Specialty Coffee brewing

how to brew artisan coffee at home

DRINKING COFFEE

Every Brit drinks, on average, two cups of coffee a day. It’s the most popular drink in the world (apart from water) and has been around since at least the ninth century, when an Ethiopian goat herder reportedly stumbled upon a coffee plant and was intrigued to see the invigorating effect the beans had on his goats.

Back to the present day and the recent explosion in people working from home, which in turn has led to the home coffee brew phenomenon.

Coffee lovers want to recreate that coffee shop smell and taste in their own homes, but with so many processes, beans, and equipment out there, it can be difficult to know the best route to go down.

Don’t panic - you don’t need a commercial brewer taking up your entire kitchen worktop to make yourself a quality cappuccino. Making great coffee takes practice, and you probably won’t get it right the first time. But half the fun of making your own is trying different varieties and tweaking your technique, so you get it just how you like it.

At Coffee Hit, we have the best barista tools for you. From milk pitchers to tamp mats and cleaning gear and spare parts to keep your equipment in like new condition. We only stock good quality equipment that aims to make great coffee simple for you.

Even with something very straightforward like the Clever Coffee Dripper and a hand grinder and you can make a great cup of coffee.

In this blog, we’re going to walk you through it – everything from selecting your beans, through the coffee brewing options, and onto storage.

Grab yourselves a flat white, sit back and come with us on a voyage of coffee discovery.

What type of coffee beans are for you?

The starting point for any would-be home coffee brewer is your beans. Like wine, coffee has many varied and different flavours depending on the variety, where it's grown, and how it was processed. How it was packaged, stored, roasted, and brewed also dictate how it tastes.

A coffee bean is actually a seed of the Coffea plant (to give it its technical name). Coffee plants produce a fruit referred to as a cherry, and the pit of this fruit is what we use to roast coffee.

The plant is one of the world’s most valuable and widely traded commodity crops and is an important export product of several countries, including those in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Our favourite countries for coffee production are…

  • Guatemala
  • Colombia
  • Kenya

…but there’s so much choice out there, you should give every country a chance and see what coffee you find yourself going back to.

There are four main types of coffee beans, all coming from different Coffea plants:

ARABICA COFFEE

Arabica coffee beans are the most popular in the world, accounting for 60% of the world’s coffee production. They originated in Ethiopia, where they’re still grown today but Brazil, where the beans can get the rain they need, is the leading exporter of Arabica beans.

They have a sweet, complex flavour and are renowned for their smoothness. Arabica beans are great for pour-over style coffee.

ROBUSTA COFFEE

Robusta is the second most popular type of bean and (the clue’s in the name) it can grow in many different environments. Originating in Africa, where they’re still primarily grown, you can also find these being harvested in south-east Asia.

They are darker and earthier than Arabica beans, making them brilliant for espresso, as they provide a richer crema, making them a popular choice for lattes and cappuccinos. They also contain twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans, so are perfect for that coffee hit.

LIBERICA COFFEE

Liberica beans make up just two per cent of the world’s coffee production. It has an exciting flavour, described by some as woody, full-bodied and fruity.

These beans originated in West Africa but are now mainly grown in Malaysia and the Philippines. People tend to either love or hate Liberica beans – it is currently considered an endangered coffee species.

EXCELSA COFFEE

Excelsa beans were recently reclassified as a variety of Liberica beans, as they thrive in similar conditions and grow in a similar type of tree. But these beans produce a much more tart and fruitier flavour than Liberica beans.

Excelsa makes up about seven per cent of the world’s coffee production and is grown almost entirely in south-east Asia. It boasts traits of both light and dark coffee roasts, creating a unique profile that coffee enthusiasts remain eager to try.

So now that you know more about the different types of coffee beans, it’s time to give them a try. You’ll only ever find out what you love by trying different beans.

 

How to choose the right coffee roast

How your coffee is roasted makes a massive difference to how your morning brew tastes. Each roast is unique and tastes different depending on your palette.

LIGHT ROAST COFFEE

Light roast (sometimes referred to as New England, Half-City, and Cinnamon) coffee has been heated less than other roasts and is a softer shade of brown. Light roasted coffee beans don’t contain any oil on their surface and are matte in texture. While it’s the most acidic of the three roasts, it’s also less bitter so if you like a sweeter-tasting coffee this roast is for you.

They’re better taken black as cream and sugar take away from the flavour of light roast beans. Freshly brewed light roasts have notes of citrus fruits, berries, flowers, and sometimes even tea!

