21 Oct The best way to make a coffee
Without a doubt, the best way to make a coffee is in the comfort of your own home.
Once you understand the basic principles of what makes up the perfect cup of coffee you will find it very hard to pay £3 or more for a coffee in your local coffee shop.
Not only can you make coffee at home that is far superior to anything you have ever tasted in Starbucks or Costa but you can do it for a fraction of the price. Making coffee at home is better and cheaper.
There are 3 key things that you need to take into account in order to brew a coffee that you will love and savour. All 3 are extremely simple yet super effective and make a massive difference.
Bring them all together and you will be in coffee heaven. I have been there for some time and it’s a great place to be.
None of the 3 key elements are more important than the other but doing the wrong thing with any one of them will directly impact the others and will affect the overall quality of your coffee so it’s really important to do the right thing with all of them.
Once you combine the right brewing method with the right coffee and the right water you’ll find yourself making an awful lot more coffee at home because you won’t believe the difference it makes to the flavour.
1. The best water for making coffee
Crucial to getting the best-tasting coffee is to not use tap water.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking tap water in terms of it being better or worse for you than any other type of water but in the UK the treatment process for water prior to it coming through your taps at home involves a lot of chemicals.
Although tap water is perfectly safe to drink, the flavour is dramatically affected by the treatment process.
You can see the water treatment process from Thames Water that makes water drinkable before it comes out of your tap.
Starbucks uses a very powerful 3 stage filtration system to purify tap water to get it to the quality that they believe makes a great cup of coffee.
It would be too expensive to replicate the filtration process that Starbucks use but you can remove all of the impurities that come in tap water yourself by either filtering the tap water yourself by using something like a Brita water filter or by using spring water.
Either one of these is absolutely fine but personally I go down the road of using Spring water.
Don’t fall into the trap of buying anything other than the cheapest 2-litre bottle of Spring water from the supermarket.
At the time of writing, I buy the 2-litre bottle of Spring water from Tesco for 17p and it tastes a world apart from tap water.
A double espresso should contain approximately 60ml of liquid once the coffee has been extracted into your cup so if you use that as an example then you will get around 30 double espressos for 17p which is well under 1p per cup if you buy a 17p 2-litre bottle of spring water.
Even if you enjoy a tall Americano, buying Spring water that is free from all of the limescale and chlorine flavours that are present in tap water is literally going to cost you pennies per cup.
Considering that you will pay £3 or more in a coffee shop for filtered water that goes into your cup of coffee, spending 1p-3p per cup on the water that goes into your coffee at home is a great investment for the flavour that you get out of it.
To put it into context how important the water is, coffee is approximately 90% water if you drink it black and if you add milk to create a cappuccino or latte the milk is around 87% water.
The vast majority of what you are drinking is water so it’s important to use the best tasting and purest water you can get your hands on.
Don’t bother with the premium branded bottled water like Evian because the vast majority of the amount of money you pay for these brands is for the marketing they use to try and persuade you that its better than the other bottled water. Someone has to pay for all the advertising that they do and that ends up being you, the consumer.
You will never see Tesco advertising their 17p Spring water because they don’t actually want you to buy it because there is no money in it for them but they offer it so that you go in and buy other stuff that they do make money on.
We have an article specifically explaining the benefits of choosing the right water for coffee:
2. What coffee makes the best cup of coffee?
Choosing the right coffee is critical to achieving coffee heaven and the good news is that there are hundreds to choose from.
If you go to a coffee shop you get a choice of one – the house blend. It tends to be a medium to dark roast and everyone just accepts that as ok.
What if you don’t like the only option that is given to you? You have no choice so it’s either like it or lump it.
If you went to a restaurant and they only had one thing on the menu then you would leave and go somewhere else so you should apply the same principle with coffee shops.
Ask yourself if you actually like the coffee that you are paying good money for and if the answer is no or you think that you could do better then make your coffee at home and choose from a huge selection of different types of coffee that will suit your palette.
Coffee is a very personal thing and what someone else likes may not be what you like.
I don’t like coriander or parsley but lots of people do. Think of a food that you don’t like and that could be the same as the dark roast coffee that they serve you up in one of the high street coffee shops.
Maybe you like a light roast instead of a dark roast and maybe you like coffee from Ethiopia or Costa Rica instead of from Brazil or Columbia.
Only you can answer what coffee makes the best tasting cup of coffee because it depends on what you like.
Here is some information on different coffee roast types:
There are a few other things to take into consideration as well as the type of coffee you buy.
Coffee is prepared in different ways to make it more convenient to make, so what are the pros and cons of the different types of coffee you can buy?
If you are serious about making a great cup of coffee then avoid instant. The coffee is often of a much poorer quality than the other types of coffee you can buy.
Believe it or not, it has also been pre-brewed and freeze-dried months before which removes a lot of the flavour.
It’s still the most popular coffee bought in the UK but over time more people are becoming aware of the benefits of buying one of the other types of coffee.
Here is a detailed article that explains exactly how instant coffee is made:
Pre-ground is a much better option than instant because it’s whole coffee beans that have been pre-ground ready to be brewed using your method of choice.
Its vacuumed packed as soon as possible after grinding to retain as much flavour as possible.
