For coffee connoisseurs in-the-making who are keen to know their Arabica from their Robusta and how to achieve the perfect crema, Dave Cutler, Head of Innovation at Lavazza UK, has ten top tips to ensure you get the best out of your daily caffeine fix from the comfort of your own home.
1. Think of Coffee Like Wine
Coffee is not just coffee and is as diverse in flavour and aroma as the world of wine. In fact there are over twice the aromatics found in coffee as there is in our grape-based friend. There are many things that can impact coffee’s flavour, from the species and variety to its origin and region. The way the coffee is processed as well as roasted all impact on the final cup and that’s before it lands in the hands of a barista, who can prepare it in numerously different ways. Variety truly is the spice of life – so trial coffees from different countries and prepared in different ways. Most of all; enjoy the journey.
2. A Fresh Perspective
First things first, coffee is at its best when it’s fresh. Many people advise you to store your coffee in the fridge or freezer but this can often have a negative impact on the quality of the coffee as it will oxidise when it comes in to contact with humidity, as well as light and air. To keep coffee beans at their best store them in an airtight container, limiting the amount of air you trap in side, and keep in a cool, dark place. Beans will keep longer than pre-ground coffee as with pre-ground you are exposing more of the coffee to deteriorating factors. Whichever you prefer, buy small quantities at a time – little and often.
3. Know Your Beans
There are two types of coffee bean – Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is generally cultivated high up in the mountains, is lighter, sweeter, more aromatic and has higher acidity – perfect if you like your coffee smooth and not too intense. If you prefer a more full bodied coffee with greater intensity then you might want to consider an Arabica/Robusta blend. Robusta grows at lower altitude and produces a slightly darker flavour with plenty of body and hints of dark chocolate; great for that authentic, rich, Italian style espresso.
4. The Daily Grind
If grinding your beans at home, make sure you’re grinding them to suit your brewing method. Coffees prepared with a cafetière need a very coarse grind, like rough sand; filter methods like pour overs (V60) need a slightly finer grind, think granulated sugar; Moka pots and espresso require a very fine grind like soft powder. The finer the grind the more flavour you will extract from the coffee but be careful, over extracting will result in a bitter, burnt flavour so experiment until you create your perfect cup.
5. Perfect Milk
Ever wondered how you can achieve the silky, smooth microfoam you would be served from your favourite cafe? First you will need an espresso machine with a manual steamer. Place fresh, cold milk in a metal milk pitcher and insert the steam arm at an angle so the tip is below the surface. With the steamer on slowly lower the pitcher until you hear little chirps as air is gradually added. Once you’ve stretched the milk to the desired consistency tilt the jug to spin the milk, blending everything together. When you’ve finished tap the jug on the counter to burst any bubbles and spin the milk to achieve a glossy shine. If this seems like too much work investing in a coffee machine that will do all the hard work for you while you sit back and take all the credit.
6. La Creme de la Crema
Espresso is recognised throughout the world as the quintessential Italian coffee. There are three things that create this authentic coffee: a thick, firm crema (the hazelnut foam that forms on top of the espresso), full body (a velvety mouthfeel) and rich aromatics which, depending on the coffee, can smell of caramel, chocolate or dried fruit. The crema is often the best indication of how well the espresso has been made; it should never be too frothy, too light or too dark, nor should it disappear too quickly.
7. The Flat What?
Now a staple in the UK’s coffee shop scene, the Flat White is one of the most frequently ordered coffees – but what exactly is it and where did it come from? Originating from New Zealand and Australia, the Flat White is a smaller coffee (usually 6-8oz) and is prepared using a ristretto – a short espresso. Whole milk is steamed and folded through the coffee creating a velvety texture before the drink is presented, usually with latte art on the surface.
8. Some Like it Hot
A good, hot cup of coffee is a wonderful thing but be careful when brewing your coffee at home. Coffee should be brewed with water between 90 and 94 degrees C as any hotter than this will cause it to over extract, leading to a bitter taste. A good tip for cafetières is to use water straight from the kettle to warm the flask for a few minutes first. By the time you discard this water, the actual coffee water (still in the kettle) will be at the right temperature to use. When streaming milk be sure to keep the heat below 70 degrees C, any higher and it will start to produce hydrogen sulphide – that burnt, eggy smell!
9. Not Just for Mornings
If you like a coffee after dinner, but don’t want to be awake all night, you’re better off drinking espresso (or decaf!). Despite what many people think, espresso has less caffeine than other brew methods, with only 40-60mg per cup compared to filter coffee which has 115-120mg per cup. This is because the caffeine in coffee is a soluble compound so therefore the longer coffee and water are in contact, the more caffeine is extracted.
10. A Bit of Home Brew
Cold brew burst onto the coffee shop scene several years ago and it’s here to stay. By using cold water to brew the coffee it produces a sweeter, more mellow flavour and is definitely not “coffee gone cold”! You can easily make this yourself at home using a cafetière. Use very coarsely ground beans (we recommend doing this yourself) and a ratio of about 60g to 1 litre of cold, filtered water. Stir together in your cafetière and leave it to steep in the fridge for about 12 hours. Strain through a fine cloth or filter paper and there you have it. Experiment with different coffees but usually a light roasted Arabica produces the best flavours as it highlights the sweeter, fruitier side to the coffee when cold.
For more coffee inspiration follow @LavazzaUK
About Dave Cutler
Dave Cutler spent the first 10 years of his career as a professional actor after graduating from drama school in 2003. During this time, he also worked as an Event Manager for a promotional company that counted Lavazza as one of its clients. Dave went on to meet the Lavazza team at several events throughout the years, including Wimbledon and at well-known food and coffee festivals. It was at these events working for the Lavazza brand that Dave discovered his passion for good quality coffee.
Dave started his career with Lavazza as a Training Manager in March 2014 and was promoted to Head of Innovation in October the following year. Dave travels the UK showing people how to enjoy quality coffee (including running coffee and food pairing workshops at various festivals over the summer) and developing coffee serves. He is a member of the Speciality Coffee Association and has achieved their highest level in Barista training on their Coffee Diploma program.