We think making a great cuppa is an art form. But like any art, there are a few basics you need to familiarise yourself with before diving into a little bit of expressionism of your own. Here are some the most important tips you need to know if you’re serious about getting a great cup at home.
No matter what type of method you use to make your brew, the cleanliness of your equipment is of paramount importance. Stale coffee oils oxidize and go rancid and burnt coffee tastes bitter. Even a little grub can wipe the sensitive top notes off your coffee’s aroma.
Freshness makes a huge difference, coffee is a very perishable product. You’ll know when you’ve got really fresh coffee because it naturally produces a lot of CO2 which carries the lovely aromas for a ride through your home or office. You’ll know when it happens, it’s hard to miss.
Storing your coffee is really a matter of choosing the least of the evils. There is no storage substitute for buying fresh coffee frequently. Do your best to keep it in an airtight container in a cool dark place, unrifrigirated. Coffee absorbs smells very easily and if your container was used to freeze pasta sauce in it at some point, you will know about it.
Grinding freshly as you need the coffee makes a huge difference. As a bean, the surface area to volume of the coffee is very low so in effect it’s a good package in itself. As soon as you grind the coffee the surface area ratio goes through the roof and the bean is literally opened up to oxidization. The fact that the grinding heats up the coffee speeds up the process. So invest in a grinder and keep it clean. The blades on the grinder will go blunt and instead
of slicing sections off the beans the blades will smash them and cause a lot of friction and heat.
You’ll know when you’re doing everything right and the coffee tastes bland and burnt at the
same time that it’s time to get new blades. On espresso machines in particular you’ll also
notice that the crema on your espresso goes a paler blond colour, it should be a hazel brown.
Water temperature has a big effect on extracting the falvours from the coffee. You don’t want
to go past 90-93 Celcius. The coffee will burn. Just use your common sense to swing luck your way.
For example if you’re making a plunger let the water come off the boil before you pour it on and plunge
slowly. With a stove top espresso maker take it off the heat as soon as the coffee starts to spurt
out. With filter machines you can reduce one big negative by not letting the jug sit on the
hotplate for ages.