If you want convenience and don’t want to get involved with grinding the beans yourself then pre-ground is an option that is better than instant but certainly nowhere near as good as our recommended choice for the best way to make a coffee.
Whole coffee beans
By far the best type of coffee to use to achieve the best flavour is whole coffee beans.
The fresher coffee is, the better it will taste. Instant is months old and has been frozen so you will naturally get a poor-quality product.
Pre-ground has come directly from whole coffee beans but as soon as coffee is ground, it starts to lose its flavour.
The reason why coffee shops grind beans just before brewing your coffee is because that is how you get the maximum amount of flavour.
Always grind your own coffee beans at home to get the best possible cup of coffee.
If you have never ground your own beans before, it could not be simpler and it is also very affordable.
This article explains all of your options when it comes to grinding your own coffee:
This article explains in more difference the different types of coffee you can buy:
Water to coffee ratio
It’s important to get the right balance between water and coffee to get the best flavour.
Too much water and you risk a weak and flavourless coffee and too little water and it will be far too strong and overpowering.
What’s right for you comes down to personal taste and the brewing method you are using but if you are not sure and want to experiment to find the right balance then there are some accepted guidelines that are a good starting point.
If you are using a cafetière or a filter coffee machine then around 60 grams of coffee for every 1 litre is a good starting point.
For espresso machines you want around 60ml of water for a double espresso.
Here is an article that explains in detail:
Once you have some good spring water and some freshly ground coffee beans all that is left is to choose a brewing method and you are on your way to coffee that is better than a coffee shop.
3. What’s the best coffee brewing method?
There are two main ways to make a good cup of coffee. One of them is filtration and the other is pressure.
The filtration method allows the coffee to mix with the water for longer whilst the pressure method forces the water quickly through the coffee at high pressure.
One method is not better than the other. They just produce different flavours. It’s become fashionable in recent years to buy drinks in coffee shops like cappuccino or latte’s that use the pressure method but some experts would argue that you can achieve a more refined and tasty cup of coffee using a coffee maker that uses the filtration method.
Whilst there are many different ways to make a cup of coffee we are going to exclude specialist manual pour over methods like Chemex.
They take a lot of preparation time and although they can produce a very good quality beverage, few people have the time to spend 15-20 minutes manually preparing a coffee.
These are the top 5 methods for making the best coffee possible and from a time perspective range from the press of a single button up to about 5 minutes.
1. Filter coffee machines
This is one of the most underrated methods to brew a very good quality cup of coffee and uses the filtration method.
Simply add some ground coffee (remember to grind the beans yourself just before brewing) into the filter basket, press the start button and within a few minutes, your freshly brewed coffee will start dripping into the jug below.
If you are moving away from instant coffee then this is a great low-cost way to experience great-tasting coffee.
At the most basic level you can pick one up for under £20 and the price starts to climb as you add more features.
This article explains all of the different types:
2. POD coffee machines
POD Coffee machines have become all the rage over the last 10-15 years for one huge reason – convenience.
You can make a coffee with a pod machine quicker than you can make an instant coffee.
Pop in a pod, press the button and within 60 seconds your coffee is delivered. You can get machines that will make you a cappuccino or latte with the touch of a button.
Normally with convenience you have to make some compromises and it’s no different with pod coffee machines.
These machines use capsules with pre-ground coffee and therefore you are compromising on coffee freshness so it’s not going to give you the best possible tasting coffee but if you choose wisely then it can come pretty close.
Here is a guide on how best to choose this type of coffee machine:
3. Espresso coffee machines
If you are happy to spend a few minutes making a coffee then one of the best value for money ways of doing it is with a pump espresso machine.
You get to control all of the variables that make up a great cup of coffee such as the quantity of coffee, grind fineness, tamping pressure and water delivery.
These types of machines are normally thought of as specialist, top-end coffee machines but if you are just starting out then you can pick one up that makes a good cappuccino or latte for under £100.
Here are examples of some great value for money espresso machines and stovetop coffee makers:
4. Bean to cup coffee machines
If you want to combine convenience with freshness then you can consider indulging yourself with a bean to cup coffee machine.
These machines will grind whole coffee beans for you when you want a coffee without any intervention from you.
Press one button and the beans will be ground, the coffee tamped, and water forced through the coffee at high pressure and into the cup ready for you to add milk if required.
Depending on how much money you are prepared to spend you can get them with a milk carafe as well so you don’t even need to heat the milk yourself and it will deliver a cappuccino or latte straight into your cup with the press of just one button.
Here is a detailed article explaining how to choose this type of machine.
5. Stovetop and cafetière
Last but not least, one of the lowest cost ways to make a really good cup of coffee is with a cafetière or stovetop coffee maker.
Cafetière’s mix the coffee with water for a few minutes and then you plunge down and enjoy. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enjoy good coffee.
If you want to make espresso-based drinks without using a coffee machine then you can opt for a stovetop espresso machine.
Simply add some ground coffee to a basket that sits above the water and pop it onto the hob. Within a few minutes the water gets forced through the basket and into the jug to produce a super easy, inexpensive way to better coffee.
You are now fully equipped to make an outstanding cup of coffee.
With the right water combined with the right coffee and a suitable coffee maker, coffee paradise awaits.