Light roasts also retain the most caffeine. Just as alcohol evaporates during cooking, so caffeine cooks out of coffee beans, so the longer they roast, the less caffeine they’ll retain.

MEDIUM ROAST

Medium roast coffees are browner and have a thicker body than light roasts. Having been roasted for an extended period, medium roasts lose some of the floral flavours typical of a light roast. Their taste is more balanced and medium roasts contain a medium amount of caffeine.

This type of coffee is highly popular and a happy medium for most coffee fans, as the caramelised flavour of the beans pulls through so it lies right between light and dark roasts.

The aromas of medium roast carry hints of chocolate, nuts, and even spices. Common in the US, this type of roast is sometimes referred to as the American Roast.

DARK ROAST

Dark roast beans are the colour of dark chocolate and have a surface shimmering with oil. They roast for the longest period, leaving them with a much more bitter taste than the other roasts. They’re the least acidic of the roasts and they have the least amount of caffeine due to the longer roasting process. They tend to lose the original flavour of the coffee beans and you’ll find yourself picking up notes of chocolate and even your favourite smokey foods.

When brewed well, dark roasts can maintain a sweeter flavour due to the sugars in coffee beans being able to caramelise. You might also find that they have a buttery finish, thanks to the longer roasting process. Common names include French, Italian, and Espresso Roast.

 

 

Grinding your coffee to perfection

Once you’ve chosen your coffee and decided which roast you prefer, it’s time to grind your beans. Grinding beans from fresh is really the only way to experience good coffee at its very best.

For best results, coffee beans should be ground around a week after they’ve been roasted. Coffee beans are packed and sealed tightly, which slows down the degassing and oxidation process. However, once a bag is opened, this process slowly starts again.

Store your coffee beans in an airtight container away from sunlight, and only grind the amount you need for each brew, as ground coffee deteriorates much quicker than whole beans.

There are three main types of coffee grinders – blade, burr and manual. But which one is right for you?

We would advise against a blade grinder and we don’t sell them. They are usually cheaper than other coffee grinders but there’s a reason for that.

Blade grinders hack at your beans indiscriminately with some beans striking the blades more often than others. That means uneven sized particles and therefore uneven flavour extraction, meaning your coffee won’t taste the way it was intended.

Smaller particles will be over-extracted, meaning they will be bitter, while bigger particles will be under-extracted, meaning they will be weak. The heat produced by prolonged friction of the spinning blades can also burn your coffee beans, which will make them bitter.

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MANUAL GRINDERS

Manual grinders are operated with a hand crank and can be start at a lower price than electric grinders. They’re quiet and they don’t take up much room, plus they’re great for use on the go, if you’re travelling or working. These simple gadgets deliver excellent grind results for a wide range of coffee styles.

BURR GRINDERS

The ideal process for producing great fresh ground coffee is first crushing and then grinding your beans. A burr grinder presses the beans against a static surface with a rotating wheel. You simply change the settings depending on what type of coffee you’re making – a French press, pour-over or espresso.

Burr grinders have either flat or conical burrs. You can read about the difference here. Conical grinders are usually considered the best, but they do cost more.

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ELECTRIC GRINDERS

The cost of electric coffee grinders can vary massively. The cost is usually determined by the accuracy of the grinding mechanism and the ability to grind both fine and coarse grinds. The type of materials used and whether the grinder has features like scales or a touchscreen can also affect the overall price.

A more costly grinder will almost always include some of these more sophisticated features. The Baratza Forte, for example, has a touch screen interface for controlling weight and time, while the Baratza Vario W+ has an integrated scale for precise measurements.

A good manual burr grinder should set you back at least £40- £50. It will be money well spent as you'll notice the superior coffee flavours. We recommend the Rhino Hand Grinder, a high-quality conical ceramic burr hand grinder perfect for coffee lovers on a budget.

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OUR BEST-SELLING ELECTRIC GRINDER

For a decent electric grinder that will give outstanding results and last a long time, you should expect to pay from £150 upwards.  Our best-selling electric grinder in this price range is the Baratza Encore, which costs £159. It offers all of the features you'd expect from an electric grinder, and can grind for any brew method you choose.

CLEANING ELECTRIC GRINDERS

For obvious reasons, you can’t get water in an electric grinder. So your best bet is to unplug it, throw a handful of Cafetto Grinder Cleaning Tablets in and grind through. The tablets pull any stuck coffee grounds out of the burrs and the burr chamber. Then take the hopper off, take the ground coffee bin out and clean them in warm soapy water. Leave to dry.

