What makes a great coffee?

#ViniDrinks, coffee

It wasn’t until recently that I began to really understand what really affects the way that a cup of coffee tastes. Simply, I thought that you just got some instant coffee out of the jar, poured boiling water over the top and added sugar and milk to taste; how wrong I was! I can imagine that this is the way a lot of people think a cup of coffee should should be made, but don’t worry, that is why I am writing this post, in an attempt to help all of the coffee lovers (and potential coffee lovers!) out there to understand how to make the most amazing cup of coffee in the comfort of your own home.

As one of the most popular drinks across the globe, I feel that everyone deserves to know how to make the most of how amazing coffee can be. I remember the cup of coffee that really opened my eyes to what coffee should really taste like. I was in London with a friend and I remembered that my brother (who is also a coffee lover, find him on Instagram and twitter @Essexcoffeeboy) had told me about this great coffee shop called Taylor St Baristas and what a good recommendation it was! I was used to the usual coffee houses that you find everywhere (like Starbucks) which is practically identical in every country all of which serve the same terrible coffee in each of them, so it was such a pleasure to go to an establishment that takes real pride in every cup of coffee that they make. Taylor St Baristas use coffee beans that have been roasted by Union Hand-Roasted Coffee to make the most amazing cups of coffee (I have since used Union Roasted coffee beans at home and they have all been AWESOME!). On that day I ordered my first ever flat white (a double espresso topped up with steamed milk) and a large americano (a double espresso topped with boiling water) and it was this order that changed my view on coffee and how complex and flavourful it can be, it was that very day that has led me on this journey with the ambitions I have for my future! It is crazy what can happen over a cup of coffee!

Ever since my experience in Taylor St Baristas, I have been on a mission to try and create better coffee at home than I could buy in a regular coffee house. After a lot of research and experimentation I have comprised a list of 5 key elements that when followed can help you produce amazing coffee at home. I hope the following list helps better your understanding of coffee and how to treat it to get the best possible cup that you can:

Coffee Beans

Starting with the obvious, buying the best coffee beans that you can get your hands on will improve your coffee by leaps and bounds. There are a lot of amazing roasteries out there that produce wonderful coffee beans that have been sourced from all of the world, tried, tested and then roasted on their own sites. As mentioned earlier, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee are an amazing roastery based in London, that offer an array of coffee that they have sourced and roasted themselves. I recommend purchasing whole beans and grinding them yourself as the shorter the time between the coffee being ground and the coffee being used the better your coffee will taste, but if you do not have a burr grinder (see further down the page) then try to use up the ground coffee within a week. Good coffee roasters will usually state the date that your bag of coffee beans were roasted on (on the packet), this is really helpful as you should use your coffee within a week of it being roasted and to help keep it as fresh as possible store it in the freezer between uses. I tend to buy smaller bags of coffee more frequently (than large bags less frequently) just so that my coffee keeps as fresh as possible. Buying from high quality roasteries will more than often mean that the trade of this coffee has been done under Fairtrade conditions. This is of utmost importance to me and I urge you to always buy Fairtrade coffee and support the hard work the farmers do to produce the coffee and to make sure that they are not being exploited as coffee plays such an important role in the economy of some of the least developed countries in the world.

Filtered Water

I know that this is probably stating the obvious again, but using filtered/bottled water will really help the taste of the coffee to come through properly. Just think, water is the main ingredient in a cup of coffee so it is important to use water that will have as little impurities in it as possible.

Water Temperature

The temperature of the water used is vital to how your cup of coffee will taste. If the temperature of the water is too low then the water will not extract the coffee properly leaving a weak taste and a temperature too high will burn the coffee which results in a very bitter taste and a very unpleasant coffee experience. I have found that using a water temperature of between 90-95 C extracts the coffee fully without burning the grounds. You can use a thermometer to be very accurate but, alternatively you can boil the kettle and leave it to sit for 30 seconds to a minute to allow the water to cool down to the required temperature. These days you can get kettles that regulate the temperature of your water which makes things much easier!

Use a Burr Grinder

A burr grinder is a grinder that uses two abrasive surfaces to grind your coffee to the desired grind size. Burr grinders are the best way of grinding your coffee as it produces much less friction and heat whilst grinding in comparison to a blade grinder; this is extremely important in retaining all of the flavour from the fresh beans. Also, a burr grinder will give you the most uniform grind for all types of coffee extraction, again in comparison to a blade grinder which creates a very uneven grind. Consistently sized grounds will allow for even extraction whereas an uneven grind will produce bitter and sour notes in the coffee as each ground size will have been extracted differently. You can purchase electric burr grinders but also handheld grinders (for a small amount of money) which are perfect for making coffee at home. To get the best out of your coffee, I highly recommend purchasing a burr grinder.

Water – Coffee Ratio

The water to coffee ratio used is important in producing the most delicious tasting cup of coffee possible. I have found that using a ratio of 1:17 (1g coffee to 17ml water) is a great starting point for brewing coffee at home. For example, for a regular cup of coffee I will use 17g of coffee and 289ml of water (17×17=289). The easiest way of achieving this is by using a set of scales; I know it may seem over the top, but trust me, it will really make a difference to the taste of your coffee. Once you have gotten more experience with making coffee in this way and using different brewing methods, you can play around with this ratio to get different flavours from your coffee, but the 1:17 ratio is a great place to start.

 I hope this guide helps you make the best coffee that you can! Let me know what you think and how you love to make your coffee. 🙂

 

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3 thoughts on “What makes a great coffee?

  1. The first ever Taylor St Baristas was in Richmond, SW London, where I live, and has been my favourite, most-visited coffeehouse for 4 years. It’s just gone totally independent and the manager bought it out so changed its name … but it’s still the same great coffee, still the same great people … and still my favourite coffeehouse!! I’m there at least once a day but often two. Was so weird to see you writing about them. Good coffee tips!!

    1. That is amazing! I love Tylor St Baristas and it is really cool that you go there twice a day! I wish I had a place here in Gibraltar that served as good a coffee as Taylor St and that I could visit twice a day 🙂 I will definitely be visiting again when I next come back to the UK. Thank you for your comment.

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