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By: James Fairweather 03 July 2020
Lockdown is easing and your favourite local indie coffee shop will most probably be readying itself to re-open its doors in the midst of the new normal this Saturday. For those of you who are not yet ready to venture into this new socially distanced world but are still craving a great speciality coffee shop quality brew at home, do not fear! You can absolutely brew up a storm at home and here is how:
Sounds obvious but the difference between stale over roasted coffee from your supermarket in comparison to freshly roasted specialty grade coffee from your local roaster is immense! By reading this blog, I’m guessing you may have already dipped your toes into the exciting world of specialty coffee, which is a great start. A good brew HAS to start with good coffee and we think the key to good coffee is ethical procurement giving producers the tools and incentive to grow and harvest high quality coffee. Roasting style is also an important factor to take into account. If you are buying specialty grade coffee (utilised by most independent coffee shops) it is likely you will prefer coffee roasted to a medium level so as not to mask the inherent flavours within the bean. Nobody really wants to sip on an over-roasted ashy brew first thing in the morning!
There is no way you can recreate that depth of flavour and satisfaction from home by buying pre-ground coffee. For starters, the majority of commercial coffee available in the Supermarket is what we call an omni-grind. A grind that is probably only suitable for a couple of brewing methods and a grind that doesn’t give you the freedom to experiment with and dial in your coffee. Also, by keeping your coffee as whole bean for longer, your coffee stays fresher for longer. Ground coffee has a much larger surface area, which results in faster staling and a loss of flavour over a shorter period. You honestly will not believe the difference grinding at home can have and there are plenty of options out there suiting a range of budgets from hand grinders to electric – whatever you buy it will make a huge impact on your home brewed coffee.
One thing coffee shops do so well is consistency, how do they get this? They weigh everything to try and control the many variables that can impact coffee’s flavour. Brewing that perfect, well-balanced cup is dependent on precision, with most barista’s following a measured coffee:water ratio and recipe for each coffee. Without getting too technical, too much coffee or too much water (or vice versa) leads to undesirable changes to the strength in your coffee. Leaving you with a coffee that just doesn’t quite feel right in the mouth. Additionally, on the occasion that you manage to pour an incredible taste bud tingler on the fly, it is extremely frustrating not being able to replicate this due to not knowing the weight/ratio of coffee used. You do not need fancy equipment to track this information, just a simple pair of kitchen scales. Trust me, you will save yourself a lot of time and wasted coffee if you weigh your coffee into your chosen brewer and weigh how much water you apply.
Do not underestimate the influence water has on the taste of your coffee. After all, it makes up the majority of your finished beverage and tap water just ain’t gonna cut it, especially if you are unfortunate enough to live in a hard water area. Filtered water is pretty key in helping you recreate that fuller flavoured brew at home. Brita jugs are a great way of achieving this softening your tap water and adding a touch of magnesium helping you perceive acidity and sweetness better in your coffee. Alternatively you can use bottled water such as Tesco’s Ashbeck, which naturally has a great mineral makeup to help you get the best from your beans.
Keep your beans in an airtight bag/tuppaware and in a cool dry place. We wouldn’t recommend keeping your beans in the fridge as they will likely take on the aromas from other items in there… coffee with a hint of mackerel anyone?! You can freeze your beans but the best advice would be to buy little and often to keep your supply as fresh as you can. Many local roasters have reduced their minimum spend for free shipping due to the current pandemic, so now is a good time to implement this approach.
If you are lucky enough to have an espresso machine in your kitchen, you might already have nailed your own flat whites from home – if you are struggling, make sure you check out milk steaming videos to get a feel for how to texture your milk correctly. For dairy based drinks we always recommend whole milk that is a good few days from its use by date. Our own Oliver Sears was busy playing with his coffee paraphernalia at home during lockdown and has created some great resources, which we have now made available on our North Star YouTube channel. He’ll have you pouring silky milk in no time!
Finally, if you don’t want to fork out on a full espresso machine setup, check out the Aeropress – by far one of the most versatile brewing devices out there helping you replicate the perceived strength of your favourite espresso based drinks along with longer, more balanced filter brews. An Aeropress paired with scales, a hand grinder and filtered water is really all you need to produce the perfect coffee from home every time.
Need some help mastering your brewing method of choice? Click below to access our handy guides which will get you churning out perfect, well-balanced brews in no time.