Top brewing tips from our experts
One of the joys of speciality coffee is experimenting with different ways to brew it.
Each method brings out different characteristics in the coffee, so it's often worth trying
several methods with the same coffee to see what works best for you. (We also have to admit
it's quite fun to have a cupboard full of wonderful gadgets to impress your friends...)
Here are a few pointers to getting that perfect brew:
Ahh, the trusty old cafetière. French for 'coffee maker', appropriately enough. You might have one in the back of your cupboard somewhere. Well, time to get it out: it’s a great way to start brewing at home, and gives you a heavier body and complex flavour profile.
Flick the kettle on. Once boiled, preheat your cafetiére by pouring in some boiling water and giving it a swirl. Discard the water.
If you're grinding your own beans, go for a medium-to-coarse grind (slightly finer than rock salt). Use around 7g of ground coffee per cup. For an 8-cup cafetiére , use a little more: 55-60g in total. No scales? Just use one heaped dessert spoon per cup. Pour your grounds into the cafetiére.
Pour some just-off boiling water (ideally 92-96 degrees) over the dry coffee and saturate all the grounds. Let it steep for four minutes, with the plunger cap on, but not pressed down (that'll stop the heat escaping).
Remove the plunger then stir three times. Replace the plunger, and carefully plunge at a consistent pace. For best results, decant the finished brew.
Pour over (V60)
Simple, clean, accessible. If you're just getting into coffee, drip brewing is a great place to start. You'll probably have seen someone using a hand-brew dripper before - an inverted cone-shaped funnel slowly draining extracted coffee through a filter.
This single-cup brewing method is commonplace in coffee houses around the world and produces a lighter bodied, delicate brew with high clarity of flavour. It's a way to brew more professionally, without being too tricky, so you can really start to understand the subtle nuances of speciality coffee.
First, fold your paper filter along the seam and into a cone. Put the cone in your V60 (which should be sitting on top of a cup or jug). Rinse the filter by pouring hot water through it and into the cup (then tip out the excess).
Now place 15g of coffee in the cone and gently shake flat. You need a medium to fine grind – like caster sugar.
Put your V60 and cup (or jug) on the scale. Start a timer. Pour in 50g of water, covering all the coffee, making it bloom.
After 30 seconds pour in 150g of water. Pour in concentric circles, into the coffee itself (not the sides of the filter paper!).
After 60 seconds, pour in 50g more water. At 90 seconds, add another 50g. All your water (250g of it) should be in by the 90-second mark. Now, let it drip until finished.
Your brew should be done within two to three minutes. If it’s taking longer than expected, coarsen the grind next time. If it’s running short, go finer.
Pour over (Clever dripper)
The Clever Dripper – a simple method of making a great filter coffee. All the wonderful flavour and body of a full immersion brew, all the purity of the humble pour over. It’s simpler than the V60, so if you’re new to the coffee game, it’s a great place to start. Even the cafes are starting to catch on.
To get going, open the valve, and rinse through your paper filter. Close the valve and put 15g of your coffee in the filter paper. Grind should be medium to fine – similar to caster sugar. Give it a shake to level it out.
Pour in 250g/ml of water (ideally at 94°C) and stir three times, saturating all the grounds. Make sure you’re always pouring the water directly into the coffee, and not down the sides of the filter paper (this is where a Hario Kettle comes in handy!).
Put on the lid, and let it steep for two minutes. Place your Clever Dripper on a cup or jug and open the valve. Allow all the water to pass through the coffee bed. Enjoy.)
(If your brew’s taking longer than expected, coarsen the grind. If it zipped through too fast, try a finer grind.)
Pour over (Chemex)
A wine decanter? Not quite. This contraption is the wonderfully charming Chemex. Invented by Peter Schlumbohm in 1941, the design has remained largely unchanged. Great for entertaining – it makes a lot of coffee in a clean, light-medium bodied brew, and looks good while doing it.
Fold your paper into quarters. Place the tripled layered section of the filter paper on the spout side of the glass jar. Give it a rinse through with hot water, then tip away the excess.
Place 25g of medium ground coffee (in between Demerara sugar and rock salt consistency) into the filter paper. Level it out with a gentle shake. Put it all on your scale.
Start a timer, then pour 50g of water (at 94°C) into the grounds until they’re saturated. Watch them bloom.
After 30 seconds, pour in 150g more water. Then at 90 seconds, add 200g more. All your water (400g) should be in by the 90-second mark. Now, let it finish dripping.
After four minutes, your brew should be good to go. (If your brew is taking longer than expected, coarsen the grind. Or try a finer grind if the extraction’s running short.)
The AeroPress is a relative newbie in the coffee game. It’s an innovative, manually powered little gadget that’s a cheap, low-maintenance way of making a great filter. Great for travelling, the Aeropress gives a medium bodied brew with a relatively complex flavour profile.
Our method is a hack. It’s a little more complicated than the standard modus operandi, but it’s cleaner and significantly more controlled.
Place a clean dry filter paper in the Aeropress cap and secure it to the body. Place the body over your cup, with the cap down.
Flush the contraption with hot water. This will preheat the vessel and rinse the filter paper. Empty the water from your cup.
Put 15g of your ground coffee in the Aeropress body. (You need a medium to fine grind - like caster sugar.)
Pour in water, saturating all the grounds. Stir it – quickly! – a couple of times.
At an angle, carefully insert the plunger. Once it’s in, pull it up slightly to create a vacuum.
After 90 seconds of steeping, start the plunge. You might have to push a little – watch out for the cup below. The extraction should take around 30 seconds.
The traditional espresso machine. Available in an array of aesthetically pleasing designs. Moustachioed barista optional.
If you’re lucky enough to have a fully fledged espresso machine to experiment on, making minor adjustments to any of the steps below will affect the fullness, richness, and intensity of the cup. Expect a deep, concentrated, intense coffee, that also goes great with milk.
Remove the portafilter from the group head – twist from right to left until it dislodges. Flush the grouphead for two to three seconds.
Empty the portafilter (if it isn’t already empty) and make sure there isn’t any leftover residue or moisture.
Measure up your coffee: use scales for exact results - experiment between 17-19g. You need a very fine grind, like flour. Pop the coffee in the portafilter, level it out with a light shake or a dosing tool.
Tamp the coffee: use a hand tamper to firmly compress the grounds and level them out. This will force out any air pockets and create a longer extraction process.
Clean the rim of the portafilter and spouts, and purge the grouphead. Lock the portafilter into the grouphead by twisting it from left to right, and select the cup.
As soon as the portafilter is in, start the water flow. You have three to five seconds to put the cup under the spouts. Keep an eye on the extraction time of your espresso – this will vary according to taste. When your espresso’s poured, stop the water flow.
Like milk? Steaming gives you luscious body and extra sweetness. To do this, fill your milk jug between one third to two thirds full – to the bottom of the spout.
Purge the steam wand to remove any condensed milk.
Put the steam wand just under the surface of the milk and slightly off centre. Turn on the steam and listen for the hiss. Gradually move the jug down until there’s enough micro foam. This is called stretching. Don’t let the milk reach body temperature!
Time to texture. Use the spout as an anchor and move the jug up slightly to force the steam wand down, creating a vortex. When the jug gets bit too hot to hold that means it’s at 60-65°C. Stop texturing. (Blast steam through the wand to clean it.)
Tap your milk jug on the side to remove any surface bubbles, then swirl to mix the foam with the liquid. By this point your milk should be shiny, like wet paint. That’s why this stage is called polishing. Pour – and enjoy.