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Gorgeous, golden crema on an americano or a lovely, layered tulip on top of a latte. There’s something magical about a cup of morning coffee from your favourite café. While it may take years of practice and top quality machines to create that flavour, there are a few steps you can take now to get closer to brewing a perfect cup at home. Whether you’re an espresso or a filter coffee lover – it’s easier than you think!
Read on for our top 10 tips for stepping up your coffee game at home.
1.CHOOSE YOUR EQUIPMENT
Full-bodied and dark or light and fruity? Brewing for one or for a group of friends? Keeping it cheap or splashing the cash? These are some of the different preferences which will help determine the best equipment to buy.
There’s something out there for everyone so take a look at the table below to work out what might be the best option for you:
2. ADD A GRINDER
Nothing beats the scent of freshly ground coffee as you pass a coffee shop. It doesn’t just smell incredible, but this distinctive aroma plays an integral role in a delicious cup, releasing the best flavours from your coffee.
Although buying pre-ground coffee will still make you a great cup, grinding your coffee fresh is one of the biggest changes you can make to achieve excellence when brewing.
What type of grinder should you buy? We suggest burr grinders. They have flat burrs which create a more consistent grind, meaning a more even extraction, allowing you to get the best from your coffee. This is compared to blade grinders which slice the bean and can create an inconsistent grind.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ type of grind, so you’ll have to ‘fine-tune’ your grinder to best suit your needs and brew method. Remember: use your grinder for coffee only – to avoid aromas of other ingredients contaminating its delicate taste.
First things first, make it fresh. Coffee reaches its peak flavour just days after it’s been roasted. Ordering direct from our roastery ensures your coffee is roasted to order, arriving through your letterbox just a few days after it was roasted. How can you check? Look out for the ‘Roasted On’ date on your bag of coffee and not the ‘Best Before’.
The big question: which coffee should I buy? Don’t let the variety and flavour notes daunt you. There are a few things to look out for so you can discover the coffee you love. To get you started, we advise getting familiar with the four classifiers that shape the taste of your coffee: roast, country, blend or single origin and flavour notes.
How does coffee roast influence coffee? You’ve probably spotted most coffees are roasted either light, medium or dark. Although there’s no rule for what defines these levels, they can give you an idea about the flavour and body of the coffee. In general, lighter roasts highlight more of coffees’ natural flavours and tend to be brighter and fruitier. The darker the roast, the more you will taste the caramel and chocolatey notes from the roast itself.
Country and region both indicate the origin of the coffee – the geographical place where it was produced. Locations vary in climate, altitude and cultivating processes which affect the overall flavour. Origins are sometimes noted for particular profiles, such as nuttier notes from Brazil and floral notes from Ethiopia, but this isn’t always the case.
Blends will generally have a very stable flavour. Roasters are able to slightly adjust the mix of blended coffees to ensure the flavour profile is consistent - hence the name! Single origins are coffees from one area, and not blended with other origins. At Union, our single coffees come from specific farms or co-operatives within a country, but it’s not uncommon to see single origins only stating the country, for example: Colombia. As single origins are not blended to help create a flavour, they can slightly vary from season to season. Then there are microlots: smaller limited parcel lots of coffee grown to produce unique flavour notes.
Taste notes naturally occur in high quality coffee. We split them into four flavour groups...
Start exploring and discover the styles you like – the world of speciality coffee is exciting and varied! Follow this map to see which might be the best option for you...
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4. WATER IN YOUR COFFEE IS LIKE TONIC TO YOUR G&T
Don’t forget about 98% of your coffee cup, the water. While it may not seem like water will have an impact, its quality and even temperature directly affects how your coffee tastes.
Hard water will make extracting delicate flavour notes more difficult and the mineral content in water also leads to scale build-up in your coffee maker which can affect the final taste. The solution? A simple filter jug will help with these issues and ensure a better-quality brew.
Coffee is best brewed at 92-96ºC. Why? When your water is too hot, it can burn the coffee grounds causing bitter flavours. You can either use a thermometer or wait a moment after the water has boiled to allow it to slightly cool.
5. MEASURE IT UP
When it comes to coffee, precision is what determines the difference between a “good” and a “great” cup. Think scales, ratio and timer – just like when making a cake.
First, use scales to weigh the coffee rather than measuring it by volume. Secondly, check the water to coffee ratio depending on your brewing method. We’ve got guides for different brew methods but if you haven’t got one handy, a good rule of thumb for filter is 1g per 16 ml water (for example: a 250ml cup needs around 15g of coffee). As 1ml of water = 1g, you can use your scales to measure the water, for example: 250ml = 250g. Finally, have a timer handy to make sure the extraction time is just right!
Coffee equipment might look confusing…but not when you’ve got the perfect “How to” guide. Master your preferred brew method and enjoy your coffee at its best, with all the intended flavours and aromas. Check out our detailed guides and videos for different brewing methods…
7. ADJUST THE RECIPE
Feel like something isn’t quite right? First, double check the recipe. Is your grind size correct for your brew method? It may be coarser or finer than suggested. Is your water to coffee ratio correct? You may be using too little or too much water for your coffee dose. If these aren’t correct, adjust them.
Still not tasting right or want to finetune the flavour. Here are a few tips if you’re still not sure it’s right:
1. In general, if it tastes ‘weak’, flavourless or even sour, your grind might be too coarse and the coffee is under extracted – try a finer grind.
2. If your coffee is tasting bitter or too ‘strong’, your grind might be too fine and it’s been over extracted – try a coarser grind.
Find the perfect recipe for you – jot down each of your recipes and results until you find the brew for your taste.
8. MILK HACKS
Foamed milk is a real treat and can transform a coffee. Luckily, there’s ways to replicate it at home without a milk steamer...
Mason jars, cafetières and frothing wands – we’ve done the research. The verdict? Whilst all three work well, the cafetière method is best as it creates the most stable cappuccino foam. Simply heat the milk and then add it a quarter way up to your cafetière. Using a plunger, pump the milk up and down gently creating a foamy texture. Pour this on top of your coffee – et voila! For the best results, go for full fat milk, or a non-dairy “Barista” edition.
We can’t promise this will make it latte art-worthy, but if you want to challenge yourself and create a microfoam texture, try transferring your already foamed milk into a jug with a pourer. Gently tap the jug on the flat surface to get rid of bigger bubbles. Swirl the milk to achieve a more velvety and even texture. And now – pour!
We want to see your latte art! Share your photos with us on social:
9. STORE YOUR COFFEE RIGHT
Once opened, store coffee in an airtight container. Why? Because fresh air is coffee’s worst enemy. Coffee is hygroscopic which means it absorbs everything in its environment – oxygen, moisture and odours. Contrary to popular belief, the fridge is one of the worst places to store coffee – due to its distinct and pungent aromas. Instead, it is best to store your coffee in a dark and dry place and use it within 14 days. If you can’t use all your coffee within two weeks, you can freeze it and use as needed brewing it straight from frozen!
Finally, don’t forget to keep your equipment clean. It’s best to avoid abrasive harsh washing liquids. Hot water and a clean sponge are the best in keeping your equipment in the best condition.
There we have it: our top 10 steps for brewing at home. You’re all set to start getting the best out of your coffee at home. Have fun, keep brewing and keep sharing the joys of speciality coffee.