1. KEEP IT WHOLE BEAN
As soon as you grind your coffee, you start to lose the good stuff, and the coffee will start going stale. If you can, keep it whole bean right up until you brew your coffee, you’ll definitely notice the difference.
2. WEIGH EVERYTHING!
I know this sounds like a huge hassle, but this extra time and some decent scales are a worthwhile investment. Measuring both coffee and water will ensure you get the same great taste every time you brew and makes it easier to make tiny changes to your quantities and recipes too.
3. WATER MATTERS
Water makes up 80% of your coffee so has a huge impact on flavour. Use hot filtered water, but not boiling water. 94 degrees is perfect, or a boiled kettle left for one minute will work fine too.
We’re a big advocate of filtered water. Filtering removes things which will impact flavour – like chlorine, copper and calcium. If you want to go all, try a magnesium mineralizer which replaces calcium with magnesium, it protects your equipment from limescale and takes your coffee to a whole new level.
4. PLAY WITH RECIPES & RATIOS
There is no “one size fits all” recipe, but there are some great starting points. For espresso, 18g of espresso pulled between 25 and 30 seconds is where you should be aiming for a double espresso shot. For filter brewing, we’d recommend 60 – 80g coffee per litre of water (6-8g per 100ml if you’re brewing in smaller quantities). These really are just the beginning however and will change depending on the coffee you’re using and the strength you like. Play around and experiment to find what you like – this is the fun bit!
5. CHECK YOUR GRIND
How finely your coffee is ground will have a huge impact on how quickly the coffee extracts and the overall flavour. Different brew methods work best with different grind sizes.
Espresso – Here you’ll need a fine grind consistency. Aim for the consistency of soft brown sugar.
Mocha Pot – For a stovetop, you want to go slightly coarser, more like table salt.
Aeropress or Filter – This is a medium grind size, think fine sand.
Cafetiere – This is your coarsest grind. Aim for the consistency of flakes of sea salt.
Understanding what might have gone wrong is the best way to understand what changes to make to get better. If your coffee is too thin, weak, or sour tasting, it’s under-extracted. Try increasing the dose of coffee used, Make your grind finer or extend the brew time. If it tastes too strong or bitter, then it’s over extracted. Try reducing your dose, coarsen your grind, or decrease brew time.
7. FRESH IS BEST
Coffee is best within two weeks of roast date and should definitely be consumed within two months. Whilst in a cafe you may see the beans sat nicely in the hopper of the grinder, this isn’t something that we recommend for home-use (chances are your beans will be hanging around a lot longer than they would in a cafe). Instead, grind only what you need and once you’ve opened your bag of coffee, make sure you squeeze the air out of the bag before resealing or store in an airtight container.
8. KNOW YOUR ROASTER
Do your homework and by from a reputable roaster – either directly or from a cafe or retailer who stocks their coffee. You’re looking for someone who has a history of direct relationships with their farmers and can share the details and stories of the farms producing their coffee. Organic and Fairtrade certifications aren’t necessarily a mark of quality (and as the top quality coffee is sold for more than fair trade and organic prices, many of the best farms aren’t certified).
Some coffees will give you indicators like cup score – useful to understand quality, but not necessarily whether you’d like the flavour. I’d recommend paying attention to the flavours in the coffees you like and using these as a base mark to select other, similar flavours. Speciality roasters are, generally speaking, a hugely passionate bunch so they should be more than happy to share their tips and recommendations on what coffee to buy, where it’s come from and the best place to make it.
Illustration by Caroline Tomlinson