The perfect coffee
Coffee, there are so many varieties and methods for making it. But is there a way you can brew the perfect cup every time? Anne Abberton, co-founder and MD of Hancock & Abberton coffee, shares her knowledge on everything from picking the beans to water temperature.
What kind of flavour profile can you expect from some of the most popular varieties?
Soil, climate and altitude all affect the flavour of the beans so terroir plays a large part in determining the taste characteristics of coffee. Examples of some of the more recognisable taste characteristics of popular coffee producing counties are:
Kenya: renowned for their bright complex berry/fruit qualities as well as their sweetness and intense acidity.
Indonesia: tend to be very heavy bodied, earthy, woody and spicy with little acidity.
Brazil: can be heavy in body, sweet with chocolate and nutty flavours.
Strength is an important term when describing coffee but one that is widely misused. Commonly used as a marketing tool on coffee bags, what they are really trying to communicate is how dark the roast is, but instead they reference strength by grading it from 1 to 5 which has little meaning. Coffee strength is mainly determined by the ratio of ground coffee used to the volume of water. The more coffee used, the stronger the resulting cup is likely to be. Strength is also influenced by the brewing method used and extraction level/time.
Grinding your own beans will have an enormous positive impact on quality, grind just before brewing and grind only the amount required. Coffee should be stored at ambient temperature in its own bag, sealed.
What’s a good rule of thumb when knowing how much coffee is enough?
Brewing a good cup of coffee at home is a matter of personal preference, an important factor to understand is the ratio of water to coffee. I would recommend 60g of coffee for one litre of water as a good starting point (one scoop/ at dessertspoon is approx 7g), then experiment from there.
Water preparation and temperature…
The role of water in the brewing process is crucial. If you live in a soft to moderately hard water area use tap water. If you live in very hard water area then have the water treated at source. If the water does not taste good to start with then neither will the cup of coffee. Use fresh water, not water that has been sitting in the kettle. If you have a temperature control kettle, heat to 95°C, otherwise boil the kettle and wait for it to just go off the boil.
The French press: Probably the most underrated method of brewing coffee. It is inexpensive, easy to use and gives great results.
Pour-overs /Filter brewers: The term ‘pour-over’ is used to describe a host of different brew methods. The common factor is that they all brew by percolation, water passes through a bed of ground coffee extracting flavour. Usually there is some sort of material to filter the grounds from the beverage such as paper filter, cloth or a fine metal mesh.
Aeropress: The Aeropress combines different brewing methods. Initially the water and coffee steep together as is the case with a French press, then to complete the brew, a piston is used to push the water through the grounds and paper filter, which is a little like what an espresso machine and a filter coffee maker both do. Compared with other brewers the range of recipes and techniques that can be used is enormous.
Stove-top espresso: Popular on mainland Europe, the stove-top tends to produce very strong and sometimes a bitter co ee drink (bitterness can be caused by the high temperatures, ie, 100 °C)
Recommended grind guides
› French press: Medium (caster sugar size)
› Pour-over filter brewers: Medium (caster sugar size)
› Aeropress: Decide what kind of coffee you want to drink, if short and strong then Fine grind (salt size) if you want something closer to a regular cup of coffee then Medium
› Stove-top moka pot: Fine (salt size)
When you’re adding milk/hot milk have you tips on temperature, preparation etc?
Excellent coffee should have its own sweetness and I always recommend tasting coffee before adding anything to it. If using warm milk then ensure that you do not overheat it. Milk begins to degrade in flavour and texture over 68°C.
Any other tips to keep in mind?
› Keep equipment clean, rinsing only with warm water. Do not use the dishwasher or detergents to clean.
› Warming cups before serving coffee enhances the coffee experience
› Buy coffee in small quantities, frequently. You might get a better price buying bulk but coffee goes stale.
› Sign yourself up to a monthly coffee subscription, try different coffees and challenge your taste buds.
› Experiment with the coffee and water ratios.
› Most of all have fun and enjoy your cup of coffee whether in solitude or in company.