The aroma of fresh coffee is one of the joys of daily life for millions of people but everyone has their preferred method of preparing a cup. Whether you brew your coffee with an filter maker, a cafetière, a traditional pump or a bean-to-cup coffee machine, you’ve a good chance it will taste great, but there are a number of factors that can impair the quality. Avoiding them means you will make a better cup of coffee more consistently.
Here are six of the most common and easily avoided coffee-brewing mistakes to eliminate from your coffee-making routine.
Using less-than-fresh coffee
If you are an occasional drinker of proper coffee, you may have been storing your beans or ground coffee for some time. While roasted coffee beans retain their flavour and aroma longer than ground coffee, both have a limited shelf life before oxidation diminishes quality. Buy only as much coffee as you are likely to use over a two-week period. And for best results, grind beans as and when you intend to use them.
Freezing your beans
Some believe that putting your coffee beans or ground coffee in the fridge or freezer helps keep them fresh. That may be true but as soon as the coffee container is taken out and opened, the ambient air in the room causes condensation to form on the cold coffee.
That small amount of moisture will degrade the coffee faster than if it had been kept dry, in an air-tight container at room temperature.
Not cleaning your equipment
Hygiene is so important in the kitchen not just for our health but for the flavour of the food and drink we prepare. You would not pour wine into a dirty wine glass nor eat off a dirty plate, yet a surprising number of people are content to use a less than pristine cafetière, traditional pump or offee machine.
If you go to the bother of making proper coffee from freshly ground beans, why undermine your efforts by spoiling your cup with unwanted, unclean flavours? Fortunately some coffee machines come with automatic rinse and descale features.
Poor quality water
We are very fortunate to have clean, safe drinking water in the UK. However, water quality and taste can vary widely from one region of the country to another and from one season to the next. In 2014, chemist Christopher Hendon of the University of Bath, working with the UK’s Barista Champion, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, tested various types of water.
They demonstrated that water quality has a big impact on the quality and composition of a cup of coffee. Short of turning your kitchen into a chemistry laboratory, the upshot of their study is that fresh filtered tap water is the best starting point.
The Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) has what it calls the Gold Cup standard for brewing coffee. The optimal temperature range is given as 92˚C-96˚C and this is reached (without the need for a thermometer) approximately 30-45 seconds after a kettle has boiled and switched off.
If boiling water is poured straight onto the grounds, too many of the more bitter flavour elements are extracted and more delicate aromatic compounds risk being vapourised.
Too much water
Whatever style of coffee you are making, there is also an optimal ratio of coffee to water. It’s called the brew ratio. The SCAE recommends a ratio of one litre of fresh water to 50 to 65g of freshly ground coffee. You can make it stronger, but if you prefer your coffee less strong, do not be tempted to add more water during the brewing process.
An excess of water tends to release more bitter, unpleasant tasting oils from the beans. You will get a nicer, more balanced coffee character if you make it at the recommended strength and dilute it to taste afterwards.
Your barista at home
For artisan coffee at home, the De’Longhi Eletta Cappuccino Top provides an unbeatable, fresh bean to cup experience.
Like a trained barista, Eletta prepares real Italian coffee at the touch of a button by grinding fresh beans and frothing fresh milk straight to your cup. The patented milk carafe with LatteCrema System ensures you will enjoy your coffee to the last drop, whether deliciously frothy cappuccino or silky-smooth flat white.