10 top coffee tips for the home barista

Although there’s nothing like having a good coffee made for you in a great coffee shop, we’re all fascinated with making the perfect cup of coffee at home.

Ben Rosenthal of Cibo Espresso has some tips to making your own ‘cafĂ©-style’ coffee at home. He suggests you begin with these tips, experimenting until you find the best flavour from your favorite blend as coffee machines, grinders, beans and roasts all vary and therefore need to be treated differently.

“Remember that the way we drink coffee today is completely different from how we drank coffee a year ago,” says Ben. “Coffee extraction is constantly changing and evolving, so keep an open mind and try new methods. You never know what you may find.”

1.  Do not store coffee in your fridge or freezer. 

Coffee is hydroscopic, meaning it takes on the environmental properties of that around it. If you place your coffee in the fridge with some fish, your coffee will take on similar flavor profiles to that of the fish.

2. Store it in a dark cupboard or pantry, preferably in a one-way valve bag.

This allows the carbon dioxide, which the coffee beans release, to escape while preventing any air from getting in, resulting in stale coffee beans.

3. Buy whole or unground coffee beans, and invest in a grinder. 

Once ground, coffee deteriorates very quickly. Grinding your beans as you require them is the best way to attain a full and flavorsome brew.

4. Use your beans within two weeks of purchase.

5. Try your next coffee without any sugar. 

Coffee is not naturally bitter - bitterness is often caused by the incorrect extraction methods. These include allowing your shot to run too long, putting too much coffee in the basket, ‘tamping’ (compressing coffee grinds into the group handle) your coffee too hard or grinding your coffee too fine.

6. Always be mindful of the four enemies of coffee; air, heat, light and moisture. 

Coffee, whether ground or whole, deteriorates very quickly once exposed to one or more of these environmental factors.

7. Allowing a shot of coffee to ‘over extract’ or ‘run’ longer will not make it stronger. 

Rather, it will give your coffee an awful bitter taste. The only way to make your coffee stronger is to add more caffeine, and the only way to add more caffeine is to add an extra shot of coffee.

8. Ideally, you are looking for a pour of a reddish brown colour. 

If it is pouring slow, and has a dark brown to black look to it, the coffee will have a bitter taste to it. A yellow, gushing pour will give you a sour tasting, under extracted cup.

9. The key to making good espresso is heat. 

Everything must be hot; from the machine to the group handle to the cup/glass you intend to drink from.

10. Watch the coffee as it pours 

The colour will change as you extract the ‘good part’ of the coffee. The reddish-brown beginning will slowly turn a deep orange colour, which will in turn become yellow as the last of the ‘good coffee’ is extracted. Once the pour is a constant pale yellow colour, all of the ‘good coffee’ has been extracted, and the ‘bad, bitter’ tasting coffee will be killing your cup. This yellow colouring is referred to as ‘blonding’, and you will want the least amount of this in your cup as possible.

While the key to extracting good espresso is heat, the way to get nice, silky, velvety milk is to have cool jugs and cool milk.

Traditionally, you are looking for a 25-30ml of espresso in 25-30 seconds.However, this is very subjective as each machine is different. Experiment cutting the time and volume both shorter and longer, pouring slower or faster, under dosing or over dosing, to see which result best appeals to you.

Your palate is the area on your tongue where you taste different sensations. On the very tip of the tongue you will taste sweet. Just to the side of this you will taste salt. Down the length of your tongue you will experience sourness, and right at the back is where bitter flavours will be tasted. Ideally, your shot of espresso should not attack any of these areas, but give a nice, balanced taste throughout your mouth.

There are two types of beans primarily used in commercial coffee; Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee is grown at high altitude, as a low resilience to pests as it has less caffeine than Robusta. It also has a fruiter, clean, smooth taste, where as Robusta is grown at any altitude and has double the caffeine within it. Robusta is harsh on the palate, giving a rougher, woody coffee.

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post