most common methods are: French press, filter, or with a coffee machine.

French press

A French press coffee maker consists of a jug and a plunger. Sounds simple (and it is), but a lot of experts say it makes the best tasting brew. Here’s how it works:

  • Remove the lid and plunger.
  • Add the coffee.
  • Pour hot water to the halfway mark.
  • Leave for one minute, then stir gently.
  • Fill to the top with water.
  • Put the lid on, with the plunger up.
  • Wait for three minutes, then push the plunger slowly down until it reaches the bottom.
  • Pour and enjoy!

The filter method

Filtering your coffee takes a little bit of work, but produces great results:

  • Place a paper filter and cone over your cup.
  • Pour coffee into the filter.
  • Add just enough hot water to wet the coffee.
  • After 30 seconds, add water at a steady rate until it reaches the top level of the filter
  • Wait for the coffee to finish dripping through.

Use a coffee machine

The quickest and easiest way of making quality coffee at home is with a coffee machine. And because some use coffee capsules, you won’t even have to buy and grind your own coffee beans. The most common types of coffee machine are:

Bean-to-cup

These all-in-one machines come with a built-in coffee grinder, and give you the power to make a variety of drinks with a single press of a button. All you need to do is fill it with coffee, water and milk, and select the type of coffee you’re in the mood for.

Filter coffee machines

If the manual filter method sounds too much like hard work, here’s a machine that does the same job. Put your coffee into the filter, add water and switch it on. Perfectly brewed coffee will then filter into the coffee pot. It takes some time fill a full pot… but it’s worth the wait.

Pod machines

Just like bean-to-cup, pop machines from brands like Nespresso and Tassimo give you great coffee at the touch of a button. You don’t even have to use your own coffee beans. They come with their own pods (and there are loads of flavours to choose from), so simply pop one in and let the machine do its magic. You’ll have custom brewed coffee in seconds.

Espresso machines

If espresso is your go-to drink, you might just want a machine dedicated to the art of making it. Because yes, it is an art. You’ll feel just like a barista as you carefully pack the coffee into the holder and hit the switch to create an intense espresso. Plus, most good espresso machines with a steam arm to create frothy milk for your cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos.

Shop for coffee machines here

 

Create your drink

A cappuccino on a saucer with a teaspoon

Once your coffee is brewed, you can create your drink. Espresso is the easiest choice, because it’s just a quick shot of intense coffee. Add some hot water, and you’ve got an americano.

Other coffee drinks need a little more preparation, but they’re still easy to master. Let’s start with the most popular choice…

How to make the perfect cappuccino

One of the secrets to making a quality cappuccino is a good cup of freshly brewed espresso. The other secret is frothy and creamy milk. So, put that espresso on to brew, and start heating your milk.

A lot of experts say skimmed milk makes the best cappuccino, because its low fat content helps it hold froth for longer. But as far as we can tell, full fat milk works just fine. Just make sure that it’s as fresh as possible - it’s the protein in the milk that creates frothiness.

If your coffee machine has a frother, half fill a jug with cold milk and tip it gently into the steam wand. As the foam is created, slowly bring the wand up.

If you don’t have a frother, you can use a large cafetière to get the job done. Simply heat your milk in a pan until just under boiling point, transfer it to the cafetière, and pump the plunger until you have plenty of froth.

Nearly there! Now it’s all about assembling your creation:

  • Pour an espresso shot into a large coffee cup.
  • Give your milk jug a few taps to remove unwanted bubbles.
  • Add milk to the coffee cup until it’s two-thirds full, using a large spoon to hold back the froth.
  • Then spoon out the froth until the cup’s full.
  • Last but by no mean least! Sprinkle with chocolate powder.

 

Other types of coffee drinks to make

Once you’ve mastered a cappuccino, the rest is easy. Here’s what it takes to make some other popular coffee drinks.

  • Latte. Espresso and hot milk (1 to 6 is the usual ratio)
  • Macchiato. Espresso with a touch of milk.
  • Con Panne. Espresso with a little cream.
  • Mocha. Hot chocolate with a shot of espresso.

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