07 Sep Making great coffee at home
If there is one area where we have seen a lot of development in the last few years it is coffee. The number of places where you can get a great coffee has grown dramatically. I remember using apps like “The London Coffee Guide” a few years ago. It always took quit a trip to get to one of the coffeeshops with great reviews. Nowadays, using the same app, you will always find one on walking distance. And even in small villages you see specialty coffee shops appear.
Next step is we are all going to make great coffee at home. Specialty coffee roasters is the next area where you will see a lot of growth. There were only a handful small batch roasters a few years ago. And nowadays all major cities in Europe will have a few of them.
There are in my opinion tree important things for making great coffee at home. Equipment, Beans and Skills. You can discuss about the order of things, but in the end you need them all to a certain extent.
Equipment. I am not a fan of automatic coffee machines. We have had a few in the past, and I never succeeded in making a great coffee. If you love coffee, I would recommend buying a manual coffee machine with a piston. I do love the machines made by Rocket. They are solid and look great. But there are many more great coffee machines. Just as important is the grinder (and real coffee geeks will tell you the grinder is way more important than the coffee machine) I have a mini mazzer, and that’s absolutely a machine I like.
Off course there are good alternatives. If you like pour over coffee, it requires less of an investment. Look for Hario and Chemex as the best products (that also look great) Or if you are a bit more experimental, have a look at the Aeropress. My personal results with the Aeropress are ‘just OK’, not making me too enthusiastic. But I have tasted Aeropress coffee made by real experts, and that was great.
Coffee Beans. The best advice I can give is go to a small batch roaster. Their coffee is so much different from what you buy in the supermarket. For big brands and supermarkets consistency is the most import thing. Coffee is by nature inconsistent. There are so many beans, and the taste varies from region to region. So you can only make a consistent product if you manage to get rid of all variety (that probably explains why so much coffee is roasted too dark. That’s the most efficient way to get rid of all the character of a bean)
My personal favourites are Square Mile, Nude Espresso and Monmouth from the UK. In Belgium & Netherlands you have Caffenation , Man Met Bril and Dutch Barista that roast great coffee. Denmark has its Coffee Collective. But there are many, many more in every country. Look around for passionate small batch roasters in your area, and visit them to taste their different roasts.
Skills. Try to get a good understanding of coffee. That will help you in developing the skills. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffmann is probably the best book to learn about coffee, varieties, regions and how to make it. And next come practise, practise, practise. Make coffee, experiment with your grinder. Taste it. And over and over again. Basically you want to make 2 espressos of 30ml each from 14-18 grams of coffee. And that should take between 25 and 30 seconds. These are kind of the varieties to play with.
And off course there are additional skills like steaming the milk. There are loads of Youtube movies with instructions on properly steaming milk or creating ‘latte art’. And if you want to learn more, a number of specialty coffee shops offer courses or tastings that will help you develop your skills.
Personally I am very happy to see that overall coffee quality is rising. Yes off course you still see a lot of very bad coffee. Even in high quality restaurants. But the overall awareness of good coffee has increased dramatically over the last few years. And the result is more and more places where you can really enjoy your coffee. And it’s a great thing to be able to make a coffee at home that’s at least close to what you get in the best specialty coffee shops.