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How to make coffee – make barista-worthy brews at home

Make every coffee taste like a shop-bought brew with these top tips on how to make delicious coffee at home...

pouring coffee from moccamaster carafe
(Image credit: Technivorm)

Many of us have increased our working from home hours over the last year, and this may mean you're missing your delicious daily 'commute coffee'. But there are a host of expert tips and tricks on how to make coffee at home so you're always sipping a barista-worthy brew.

We've picked the brains of the experts at Barista & Co to find out how to make a coffee with professional prowess below. Time to pop the kettle on...

How to make coffee at home with a drip coffee maker

From a broad range of the best coffee makers, a drip coffee maker is one of the most popular ways of brewing your morning caffeine fix at home. 

'Drip (also known as pour-over) is one of the cheapest ways to make excellent complex coffee,' says James Gray, founder of Barista & Co. 'The challenge is ensuring that you get the same result every time so I would suggest investing in the best coffee grinder or getting your coffee ground for drip at your local coffee roaster. 

'The filter ground coffee that is bought in the supermarket is usually too coarse which means you are likely to get a coffee that is weak and lacking flavor. If you have some scales in the kitchen it is also worth getting them out when you are brewing your coffee, a general rule of thumb is half an ounce (15g) of coffee to 11 ounces (250g or 350ml) of water. If you are using a kitchen kettle rather than a specialist goose neck kettle then you want to use the water just off the boil. 

'To get going, pour a small amount of water through the paper filter to ensure you are removing any nasties from the paper, just make sure you pour away the water that filters through. 

'Next pour in your filter ground coffee, this should be a finer grind than cafetiere (French press) but not as fine as espresso. I would then recommend gently tapping the brewer on the cup or jug below to flatten the bed of the coffee, this is important as you want the water to travel through all the coffee evenly. 

'Gently pour water in until it just covers the coffee and leave it for 30 seconds to bloom, you should see the coffee bubble as the gas escapes. You can also give it another tap on the cup to ensure the coffee bed is level. 

'After this, slowly pour in your remaining water and leave it to filter through, if the grind is right it should take anywhere between two minutes and four minutes to filter through fully. If it is much quicker than this means your grind size is too coarse. If that is the case you’re better to keep the coffee for another brewing method such as a cafetiere.'

Do I need to grind my own coffee?

The simple answer is no, as you can ask your local roaster to grind for you. Supermarkets tend to offer a coarse grind and espresso grind and they can suffice for at-home brewing methods but they aren’t ideal. 

James Gray explains: 'Many domestic espresso machines have what is called a pressurised basket and that means they require a coarser espresso grind whereas the more premium machines that are more like the commercial machines you see in good coffee shops will require a finer grind. 

'If you buy your own grinder it means you can grind specifically for your brewing method and this will make a big difference. You do have to accept you will have to invest in a good grinder, otherwise you may be better asking your local roaster to grind for you. 

'The reason is lower-cost blade grinders should be avoided as the grind consistency isn't as good and leads to a poor coffee.'

Why you need a grinder if you're buying whole beans

'Buying whole bean is always our recommendation but only if you are going to buy a good grinder,' says James Gray. 

'You would be better with pre-ground if you don’t have the budget for this. The reason is commercial grinders used by roasters offer better grind size consistency, which is important for an evenly extracted, great-tasting coffee so, although you will lose out on freshness, it may be worth that trade off. 

'If you have the budget to buy a decent burr grinder then whole bean and a grinder is certainly the way to go. The benefit of whole bean is that if it is kept in the right conditions in an air tight valved bag or container, it will remain fresh for longer.'

How to make a latte at home

Sometimes, there's nothing nicer than a velvety latte. So how do you make latte like the professionals? 

James Gray says: 'Technically, to make a latte you should have an espresso as the coffee base so you will have to accept that, without this, you won’t get a latte that you’re used to from the coffee shop. 

'However, you can still make great milky coffee with a delicious milk foam. If you don’t have the budget for an espresso machine you can try a Bialetti Moka stovetop coffee maker, a method of brewing that is the go to in Italian households and has been for 90 years. You can pick then up from around $30 (£20) and although you won’t get the crema you get with an espresso machine, you will get a strong shot that is a great base for your latte-style coffee. 

'If you want to use the brewer you already have then you could increase the amount of coffee you use and, if you’re brewing with a cafetière trying pushing the brew time to eight minutes. A latte is traditionally around 2/3 steamed milk so you should look for your coffee shot to be a 1/3 or less of the drink.'

Do you need a milk frother to make a latte?

'I would recommend using a manual milk frother for your milk,' says Barista & Co's James Gray. 'A tip is to froth your milk cold and then put it in a microwave to heat; most people heat first and then froth but the other way around works better. 

'After doing this, you should have a body of fluffy hot milk with a foam on top. To make your latte-style coffee, slowly pour your milk into the coffee and then at the end pour or scoop the milk foam on the top- the foam should be around 1cm.'

How to choose the right coffee grounds for different brew types

The right grind size is directly related to the brewing time. There are other variables such as water temperature and pressure but time is the main one to consider.

James Gray explains: 'If you are using a brewing method that has a very short brewing time then you will generally want a finer grind size, for this reason espresso brewing uses a fine grind size. At the other end of the spectrum cold brew can take many hours and that has a very coarse grind size. As a rule of thumb, follow the rules below for the right coffee grounds:

Espresso – fine grind.

Filter/Pour Over – medium grind

Cafetiere – coarse grind

Cold Brew – very coarse grind

 Another tip away from the grind comes down to the coffee itself. 

James adds: 'Traditionally lower-grade coffee was roasted dark to hide the pour quality coffee with burnt and bitter notes. This was then offset with sugar and milk to bring sweetness and balance the drink. 

'Try a lighter roast, good quality coffee as you will find more complex flavors without too much bitterness. Most people associate darker roast coffees with higher strength and although there is some element of truth in this, the reality is there is very little difference in strength between the two. We don’t roast too dark as we want the quality off the coffee to do the talking.'

How to make a coffee with a French press

A French press, or cafetiere, is one of the easiest and classic ways to make great-tasting coffee at home. We've put together a step-by-step guide on how to use a French press so you can make the most of yours for every single coffee break.

Ruth Doherty

Ruth Doherty is an interiors writer who has worked for Homes & Gardens and Ideal Home magazines among many others.