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10 tips to massively improve your coffee making skills

Coffee. Boiling water. Milk. Right? Wrong.

10 tips to massively improve your coffee making skills
09 February 2016

Coffee. Boiling water. Milk.

Job done, surely?

Despite the UK's new-found addiction to heaven's black nectar, we still have a woeful understanding of how to make a good cup of coffee (hint: NEVER use instant, you monster).

But help is at hand, in the form of these ten tips from Head of Innovation at Lavazza UK Dave Cutler - a man who knows his Robusta from his Arabica.

From the perfect water temperature to the ideal grinds, prepare to perfect the art of coffee making.

Stay fresh

"First things first, coffee is best served fresh. Many people advise you to store coffee beans in the fridge or the freezer - don't, as this can often affect the quality, as coffee oxidises when it comes in to contact with humidity as well as light and air.

"To keep coffee beans at their freshest, store them in a one-way breathable bag with a zip lock resealable top in a cool, dark place. Using a bag like this will prolong its life and stop any unwanted oxygen from speeding up its deterioration."

Know your beans

"There are two types of coffee bean, Arabica (left) and Robusta (right).

"Arabica is generally cultivated high up in the mountains, is lighter in flavour, sweeter, more aromatic and has greater acidity: perfect if you like your coffee smooth and not too intense.

"If you enjoy a full-bodied coffee and an intense espresso then you might want to consider an Arabica/Robusta blend.

"Robusta grows at lower altitude, is darker, intense and much more bodied. It brings a rich velvety texture to your coffee with hints of dark chocolate."

The daily grind

"If grinding your beans at home, make sure you grind them according to your brewing method.

"Filter coffee, for use in caffetieres and pour overs, need a coarse grind like that of rough sand.

"For espresso and moka pots like the iconic Bialetti, use a much finer grind like soft powder.

"The finer the coffee, the more flavour you will extract - but be careful, as over-extracting your coffee will result in bitter, dry and burnt flavours. The right balance is needed."

Milk of life

"Want silky smooth milk foam?

"When using an espresso machine with a manual steamer, first open the steam arm to clear any water, as you don’t want this diluting your milk.

"Fill a small metal jug with at least a third of milk and insert the tip of the steamer just below the surface and at an angle, so the steam pushes the milk around the jug in a circle.

"Create foam by gently lowering the jug to add air – too many bubbles? You lowered it too fast!

"When you have finished tap the jug on a hard surface to get rid of any bubbles and spin it until it appears smooth and shiny."

Perfect Espresso

"There are three components that make an excellent espresso:

  • A firm 5mm crema (the hazelnut coloured foam formed on the surface of the espresso)
  • Full body (its structure and thickness)
  • Intense aroma (an espresso’s aromatic fragrance which maybe reminiscent of flowers, fruit or chocolate).

"The crema is the best indication of how well the espresso has been made, and it should never be too frothy, too light or too dark, nor should it disappear too quickly. Coffee machines like the Lavazza A Modo Mio can create a 5mm crema, making an espresso a great deal easier."

The skinny on the Flat White

"A coffee serve which is now a firm favourite in cafes across the UK is the flat white – but there is still some confusion about what it actually is.

"First created in Australia or New Zealand (depending who you talk to), the flat white is generally smaller than a latte and the milk is folded into the coffee so there is no distinction between foam and liquid.

"The foam is, therefore, velvety instead of having the stiff froth characteristic of a cappuccino. Served with a double espresso, the flat white is all about packing in lots of taste."

Boiling over

"A good, hot cup of coffee is a wonderful thing but never use water that’s over 94 degrees - the coffee will burn.

"When making filter coffee at home wait 30 seconds after the kettle has boiled before making your brew.

"When steaming milk the ideal temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees which is slightly uncomfortable to the touch any hotter and it also starts to burn."

Not just for mornings

"If you want to have a coffee after dinner, you’re better off having an espresso.

"Despite what many people think, espresso has less caffeine than many other styles of coffee, with only 40-80mg per cup compared to filter coffee, which has 115-120 mg per cup."

Keep it on ice

"To make your own iced coffee supply, create coffee ice cubes to keep the drink chilled, but just as intense until the very last sip.

"Pour a good quality coffee and warm water into a jug and stir until the coffee is fully infused in the water.

"Let the liquid cool down for a few minutes and then carefully pour the coffee mixture into an ice tray and freeze until they are ready to use.

"When you next fancy an iced coffee, fill a glass with the coffee cubes and pour chilled milk over them."

Think of coffee like wine

"There are many factors which can impact a coffee's flavour: the climate, region, how the beans are roasted.

"I’d suggest trying coffee from different countries to find out what you like – in the same way you might favour a specific wine-producing region, and discover your taste for coffee."