Make the perfect cup of coffee

One of life’s little luxuries, a visit to the coffee shop is a real treat for some. However, if you get into the habit of popping in every day, it can become a costly experience. With the help of a coffee machine you can enjoy a barista-style brew in your own home whenever you like – and with the help of our guide, you can learn how to craft the perfect cup.

 

GRINDING YOUR OWN COFFEE

Don’t underestimate the importance of grinding your own beans – there’s nothing quite like the evocative aroma, and the taste of pre-ground, shop-bought simply cannot compare.

It’s a good idea to only grind as much as you need at the time as, once the oils from ground beans come into contact with air, oxidation causes them to quickly lose freshness and flavour.

There’s some debate about how best to store coffee – some swear by the fridge or freezer – but most people agree upon an airtight container kept in a cool, dry, dark place. 

For perfect coffee, too much grinding is as bad as too little – it has to be ‘just right’ – and each brewing method requires a different sized grind. The coarseness determines how fast water passes through the grinds: generally speaking, the shorter the brewing time, the finer the grind needs to be:

EXTRA FINE Pump or steam espresso machines

FINE Drip machines with cone-shaped filters, stove-top coffee makers

MEDIUM Drip machines with flat-bottomed filters

COARSE Percolators, cafetières.

 

There are two main types of grinder:

BURR Coffee connoisseurs say that a burr grinder is by far and away the best method – rather than chopping, it crushes the beans into thousands of uniformly sized grains suited to espresso. Most have adjustable and pre-programmed grind settings to suit different tastes and coffee machines, like the Krups Burr Grinder, which has 17 different grind settings.

BLADE/MILL A less expensive option, with both manual and electrical versions available. A rotating blade chops the beans, but without the precision and uniformity of a burr grinder. Fine for filter coffee and cafetières, but take care not to over-grind as heat generated by the blade may cause the coffee to taste slightly burnt. If you don’t want to invest in a separate coffee mill, a food processor like the Cuisinart® Mini Processor can be used instead.

 

THE GOLDEN RULES OF FROTHING MILK

The golden rules for frothing are that milk must be fresh, as the proteins that help it froth start to diminish after about four days, and you should always use cold milk, straight from the fridge.

You can however use any kind of milk you like:

FULL FAT Gives a rich taste but is not very easy to froth

SEMI-SKIMMED Froths quite easily and has some fat for a tasty drink

SKIMMED The easiest to froth and the obvious choice for ‘skinny’ coffees.

If your coffee machine has a milk frothing arm, use it with a large stainless steel jug like our Milk Frothing Jug [13068], which conducts heat in just the right way and has plenty of room for froth. Milk should only be warmed to around 65°C, as if it gets too hot it will scald, resulting in a bad taste. With the right technique and a bit of practice you can create luxurious, velvety-smooth froth.

If your coffee machine doesn’t have a built-in milk frother there’s a host of alternatives available to suit all budgets, from hand-held, battery-operated designs like the Aerolatte® To Go, to compact machines that warm and froth milk at the push of a button, like our Lakeland Easy-Clean Milk Frother . 

BARISTA TIPS FOR A BETTER BREW

If you’re struggling to perfect your technique, check out these simple tips to help make your favourite brew taste even better.

  • Check how finely ground the coffee should be for type of machine you’re using.
  • Check the tamp – for water to flow correctly the coffee should be neither too loosely nor densely packed.
  • Always use freshly-drawn tap water, or even bottled.
  • Water should not be boiling as this will scald your coffee – 85-92°C is ideal.
  • If espresso or black coffee is too strong or bitter for your taste, don’t use less ground coffee – make it full strength and add a little hot water for a smoother drink.
  • A thick, golden crema is the sign of a good espresso. You can test it by sprinkling on a little sugar – it should take a while to sink to the bottom of the cup.
  • Espresso is the base for many milky coffee drinks – perfect your espresso and you’re half-way to successful cappuccinos and lattes.
  • If using a pressure machine, froth the milk immediately after making the coffee so the pressure is consistent during the coffee extraction.
  • Use a thermometer when steaming milk. It should be heated to 60-65°C – any hotter and it will taste burnt.
  • If there are large bubbles in the froth, give the jug a tap on the side to help disperse them.
  • Always use warmed cups so your brewed drink doesn’t cool too quickly. Cafetières should also be warmed with hot water prior to filling.
  • Clean your machine thoroughly after every use, otherwise residues of bitter coffee oils may still be present and will affect the flavour of your next drink.

 

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