Many of us can’t function first thing without a hefty dose of caffeine. But if you’re bored of your same-old morning cup of joe, there are some simple ways to implement an upgrade.
Whether you drink instant coffee, grind your own beans or buy ready-ground, there are plenty of ways to turn your average morning brew into a stupendous beverage that you’ll never want to finish.
We asked baristas for some helpful hacks to get you started and it turns out there really is an art to making a good brew.
If you drink instant coffee...
Hugo Hercod was UK Barista Champion in 2008, so he knows what he’s talking about. He tells HuffPost UK there are plenty of good instant coffees on the market nowadays and urges people to taste around and be prepared to spend more money for better flavour.
“Look for speciality grade coffee if you can,” he says. “Avoid the big brand, dark roast stuff which will always carry bitterness with it.
“Many years ago, before I became obsessed with the quest for the perfect cup of coffee, my brew of choice was Douwe Egberts Gold. I’d make a shorter, stronger cup; no water just hot milk – much like the original flat white.”
If you start with beans...
When mathematicians, physicists and materials experts joined forces to create a formula for the perfect cup of coffee, they discovered that fewer coffee beans, ground more coarsely, were key to a drink that’s “cheaper to make, more consistent from shot to shot, and just as strong”. The study came about after mathematician Dr Jamie Foster discovered that sometimes two shots of espresso, made in seemingly the same way, can taste different.
If you grind your own beans, getting the texture right is important – and the type of grind should vary depending on your style of brew. For example, if you use an Aeropress, which forces water through the coffee and filter, opt for medium-ground coffee, advises Ariana Huecherig, operations manager at Perky Blenders Coffee Roasters, while if you use a cafetiere, you should go for a coarser grind.
For those who use an espresso machine or moka pot, finely ground coffee is better, and for those who prefer slower drip methods, like V60 or Chemex, try medium-coarse coffee. Read the exact recipes here.
It’s also worth noting that humidity can impact your beans, and therefore your coffee, says barista and gelato shop owner Daniele Taverner, a native of Turin, Italy, who learned about the science of coffee making at La Spaziale, Bologna.
Humidity on the day can impact the taste of your coffee. So, if you wanted to use seven grams of ground coffee for an espresso, for example, that 7g may actually contain more or less coffee depending on how much moisture the beans have absorbed from the air.
“Professional baristas are always making minute adjustments according to the conditions, so the method of achieving the perfect cup of coffee changes from day to day,” he says.
If you can grind your beans on demand you will get a better result, he adds. Noting that you don’t need an expensive coffee machine to do so – it can be done with a blender or even a pestle and mortar.
If you have ready-ground coffee...
Once you’ve opened your pack of ready-ground coffee, Taverner, who co-owns Gelato Village in Leicester, advises storing it in an airtight container to reduce the effects of humidity, giving you more time before the oils in the coffee turn “rancid”.
If you prefer to brew by hand (which basically means not using an espresso machine), Perky Blenders’ Ariana Huecherig recommends “focusing on pouring and evenly saturating the grounds” for even extraction and a well-balanced cup.
Rules to live by, whichever method you use...
Whether you’re starting with beans, ready-ground or instant coffee, Hugo Hercod urges people to upgrade their brew by filtering the water first, using better milk and not using boiling water.
The barista, who runs Relish Café in Cornwall and is co-founder of Rising Ground Coffee (busy guy!), says soft water lends itself to a better brew. “If you live in a hard water area, it’s much better to switch to filtered water,” he says.
“A standard filter works, but something like the Peak Water filter will do a better job. Hard water is already loaded with minerals so is less able to dissolve the important flavour molecules of coffee.”
When it comes to milk, he urges people to use full-fat as the flavour from the fat is “crucial”. Should you be adding salt or even butter to your cup, as some people suggest? “There’s no doubt a small amount of salt can enhance sweeter notes and reduce any bitterness,” says Hercod, “although to me it’s just a bit weird. If you talk to any chef, adding more butter and fat will make anything taste better, but there are limits.”
But another top tip, however you make your coffee, is not to have it too hot. “Your taste buds can’t taste sweetness above a certain temperature, so leave your boiling water to sit for a few minutes before you pour it into your cup,” Hercod says. “Ideally you want your coffee at the hot end of warm.”