How to make the perfect cup of joe at home

Brew’s up Although Starbucks and the like may have reopened where you are, why not continue to recreate your favorite coffee at home and save a few dollars in the process? From an arty espresso to a fancy frappé, get your caffeine fix whenever you want it with these […]


Although Starbucks and the like may have reopened where you are, why not continue to recreate your favorite coffee at home and save a few dollars in the process? From an arty espresso to a fancy frappé, get your caffeine fix whenever you want it with these top tips for a perfect brew.



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As with so much food and drink, you get out what you put in. Good coffee begins with good beans so decide what you want from your cup. How much caffeine do you want? How strong do you like your coffee? Once you start getting into grinding your own beans, you’ll want to know where your coffee was grown and where (and when) it was roasted.



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You don’t need to be an expert on coffee beans – just look out for speciality coffee. There are plenty of coffee stores and online shops which are proud to boast about their credentials as to how, where and why they source their coffee beans. They will cater for different tastes so try out a selection.



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Essentially there are two groups of coffee varieties: arabica and robusta. Robusta contains almost twice the amount of caffeine as arabica and has a more bitter taste. Most robusta is used for instant coffee. Arabica, on the other hand, is more expensive, grown at altitude and harder to cultivate. It’s fruitier, smoother and softer than robusta. But ultimately it’s a matter of personal taste.



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In the past, Italian or French-style dark roasts dominated the coffee scene. These days, baristas are more careful to preserve the bean’s delicate and complex flavors, which are best revealed in lighter or medium roasts.



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It’s possible to source green (unroasted) beans with a one-year shelf life. Roast in small batches using a simple work-top roaster or in a pan on the hob to guarantee maximum freshness, some bragging rights and the joy of a properly personalized brew. Just be sure to open the windows as the fumes can be toxic in very high doses.



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We don’t mean count them out but buy an affordable set of scales to weigh your beans. Once you’ve mastered your perfect strength, you’ll then be able to repeat the feat again and again. If you prefer to roast a larger batch, make sure you store the beans in an airtight container and keep it in a dark cupboard.



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Beans lose their aroma and flavor rapidly after being ground. Again, storing in an airtight container will extend the shelf life and preserve flavor. Affordable hand-grinders let you adjust to suit different preparation methods while high-end automatics weigh out directly into the espresso portafilter with remarkable accuracy.



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The jury is still out whether water hardness or softness is good for your brew. There’s a coffee shop in Milan that imports its (hard) water from Naples to make what they think is the perfect espresso. That aside, fresh water makes for a better coffee, so refresh your coffee machine’s water tank each day that you use it. Hard water can fur up your machine, especially if you use a pod system, so use filtered water in that case.



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Most coffee beans react best to hot water that’s not boiling (though some argue that boiled and slightly cooled water helps deal with hard water and other impurities). Boiling water scorches the grounds and will result in a bitter cup of coffee. You may have seen a similar effect if you pour just-boiled water over green tea, which makes a bitter cup as the heat brings out the tannins.



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Whether you add sugar or not, is a matter of personal taste. Strong Italian espresso can be quite bitter so the sweetness from a touch of sugar helps to balance it out. If your coffee is more floral and smooth, try it without.



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The simplest kit available for an espresso-like coffee at home is a stovetop pot. You’ll find one of these cheap coffee makers in many homes across Europe. After use, rinse lightly without scrubbing – the idea is that the residues that build up over time impact the coffee with a richer flavor in the cup.



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The pourover method consists of a jug, plastic filter and paper filters to line it. It’s quick and easy to use with minimum mess. Allow the boiled water in the kettle to sit for a minute, then slowly pour over the coffee. Once the coffee is soaked, give it 30 seconds, then continue to pour in a steady stream. Allow all the water to drip through before serving.



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One for the warmer months, and equally useful for coffee-flavored cocktails, cold brew coffee makes for a great chilled caffeine fix. Pour cold water over the coffee, leave overnight in the fridge and enjoy the next day over ice, with or without milk and sugar. Use it for an espresso martini or for a Vietnamese twist, add condensed milk.



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The best all-in-one machines can often cost the price of a small car. However, the convenience of one-touch latte, espresso and cappuccino, along with built-in measurement and grinding, is hard to beat.



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This is one for the real coffee geeks and looks more like a science experiment. Although fiddly to use and easily broken, a syphon coffee maker will add some welcome glamor to your weekend brew. It uses a system of heating and cooling to push water vapors from the bottom part into the upper chamber, where it mixes with ground coffee and is then pulled back down as brewed coffee. The payoff is in the light and bright taste.



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When made well, a long black can reveal the true character of coffee beans. Make it by pouring a shot, or double shot, of espresso into 200ml (6.7floz) of water. It’s different to an americano where the water is poured over espresso.



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Using an espresso machine, around 14 to 18g (0.5oz) of coffee, extracted for around 25 to 32 seconds between 194 to 205°F (90 to 96°C) will produce a double espresso suited to most coffee-lovers’ tastes.



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There are myriad ways to enjoy your perfectly brewed espresso and this diagram helps show the approximate proportions for the most popular styles.



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A cappuccino is an espresso topped with steamed and frothed milk, and according to Italian tradition, best enjoyed before 11am. After that, it should be espresso all the way – for the Italians, that is!



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For a fuller-bodied coffee with less milk, try a flat white. Make an espresso as usual and top with steamed milk. If there’s too much froth on the milk, just bang the jug on your worktop to eliminate excess air.



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Try creating your own latte art at home. Once you get the knack of it, you’ll find it’s incredibly easy as well as satisfying – just think how impressed your friends and family will be. Read on for our top tips…



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


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