Several factors contribute to a good cup of coffee and at the end of the day you should use the method which suits you best – which can give you the coffee you really enjoy.

That said, there are some important points to consider:

  • Use the freshest coffee you can buy (always check the roast date). The coffee should be days or weeks old rather than months. So do not buy too much at one time.
  • Buy coffee beans if you can, so you can grind just before brewing to maximise freshness (a grinder is worth the investment)
  • Make sure the brewing equipment is clean and rinsed (so you avoid unwanted flavours from either old coffee, or detergent)
  • Never ‘stew’ the coffee (eg. by keeping it warm on a hotplate) or re-heat it (eg. in a microwave), as either will destroy the flavour. Transfer the coffee to a vacuum flask straight after brewing if you need to keep it hot
  • Weigh the coffee and water and record the brewing time: this will enable you to fine-tune your method to your personal taste then reproduce the result consistently

The Cafetiere/ Press Pot/ French Press

A simple and economical brew method which gives a full-bodied cup. The coffee grounds are filtered through a wire mesh, fitted on a plunger, which allows the coffee oils and some fine solids to be retained in the coffee.

1. Weigh out the appropriate amount of coffee. A good starting point is a ratio of 1 part coffee to 16 parts water (62.5g coffee per litre of water).
2. Grind the coffee on a medium-coarse setting (fine enough to give a good extraction but not so fine that the mesh is blocked and you are unable to push down the plunger).
3. Place the pot on your scales, add the coffee and tare the scales. The water used should be just ‘off the boil’ ie. between 92°C and 96°C. Pour water on to the coffee to the desired weight.
4. Stir the coffee with a long spoon and set a timer to 4 minutes.
5. After 4 minutes standing, place the plunger in the pot and press down through the coffee until it reaches the compacted grounds.
6. Pour the coffee.

Filter Coffee

There have been many manifestations of the filter method, both manual and automated, since it was invented in 1908 by German housewife Melitta Bentz. The use of a paper filter gives a clean cup quality as the filter absorbs a portion of the coffee oils and retains most of the solids. The following method refers to a manual pour-over system, such as the V60 by Hario of Japan.

1. Weigh out the appropriate amount of coffee. A good starting point is a ratio of 1 part coffee to 16 parts water (62.5g coffee per litre of water).
2. Grind the coffee on a medium-fine setting (to a consistency of table salt).
3. Fold the filter paper into a cone and place in the filter holder. The filter holder can be placed onto a stand set/ drip station with a server jug, or directly onto a coffee mug.
4. The water used should be just ‘off the boil’ ie. between 92°C and 96°C. If you are using a drip kettle, it is reasonable to pour boiling water in the kettle as it will be at about the correct temperature by the time you use it. Pour a small volume of water through the filter paper: this reduces the likelihood of a papery taste and also warms up the equipment. Remember to pour the rinse water out of the jug before you start brewing!
5. Place the coffee in the filter, shaking the filter holder to even out the coffee surface.
6. Place the drip station, with filter holder and serving jug, on your scales and press the tare button.
7. In a circular motion, pour about 50g of water from the drip kettle onto the coffee (not directly onto the filter paper). This will enable gases to escape from the coffee grounds (and water to enter for extraction).
8. Again with a circular motion, pour the remainder of the water onto the coffee covering as much of the filter paper as possible then leave to filter through.
9. Once all or most of the water has passed through the filter, stir the serving jug and pour the coffee.

The Moka Pot

The Moka Pot was invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 and continues to be popular today. This stove-top method can produce a strong flavourful cup. Although the pot is often referred to as an espresso maker, the coffee is typically extracted at relatively low pressures (1-2 bar or 100-200 kPa), while espresso coffee is specifically extracted at a pressure of 9 bar (900 kPa). The resulting brew has been considered somewhere between an espresso and filter coffee.

1. Fill the boiler with hot water up to just below the safety valve (the use of hot water saves the coffee grounds being heated too much as you heat the pot).
2. Grind the coffee on a medium setting and fill the coffee-holding funnel up to the top. Do not tamp down.
3. Place the funnel into the base (boiler) and the filter disc and gasket into the upper section and screw the two parts of the pot together.
4. Bring the water slowly to the boil and water will start to flow through the coffee pad into the upper section of the pot where the brewed coffee is collected.
5. The end of the process is signalled by a gurgling sound once the lower section is almost empty. Immediately remove from the stove and place the lower section under cold running water to prevent any further (over-) extraction.
6. Pour the coffee.

Note

The above notes are intended as guidelines, as a starting point if you are not familiar with these brewing methods. There are many variations to every method (YouTube is a good place to start) so please experiment to find the one that works best for you.