Making Coffee at Home

My shiny metal cafetiere (I got tired of breaking the glass ones!).I began my Making Coffee at Home series in March 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many people confined to their homes, and perhaps making coffee for the first time, I wanted to offer simple, practical advice about how to make great coffee. It’s still a work in progress, with new articles being added every Monday, along with a couple of older articles about storing coffee and roasting your own coffee at home thrown in for good measure!

Just to be clear, this series is not meant to be a definitive “how to make” set of features. There are far-better qualified people than me doing that, particularly since the start of COVID-19, with many roasters and baristas producing videos and articles on all aspects of making coffee. If you want somewhere to start and enjoy videos, I recommend subscribing to James Hoffman’s excellent YouTube channel. Alternative, old friends Carvetii Coffee Roasters, has a growing series of guides on its website.

Instead, my Coffee at Home series is meant to get you under way, particularly if you’ve not made coffee at home before or are looking to improve your coffee making. So, with that in mind, here are all the articles I’ve published so far.


Making Coffee at Home: Cafetiere

My shiny metal cafetiere (I got tired of breaking the glass ones!).With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing, most people will be making coffee at home for the foreseeable future. While I’m rather obsessive about my home coffee making (fancy scales, hand grinder, gooseneck kettle, multiple filter methods, espresso machine...) and even have my own travelling coffee kit, that’s not for this post. Rather, I’m going back to my coffee-making roots with the method I used before I got swallowed by the speciality coffee rabbit hole. Hopefully this will help anyone not used to making coffee at home.

So, rather than write about my AeroPress, V60 or Clever Dripper, this post is all about the humble cafetiere (aka French Press) which I still use to make my morning coffee every day. I find it a simple, reliable and, above all, forgiving way of making coffee. It’s also very scalable: using the same basic recipe you can make coffee for one person just as easily as you can for three or four (as long as you have a big enough cafetiere, of course). All you really need is coffee, a cafetiere, mug, kettle and a timer, although the most important thing you can add is a grinder, which will improve things immensely!

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Making Coffee at Home: Grinding

A comparison of different grind sizes from coarse (top left) to very fine (bottom right). The first three are ground with my feldgrind hand grinder: cafetiere (top left), V60 (top right), Aeropress (bottom left), while the fourth (bottom right) is my espresso grinder, ground for espresso in my Sage Barista Express.Last week I wrote about making coffee at home, using just a cafetiere and kettle. At the time, I said that the most important thing you can add is a grinder, so picking up on that, here’s a short post on the importance of grinding your own coffee at home, including some practical advice to help get you started.

The simple reason I advise everyone to grind their own coffee is that it tastes better! Coffee ages over time, slowly losing its taste, but ground coffee ages incredibly quickly (it’s to do with the amount of surface area exposed to the air). In contrast, whole beans keep much longer (and can be successfully frozen to further prolong their life). You then just grind the beans you need, ideally right before brewing, and off you go. You should notice an immediate improvement in taste.

Like many things in coffee, it can seem a little daunting at first, but grinding your own coffee needn’t be difficult, particularly if you are only grinding for one preparation method, which means you’re not always fiddling around with settings. In this post, I’ll talk about selecting a grinder and the all-important consideration: how fine to grind!

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Making Coffee at Home: Clever Dripper

A Clever Dripper, sitting on top of a glass carafe, the brewed coffee draining through the bottom of the filter.Two weeks ago, I launched my Coffee at Home series (which now has its own page on the Coffee Spot) with a simple guide to the cafetiere to get you started, followed by a piece on the importance of getting a grinder at home. As I explained in the cafetiere guide, it works well for bold coffees (I typically use it with espresso blends) but less well for subtle or delicate single-origins. So today I’m taking you one step further with a method that’s more suitable for those subtle/delicate single-origin coffees.

I’ll be honest: there are plenty of excellent filter methods out there, each with its own set of devoted fans. There’s the AeroPress, V60, Chemex and Kalita Wave to name a few. However, today I’m writing about the Clever Dripper, which, in my opinion, is the easiest method for those of you taking your next steps into home-brewing. Like the cafetiere, it doesn’t require any fancy equipment, other than the Clever Dripper itself and some filter papers. It also shares other important characteristics with the cafetiere: it’s simple, reliable and, above all, very forgiving. All you really need is coffee, a mug, kettle and a timer (plus, ideally, a grinder).

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Making Coffee at Home: AeroPress

Coffee brewing in my AeroPress, using the inverted method, as seen from above.Welcome to another instalment of my Coffee at Home series (which now has its own page on the Coffee Spot). I started three weeks ago with a simple guide to the cafetiere to help (non-coffee) people who have unexpectedly found themselves at home all day due to COVID-19 make good coffee. I’ve also published articles on the importance of grinding coffee at home, as well as a guide to the Clever Dripper, another simple, reliable method. Today it’s the turn of the AeroPress, one of the coffee world’s favourite preparation methods (it’s even got its own World Championship!).

I’m a big fan of the AeroPress, so much so that I have three of them (one for home, one at my Dad’s and one that forms an integral part of my travelling coffee kit). However, it wasn’t always the case. I got my first AeroPress at the end of 2012, when I visited Leighton Buzzard’s House of Coffee, but I really didn’t get on with it. In fact, had it not been for a chance encounter at the Caffé Culture Show in May of the following year, I might have given up on it entirely. So, what changed? And why?

