freshly roasted coffee beans padstow

Five things you need to know to brew better coffee at home…

Because life is too short to drink rank coffee – am I right?  Of course I am.  My dirty secret is that, despite owning somewhere that has a well-earned reputation for knocking out excellent coffee, I was very lazy about my coffee making habits at home.  I even *takes a deep breath* used to say nothing…N-O-T-H-I-N-G when Mary added a bag of some awful pre-ground coffee to our Tescos shopping – I feel so ashamed.

But, praise the beans, a few months ago I went on a morning course about brewing better coffee at home run by local coffee guru, Hugo Hercod from Rising Ground Coffee.  As the former UK Barista Champ and one of the top ten baristas in the world, he’s our very own Obean-wan-Kenobi if you will.  A few simple tips have transformed my coffee-making at home and I asked if he could distill his teachings into five, easy to follow steps.  

So here you have it.  Five tips. Minimal faff. Awesome coffee.  Over to Hugo…

Buy better coffee.
It sounds obvious but that means avoiding anything from a supermarket (a good rule of thumb where everything apart from toiletries are concerned). Good coffee is fully traceable; as well as its country and region of origin, it will often show farm/wash station name, bean varietal and processing method as well as a ‘Roasted On’ date, not just a ‘Best Before’. Look out for the term ‘speciality’, which is the good stuff grown, processed and selected for it’s quality. It will cost more, but you’re worth it.

(Hugo was too modest to add a link to his own coffee company, so here it is…

Buy a grinder.
Pre-ground coffee is stale, so buy your coffee in whole bean form and only grind it as you need it. In terms of flavour, it’s the single most important thing you can do. It’ll stay fresher for longer and you’ll be able to grind it to precisely the right consistency for your brew method. There are two sorts of grinder, Burr and blade. Burr grinders are like pepper mills, they produce an even grind which is good for an even extraction. Blade grinders smash the beans into powder and lumps which is bad, bad, bad.. and please don’t use your spice grinder.

(We bought a small Wilfa grinder available from Relish in Wadebridge.  Quiet, fast and effective).

Store it properly.
The enemies of good coffee are oxygen, moisture, light and time. So buy your coffee in smaller quantities, store it like biscuits in an airtight, lightproof jar at room temperature and make sure to drink it within a month of opening the bag. Don’t whatever you do store it in your fridge or freezer, you wouldn’t do that to biscuits would you?

(This is going to sound like a blatant Rising Ground marketing pitch now, but they sell excellent storage tins with a clever one way valve to keep things fresh.  They pass Mary’s “counter-top aesthetics” test too).

Follow a recipe.
Drink great coffee every morning by following a tried and tested recipe.I brew using a Clever Dripper, 25g of coffee, 400ml of water, 30 – 50 seconds of bloom and 3 – 5 minutes of brew (depending on freshness) using soft Cornish water at 93 – 95°C. That’ll change with a different coffee and brew kit but the important thing is I won’t guestimate, especially at 0630.

(Like, Hugo I favour the Clever Dripper and you can buy them at… you get the drift by now.  But you can also up the ante with Hugo’s simple recipe for your cafetiere – because everyone has one of those in the cupboard:  Put 49g of course ground coffee into your cafetiere.  Add 100ml of  water at 93 – 95°C, stir and leave to “bloom” for 30 seconds (blooming allows any remaining CO2 to gently bubble away), fill vigorously with remaining 600ml of water, leave for 2 minutes, stir gently, leave for two minutes, gently plunge then pour). (A ratio of  70g of coffee to 1L of water works well if you’d like to adjust the recipe to larger/smaller cafetiere).

Don’t buy an espresso machine.
I know you want a nice cappuccino in the morning, just like you get in your favourite café. But unless you are willing to spend a lot of money on kit, waste a lot of coffee, get frustrated, disappointed and drink lots of bad cappuccinos, don’t buy an espresso machine for your kitchen. Buy a decent grinder and accurate scales and spend what you’ve saved on better coffee. There are dozens of ways to brew coffee at home, the simplest are often the best.

(What sort of numpty would buy an under-powered, pretty little espresso machine and expect to make coffee shop grade flat whites at home!  Pffft … shuffles from one foot to the other avoiding eye contact*).