Step 1: Buy Good Coffee...
It goes without saying, you can not make good coffee with low quality coffee beans. First things first, buy good coffee here.
Some people are under the impression that the difference between speciality coffee and “normal” coffee, is just a fancy label or a fancy bag. This really isn’t the case.
The difference between speciality coffee and commodity coffee (aka normal coffee), is even more real than the difference between “fine wine” and “cheap plonk” or “craft beer”
Step 2: Grind Your Own Coffee...
Grinding your own coffee is what really makes the biggest difference to the quality in the cup. Literally as soon as coffee beans are ground, they start to lose their freshness and we're talking from the second they’re ground, not hours or days.
All of the good stuff is within the structure of the coffee bean. Once it’s roasted and then ground, so much more of this good stuff in the coffee is exposed to the air. A lot of these compounds, including many of the compounds that deliver coffee’s flavour, aren’t going to be as potent after they’ve been ground and sat in a bag for a while.
So, buy a grinder and taste the difference.
Step 3: Choose Your Tools!
There are many ways to get the perfect cup, depending on your own preferences, these are some of our favourite ways and if you're starting out, you're in the right place!
Bean to Cup Espresso Machines.
If you want espresso at home, but you don’t want to embark on a hobby, then bean to cup may be the way forward for you. The lowest priced bean to cup coffee machine that I have had experience with, and I know is OK, is the De’Longhi Magnifica ESAM 4200. You’ll often see this available for around £300 or just under, and given that this includes the grinder and the espresso machine, it really is a low price.
Traditional Espresso Machines.
With a traditional espresso machine, you have an espresso machine and a
separate grinder. There are also integrated espresso machines such as the Sage Barista Express & Sage Barista Touch, which are not bean to cup machines (even though bean to cup machines also have integrated grinders, there’s more required to make a machine a bean to cup).
Most people reading this post though, are likely to be thinking of semi automatic espresso machines when they think of home espresso machines. These machines have a pump to produce the shot pressure, instead of using a lever & a piston.
A lot of people looking for an espresso machine on a budget, will just buy what appears to be a fairly low cost espresso machine, spending in the region of £50 – £100, and many will buy pre-ground coffee. As discussed earlier, pre-ground is a no-no if you want to make good coffee from home – and in my humble opinion, most of these cheap espresso machines are not worth bothering with either. If you’re going to spend £50-£100, you’ll get a lot more for your money in terms of quality in the cup, with other brew methods discussed in this post, than you would with espresso.
Filter Coffee Machines.
We do like a nice cup of filter coffee – as long as its great coffee of course, freshly roasted, and freshly ground.
Some people will associate filter coffee machines with bitter tasting coffee. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that most people who’ve experienced coffee via a filter coffee machine, have experienced commodity coffee, not speciality coffee – and, pre-ground. In addition, many people have drank filter coffee which has been sitting in the carafe on the hot plate, and some hot plates on earlier filter machines were pretty hot, which led to jugs of coffee getting more & more bitter the longer they sat for.
The Aerobi Aeropress was invented by the Aerodynamics expert Alan Adler, who invented the Aerobi flying ring and it has become an immensely popular brewer over the past 15 years.
The Aeropress is a really great little coffee brewer. It’s versatile, not only in terms of the various different recipes you can follow, but you can even use it in various different ways, namely the standard or inverted method. The standard method simply involves putting the Aeropress on top of the cup, putting in the ground coffee, pouring in the water, stirring (with the stirring paddle that it comes with) and then plunging. The inverted method on the other hand, involves starting off with the plunger engaged, upside down, and leaving the coffee to brew or steep, for however long the recipe dictates.
With your own grinder, and great quality coffee beans, you’ll be able to make really good coffee at home with the Aeropress, with very little learning involved. We'd recommend using brew scales so you can try specific brew ratios and follow different recipes properly.
Cafetiere or French Press.
The cafetiere is a coffee brewers already present in many UK kitchens, so this suggestion may well not require any spending at all. Having said that, most people who own a cafetiere would use pre-ground coffee, so a grinder will be one purchase you’ll need to make if you want to make really good coffee from home with your cafetiere.
If you’re going for cafetiere, you’re going to be grinding more coarse than for most other brew methods. The courser the grind, the less grinding required, so grinding for cafetiere does make hand grinders a more obvious choice than with espresso for instance which takes quite a bit more effort.