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Making Coffee at Home: Scales

My travelling coffee scales.Welcome to another instalment of my Coffee at Home series which has, to date, focused mostly on brewing methods, with simples guides to the cafetiere, Clever Dripper and AeroPress. However, I’ve also written about grinding coffee at home, while today I want to turn my attention to another important piece of equipment: scales.

Let’s start by answering a simple question: do you need scales in order to make good coffee? Emphatically, no, you don’t. As I’ve shown in my first three guides, you can make good coffee without scales. However, that doesn’t mean that scales should be overlooked, particularly as you get drawn further into the world of speciality coffee (warning: in case you haven’t guessed, that’s what this series is all about, drawing you slowly down the rabbit hole of speciality coffee, one article at a time, until it’s too late and you can’t back out).

Back to scales. Scales can be very useful: for example, I use them whenever I make coffee. In particular, as you approach the more specialised end of coffee making, such as pour-over and espresso, I’d argue that scales start to become essential. So, with that in mind, what should you be looking for?

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Making Coffee at Home: Pour-over

My handmade ceramic filter from Vietnam midway through the top-up pour on my Osaka stand.Welcome to another instalment of my Making Coffee at Home series. After a brief diversion to look at coffee itself, I’ve returned to coffee-making techniques. So far, I’ve written simple guides for the cafetiere, Clever Dripper and AeroPress. In contrast, today’s Making Coffee at Home isn’t focused on a single method. Instead, I’m looking at the broad category of pour-over filters, any device where you pour water over coffee grounds and it filters through the bottom.

There are many filter devices out there, made from various materials (plastic, glass, ceramic and metal) with a wide variety of designs. Pour-over is also one of the oldest coffee-making methods: the Melitta Filter, for example, was patented in 1908, making it older than the cafetiere (1929). These days, probably the most commonly recognised are the Chemex (invented in 1941) and the much more recent Hario V60 (2004).

One of the reasons I’ve left pour-over until now is that, after espresso, it’s the method I’ve struggled with the most, giving up on it for long periods. Although you can get away with making pour-over using just a kettle, filter and filter papers, this is one method where having the extra kit really pays off.

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Making Coffee at Home: Espresso

An espresso, in the Coffee Spot cup, pulled on my Sage Barista Express using the San Lorenzo espresso from Curve Coffee RoastersWelcome to another instalment of my Making Coffee at Home series, where I’ve left the best (hardest?) until last. After simple guides for the cafetiere,  Clever Dripper, AeroPress and (not so simple) pour-over, I’ve finally turned my attention to espresso. Just to be clear, whereas for all my other guides (including pour-over to some extent), you can get decent results with minimal outlay, this is not true for espresso. If you want good espresso, you’re going to need to spend a lot of money on both a good espresso machine and a high-quality grinder (I’d say a minimum of £500).

Now that’s not to say that you can’t made short, strong black coffee at home. You can. The AeroPressVietnamese cup-top filter,  ibrik/cezve, moka pot and capsule machines can all make good short, strong black coffee. It’s just not going to be espresso. That said, if you’re hankering after something approaching your favourite flat white/cappuccino/latte, then you can do a reasonable job with a variety of common coffee-making equipment (see, for example, this excellent video from James Hoffman). However, what this post is all about is espresso of the sort you’d get in a good speciality coffee shop.

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Making Coffee at Home: Moka Pot

My moka pot, a fairly cheap one that I've had for many a year.Up until now, Making Coffee at Home has focusedon brew methods which I regularly use: cafetiere, Clever Dripper, AeroPress, pour-over and espresso. Today’s post is different since I’m writing about the moka pot, something which I own, but stopped using many years ago, unhappy with the results. I moved onto other brewing methods and my moka pot has sat at the back of a shelf ever since.

My interest was initially rekindled by tweets from Phil Wain (editor of Caffeine Magazine) which got me thinking that maybe I should write about the moka pot after all. I began the Making Coffee at Home series with a desire to help people make good coffee at home, particularly people who are new to making good coffee. Although I’ve tried to take you on a journey through the various preparation methods I regularly use, I know that not everyone will have the time to invest in learning a new method. Similarly, many of you won’t want to buy new coffee equipment. However, I suspect that, like me, plenty of you have a moka pot somewhere in your kitchen. So, I got my moka pot down, dusted it off and here we are...

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Keeping Coffee Beans in the Freezer

A bag of Ethiopia Rocko Mountain from Rebel Bean in the Czech Republic, which I enjoyed after keeping it in my freezer for almost two years...I want to tackle a subject that is, to some speciality coffee people, anathema. No, not decaf, I did that already. Today, I’m talking about storing coffee, long-term, in the freezer.

There’s a wide consensus on how coffee should be ideally stored: as whole beans, in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. Never store ground coffee (ie always grind just before you use it) and never store your coffee in the refrigerator. But what about the freezer?

You see, I have a problem. These days, I’m never short of coffee, with people regularly send me things to try. More often than not, though, the bulk of my coffee is given to me at festivals, where I usually return with two or three kg of coffee, many times more than I can drink in a reasonable timescale. Some I will use immediately, some I will give away, but the question is, what to do with the rest?

Since I can’t face letting it go to waste, my solution has been to store it in the freezer, something that’s created a bit of storm on twitter, if the impromptu poll I put up last night is anything to go by...

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