Then remove the outer burr and grab the vacuum cleaner to suck all remaining grounds and Cafetto cleaning tablet residue. Put your grinder back together and it’s all fresh and ready to go again!

CLEANING MANUAL GRINDERS

Take the bottom chamber or jar off the hand grinder and unscrew the nut holding the inner burr in place. After this, you should be able to remove both burrs. If they are ceramic then wash them in warm soapy water along with the rest of the grinder. If they are steel then we suggest using the same method as the electric grinder.

How to brew specialty coffee

You’ve chosen your beans. You’ve settled on your favourite roast. You’ve ground your coffee. Let’s brew up!

MEET YOUR MAKER

There’s quite a few different types of coffee makers and your preferred option will depend on what type of drink you like.

ESPRESSO MACHINES

Espresso machines are responsible for all the noise in coffee shops. They work by pushing virtually boiling water through a puck of ground coffee and a portafilter. The result is an espresso that can be used as the base for lattes, flat whites, and cappuccinos. Coffee Hit is a major fan of La Marzocco and we have been selling their iconic handmade espresso machines for more than 10 years.

ELECTRIC COFFEE MAKERS

Electric coffee makers like the Bonavita One Touch distribute heated water in a filter through a wide showerhead for even flavour extraction. They’re good for making more than one cup of coffee, so are ideal for the office as well as the home. The Bonavita One Touch features an insulated stainless-steel carafe, meaning you can keep your coffee warm for longer.

COFFEE DRIPPERS

Coffee drippers are a great way to make coffee for one person at home. They work by filtering water through ground coffee over a cup. Many coffee drippers can take 3-4 minutes to create a delicious brew, but the Clever Coffee Dripper works slightly differently. It has a clever shut-off valve system which only releases your brew once it’s placed over your cup. This allows for much better extraction and stops your coffee going cold quickly. The design of the Clever Dripper also means you can pour the water in all in one go instead of slowly over minutes. If you’re looking for a drip brewer that can make more than one cup, the Chemex 6 Cup Wood Collar Coffee Maker is the ideal addition to your home brewing set-up.

AEROPRESS AND DELTER COFFEE PRESS

The AeroPress , Trinity Zero and Delter Coffee Press are great for making strong coffee on the move. They push pressurised water through the coffee grinds via a vacuum. You add fine grounds and a filter to the bottom of the press, add water, insert the plunger, and push down slowly. The AeroPress, Trinity Zero and Delter Coffee Press are excellent if you want a quick cup of coffee for one, or if you regularly make coffee on the go. AeroPress brewers are loved worldwide – there’s even a World AeroPress Championship.

COLD BREW SYSTEMS

Cold brewing means your coffee grounds never meet any heat. Instead, they steep in cold water for anything from 12 to 18 hours. Using a cold-water brewer gives you a smoother cup of coffee that’s easier on the stomach as it contains much less acid. As a bonus, your cold brew will be refreshing, floral and contain significantly more caffeine.

FRENCH PRESS

When many of us think of morning coffee, the French press is what comes to mind. But the days of messy pouring and grit in your drink are gone with the Fellow Clara French Press, which has removed all the agitation from pressing coffee. With an all-directional pour lid (meaning fewer spillages) and an enhanced filtration system (no more sludge) it produces a full-bodied brew that stays warm as long as you need it.

So which of those methods is best? We’ll leave that to you to find out, but there is some guidance in this short blog, written by Coffee Hit founder Paul Radin.

 

HOW HARD IS BREWING COFFEE?

Coffee is water and coffee. That’s it. Keeping it simple is key to your enjoyment. You don’t want to be confused, just as you don’t want to settle for a drink that’s not quite right for you.

So keep an eye on these five tweakable variables that have the ability to make or break your brew.

HOW BIG SHOULD MY GROUNDS BE?

It goes without saying that you should always buy fresh whole coffee beans and grind them only when needed. Let's presume there are two types of coffee drinkers reading this. Espresso and pour over (or manually-brewed coffee).

Espresso needs an excellent ground coffee bean. Most hand grinders and many electric grinders under £100 will struggle to produce fine enough ground coffee for espresso. If you buy coffee pre-ground, ask your roasters or look for Espresso grind. It makes a huge difference.

Pour-over varies in grind size depending on the method you use to make your pour-over or manual brew. But as a general rule of thumb, you want a medium grind. This will look like sand.

HOW HOT DOES THE WATER NEED TO BE?

