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The ultimate guide to coffee making

Making the perfect coffee

One of life’s little luxuries, a visit to the coffee shop is a real treat for some. But if you get into the habit, it can be a costly experience. With the help of a coffee machine, you can enjoy a decent cup of coffee in your own home, whenever you like… and what a lot you’ll save in the long run!

The best way to grind your coffee

Don’t underestimate the importance of grinding…

There’s nothing quite like the evocative aroma of freshly ground coffee, and the taste of pre-ground, shop-bought simply cannot compare. It’s a good idea to only grind as much coffee as you need at the time as, once the oils from ground beans come into contact with air, oxidation causes them to quickly lose freshness and flavour. There’s some debate about how best to store coffee – some swear by the fridge or freezer – but most people agree upon an airtight container kept in a cool, dry, dark place.

For perfect coffee, too much grinding is as bad as too little – it has to be ‘just right’ – and each brewing method requires a different sized grind. The coarseness determines how fast water passes through the grinds – generally speaking, the shorter the brewing time, the finer the grind needs to be.

Extra fine
Extra fine coffee grounds
Pump or steam espresso machines.
Fine
Fine coffee grounds
Drip machines with cone-shaped filters, stove-top coffee makers.
Medium
Medium coffee grounds
Drip machines with flat-bottomed filters.
Coarse
Coarse coffee grounds
Percolators, cafetières.

There are two main types of grinder:

Burr
Burr grinder
Connoisseurs say that a burr grinder is by far and away the best method – rather than chopping, burr systems crush the beans (a bit like a pestle and mortar) into thousands of uniformly sized grains suited to espresso. Burr machines have either a conical or disc grinder, and most have adjustable and pre-programmed grind settings to suit different tastes and coffee machines.
Blade/Mill
Blade/mill grinder
A less expensive option, manual and electrical versions are available, and a rotating blade chops the beans, but without the precision and uniformity of a burr grinder. Fine for filter coffee and cafetières, but take care not to over grind as heat generated by the blade may cause the coffee to taste slightly burnt.

The golden rules of frothing

The golden rules for frothing are that milk must be fresh as the proteins that help it froth start to diminish after about four days, and you should always use it cold, straight from the fridge.

You can use any type of milk you like:

Full fat
Gives a rich taste but is not as easy to froth.
Semi skimmed
Froths quite easily and has some fat for a tasty drink.
Skimmed
The easiest to froth and the choice for ‘skinny’ coffees.

Barista tips

  • Use a thermometer when steaming milk. It should be heated to 60-65°C – any hotter and it will taste burnt.
  • If there are large bubbles in the froth, give the jug a tap on the side to help disperse them.

Stainless steel jugs are the best for conducting heat – use a large one so there’s plenty of room for froth. To begin, use a thermometer when steaming and frothing milk – it should only be warmed to around 65°C, if it gets too hot it will scald, resulting in a bad taste.

With the right technique and a bit of practice you can create luxurious, velvety smooth froth.

What you’ll need to froth your milk

If your coffee machine doesn’t have a built-in milk frother there’s a host of alternatives available to suit all budgets, from hand-held, battery-operated whisks, to compact machines that warm and froth milk at the push of a button.

Milk Frothing Jug
Milk Frothing Jug
Stainless steel jug, specially made for frothing milk for coffees & hot chocolate.
£13.49
Aerolatte® To Go
Aerolatte® To Go
Milk frother with a stainless steel whisk. 22cm long. Comes with a neat storage case. Batteries included.
£9.99
Aerolatte Compact Milk Frother
Lakeland Red Lattemagic
Our Aerolatte is the secret to creating authentic lattes, creamy cappuccinos and café-style hot chocolates
£69.99

Taking care of your machine

A coffee machine can be an expensive investment, so it’s well worth taking care of. A little TLC will extend its life, keep it working as it should and, of course, ensure your coffee tastes the best it possibly can.

  • Coffee machines need to be descaled every so often but the frequency depends how often you use yours and whether you live in a hard or soft water area – always check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Using filtered water may help reduce limescale build-up between descaling.
  • If there’s a reusable or permanent filter, this should be rinsed or wiped clean after every use to remove all coffee particles and oil residue.
  • Periodically run water through the machine (without any coffee) to rinse away any grains.
  • Don’t forget the steam arm. After each use, wipe it down with a damp cloth. If there’s dried-on milk, sit it in a jug of hot water to soften it. If possible, the pipe should be regularly removed and rinsed clean.
  • All outer parts should be wiped with a soft, damp cloth.

Barista tips

Clean your machine thoroughly after every use, otherwise residues of bitter coffee oils may still be present and will affect the flavour of your next drink.

Did you know

About 30% of the world’s coffee comes from Brazil, and the country once issued a coffee-scented postage stamp!

All of the world’s coffee is grown within 1000 miles of the equator, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Coffee is the world’s second largest export, after oil.

In Europe, coffee was first known as Arabian wine.

Legend says coffee was discovered by a sheep herder whose flock became hyperactive after eating fallen coffee berries.

Thousands of years ago, the people of Ethiopia would mix coffee beans with animal fat for high energy snacks on hunting expeditions.

Cappuccino is said to be named for its resemblance to the colour of the robes worn by monks of the Capuchin order.

The first coffee house in Italy is thought to have opened in 1645.

Decaffeinated coffee still contains some caffeine, but is has to be no more than 2.5%.

What you’ll need to look after your machine

Look after your coffee machine and it will provide you with years of service. They don’t need much maintenance, but to ensure the perfect cup of coffee every time it is worth giving your machine a little TLC.

BRITA® Elemaris Maxtra Filter Jug
BRITA® Elemaris Maxtra Filter Jug
Water filter jug from BRITA with a pour-through lid for easy-filling. Cartridge incl.
£24.99
General Purpose E-Cloth®
General Purpose E-Cloth®
We know how much you love E-cloth, and their latest cloth is an excellent all-rounder, cleaning stainless steel, chro…
£4.99
Quickshine Descaler Sachets
Quickshine Descaler Sachets
Descaler sachets for cleaning kettles and coffee makers.
£3.69