5 steps to better coffee at home
Working from home? Don't you dare reach for that instant...
I get it, things are weird right now. The pubs are closed, the streets feel like that opening scene from 28 Days Later and possibly worst of all, the coffee shops are shut! Rather than panic-buying kilos of freeze-dried, gag reflex triggering instant coffee, follow these simple steps and you'll have your very own coffeeshop in your kitchen, minus the ever-present hipster writing his screenplay.
1. Get yourself a coffee subscription
Coffee from the supermarket just ain't gonna cut it in your coffee shop. Supermarket coffee is almost always stale, low-quality, burnt-to-a-crisp rubbish. That's not the sort of thing you need in your life right now. A great cup of coffee should always be fresh, of the highest quality and roasted to a perfect profile to bring out the natural flavours in the bean.
There are so many roasters offering quality coffee, roasted fresh to order so you really have no excuse. What you do have is an abundance of choice. Just Google 'coffee subscriptions' and take your pick. I won't drop any suggestions in here as all roasters will be feeling the pinch at the moment. Do your research and choose the roastery of your dreams.
2. Grind your own beans
Coffee goes stale a lot quicker than you might realise, with most of its freshness disappearing into blandness in just a few weeks. This is even more true of pre-ground coffee. Slow the stale by grinding your coffee at home, to serve, cup by cup. Not only will it taste better, it will stay tasting better for a LOT longer.
I don't want to get too technical, but I am going to for just the briefest of moments: When buying a coffee grinder, choose one with BURRS, not BLADES. Blades will slice your coffee beans into uneven particles, upsetting the balance of flavours in your brew. Burrs on the other hand will pulverise those bad boys into a perfectly uniform consistency. A good choice would be the Wilfa Svart Grinder. Not too spenny but a solid work horse.
3. Different brewing methods need different grind sizes
Okay, so you've got fresh beans, you've got your burr grinder and you've got a raging thirst for a cup of hot squash. Time to brew! But before you do, how are you brewing your coffee? Are you using a cafetière? A drip machine? An old sock?
Each method of brewing coffee needs a specific grind size to deliver that perfect cup. Luckily, most grinders will have a dial ranging from 'coarse' to 'fine' to help you out. Here's a handy little breakdown of some popular brewing methods and the best grind size for each:
-Cafetiere: Coarse (like sea salt)
-Drip Brewers (Diner-style machines and manual pour over drippers like the Hario V60): Medium (like sugar)
-Aeropress or a Stove top moka pot: Medium-Fine (like table salt)
-Espresso: Fine (like a powder)
Follow these guidelines and you'll produce a solid cup of coffee every time.
4. Find out what kind of coffee you like
Medium roast, Ethiopian, single origin, blend? Lots of words going on there. Allow me to give you a little insight in the mind of a coffee roaster.
Coffee comes from many countries, each offering tastes notes unique to that region. On top of that, growing conditions, species variety and a load of other stuff can affect what you taste in your coffee. As such, different roast levels can be used by roasteries to bring out the best of those flavours. If a Brazilian coffee has some particularly banging milk chocolate flavours, the roastery might roast it a little darker to hit those notes. On the flip side, a coffee with delicate floral tastes would be roasted nice a light to amplify those flavours over toasty roasty ones, like you'd get from a darker roast.
There's really only one way to determine what kind of coffee you like. Drink a wide variety! You may have spent a lifetime drinking dark Italian roasts only to discover that you're mad about the subtle tea-like, high acidity to be found in a lightly roasted Rwandan coffee. Put yourself out there, don't be afraid and you'll soon know EXACTLY what you want. How satisfying.
5. Use your brewing time wisely
The five minutes it may take you to brew your coffee can be the best five minutes of your work from home day. Step away from the laptop, turn Loose Women off, breathe.
Whether you're a master of mindfulness or not, taking the time to concentrate on what you're doing, to a delicious and rewarding end is time very well spent. Be aware of what is happening as you brew, smell the coffee just as it's been freshly ground, add your water in a steady, controlled pour, you want this to be the best cup of coffee possible, right? Watch that glorious steam rising, with all the promise of happiness in a few moments time.
It may just be coffee, but it can be so much more than that. Particularly when the more mundane things in life are now the most prominent.
Follow these steps and you won't even miss the coffeeshop. You'll have your own and it will be perfect.