Boiling water – 100C – is too hot for coffee, that will burn it. The water temperature doesn’t have to be bang on but you’re looking for between 85C and 95C for the best results. You can either boil and let it cool for a couple of minutes or get yourself a temperature-controlled kettle for supreme accuracy. For espresso, if you can set your temperature on your machine, then anywhere between 90C and 95C will pe perfect.

HOW LONG SHALL I BREW COFFEE FOR?

The longer the water is in contact with the grounds, the higher the extraction will be, which means more caffeine. For espresso, usually, the contact time is 25-35 seconds, but this is done under pressure so this length of time is enough to get all the goodness out of the coffee. For pour-over or manually brewed coffee, the contact time is typically around 3-4 minutes.

HOW MUCH COFFEE SHOULD I USE FOR THE PERFECT CUP?

There are two general rules here. Firstly, for pour-over or manual coffee, we recommend 60g of coffee per litre of brew. (15g per 250ml mug). For espresso, the ratio to aim for is 2-2.5 times. So if we put in 15g of coffee, we want 30-38g of espresso out. A set of scales is the must-have barista accessories for making coffee.

HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD I USE?

Using our recommended ratio of 60g per litre, you would need 30g of ground medium coffee to make half a litre of brew in the morning. Try experimenting with the ratio to see what suits your taste. Some people prefer a double ratio, but you might like 2.5 times or 1.8 times – everyone’s taste is different.

Incidentally, sometimes you might find your coffee has a strange taste to it and you can’t work out why. It might be something to do with your water. Introducing the BWT Bestaroma Premium. This special treatment solution for reservoir tank coffee machines gives you speciality coffee-grade water at home without the need for a big filter under your sink.

Simply drop it into any tank or jug of water and it will filter hardness and replace calcium with magnesium. You’ll never have another dull, lifeless cup of coffee again.

WHAT KETTLE DO YOU NEED FOR COFFEE BREWING?

A gooseneck kettle may look like just another hip accessory for would-be baristas, but in fact, the gooseneck is a crucial ingredient in the quest for the perfect, evenly-extracted beverage.

Many people argue that the pour-over method – pouring hot water through coffee grounds in a filter into a carafe or cup – makes for the best coffee. It’s a technique renowned for highlighting intricate flavour notes and producing a clean, clear cup of coffee as the filter catches and keeps a lot of the natural oils.

But if you just pour hot water straight onto the coffee grounds it agitates them, water doesn’t pass through them evenly and some inevitably sloshes out of the filter. Water should be added gently and accurately – hello gooseneck kettle.

Its long curved neck allows you to control the speed of the water, its handle is made to give you a more comfortable grip. The Brewista Artisan 1L Gooseneck Variable kettle is a good example of this. The user has complete control of the rate at which water emerges from the spout, the flow is so much more targeted than with an ordinary kettle.

The Fellow Stagg Pour Over kettle, for example, allows you to pour the exact amount of desired water at a controlled speed to hit all the grounds evenly. And it looks incredible on your coffee station.

Both the Brewista Artisan 1L Gooseneck Variable Kettle and the Fellow Stagg EKG kettle also have a handy hold function to keep the water at optimum temperature for up to 60 minutes.

So the gooseneck is not only a stylish piece of kitchenware, it is practical – and it has quickly become the must-have accessory for every lover of coffee.

 

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What should I drink my coffee out of?

Does what you drink your coffee out of make a difference? Yes. Massively. The shape, capacity and material of your drinking vessel all effect how your coffee smells, tastes and drinks. At Coffee Hit, we know that the right coffee cup allows you to appreciate your drink properly. 

YOUR CUP IS CRITICAL 

Your cup of coffee will smell different – or at least your sense of its aroma will appear to be different – the more space there is between the top of your drink and the top of your mug. Getting your nose in there changes your perception of how your drink tastes.

Therefore a larger coffee vessel, such as a classic American diner mug, gives you a better chance of appreciating a coffee’s complex aromatics.

The size of your cup doesn’t just affect the aroma – a wide surface area exposes the coffee to more air and therefore speeds up the rate at which it oxidises. This can soften the tannins in coffee, making for a sweeter brew. A smaller receptacle, such as the Ancap Verona Espresso cup, is perfect for locking in an espresso’s trademark intensity – the layer of crema on top would dissipate in a larger mug.

DON’T COME IN TOO HOT

As we’ve discussed above, there’s an optimum temperature for coffee. The more you’ve got in your cup, the slower it cools down. That’s just physics. But what your mug is made of also makes a big difference. Whether it’s ceramic, glass or plastic, coffee starts to taste different as it cools down and as distinct flavours are revealed, so bear that in mind.

TRAVEL COFFEE CUPS

Need to take your coffee with you? Then make sure you do so in style with a smart takeaway coffee cup that will not only look the part but keep your coffee warm for longer and make it easier to drink on the move. We love the Fellow Carter Everywhere Mug its got a wide mouth and a ceramic inner coating to keep your brew fresh and odour free. It retains heat for an impressive 12 hours and has a leak-proof seal. And the stylish Fellow Carter Move Mug has a great inbuilt splash guard for those unexpected bumps as you’re walking along. Look out for insulated walls and clever drinking lids like the Fellow Carter Sip Lid.

How to clean your coffee machine

You’ve had your delicious cup of coffee. It’s time to clean up. If you’ve got an espresso machine in your kitchen, such as the fantastic La Marzocca Linea Mini, you need to clean it regularly to ensure it keeps performing to a high standard.

Calcium deposits can wreck your machine and build-ups of milk and oils will destroy the taste of your brew.

WIPE AND CLEAN AFTER EVERY USE

A few quick actions must be performed every time you use the machine. While your espresso is cooling, knock out the spent grounds, rinse the portafilter for a few seconds, wipe it and wipe the screen too. If you’ve steamed milk, wipe the steam wand.

BACKFLUSH EVERY WEEK

Machines with a valve system require a backflush – hot water and cleaner pushed through the pipes. Machines without a valve system only require a thorough clean, a wipe with a damp cloth and lots of rinsing. Your manual will tell you what you need to do. Then soak the portafilter, dispersion screen and steam wand in a solution of water and coffee machine cleaner for 15 minutes. We recommend Cafetto Evo cleaner.

DESCALE YOUR COFFEE MAKER EVERY SO OFTEN

Even if you’re using filtered water, eventually you will get calcium build-up in your machine. To prevent limescale, a regular descaling process is vital. Some people use vinegar or lemon juice. These are effective at removing limescale at a high enough concentration, but they taint the flavour of your coffee. To avoid espresso-with-a-hint-of-Sarsons, we recommend a specialised coffee machine descaler, such as the Cafetto Evo liquid descaler.

STORING YOUR COFFEE

 Coffee is a foodstuff. This means it goes off. It has a shelf life of around a month as air, light, moisture and heat start to affect the taste. The enemy here is oxygen. It attacks beans and ground coffee, eroding their taste and hampering your enjoyment, so it's essential to store your coffee properly to keep it fresh for as long as possible.

The beauty of our coffee subscription service is that you can have freshly roasted coffee delivered to your doorstep whenever you need it – so you do not need to have bags of the stuff going stale at the back of your cupboard. Aim to buy as little as you need for one month or less. Make sure it comes in a zip lock bag with a valve and keep it zipped up and in the cupboard, away from heat and light.

If you're not likely to get through your bag of coffee within a month or your bag didn't come with a zip lock and valve, you can get a coffee storage container. Fellow has a stylish range of Atmos coffee storage jar options here.

Beans will stay fresher for longer than ground coffee. So invest in a grinder and grind your coffee in small batches. Some grinders, like the Baratza Encore, come with single hopper options to make it simple to grind just the right amount for your brew. The BaratzaGear Single Dose Hopper is compatible with the Baratza Encore, Virtuoso+, Vario and Forte grinders.

And don’t keep it in the fridge. You can freeze coffee beans if you really have to but never grind them frozen. That’s not good for the bean or the grinder.

HOW TO KEEP COFFEE BEANS FRESHER FOR LONGER

  • Store them in an airtight, dark container.
  • Avoid sunlight.
  • Avoid heat.
  • Avoid moisture (storing near your sink, or your brewer could accidentally allow water or steam to infiltrate your beans).
  • If you can't brew your coffee within the optimum time, put your beans in the freezer.

And that’s it! Your step by step guide to the perfect cup of coffee. If you want to discuss further which coffee or equipment is best for you just drop us an email, jump on a chat, give us a call or book an appointment for our showroom for a one-to-one demonstration.

And for information and inspiration, sign up for product updates. We’ll never clog up your inbox; you’ll only ever receive the most exciting coffee news. Sign up here.

 

Find out more about brewing your own coffee:

How do I find the right coffee for me?

The four most popular beans explained

Grinders – which one is right for me?

How much coffee per cup?

Grinding coffee beans for your cafetiere

How to grind coffee beans for cold brew