Coffee Dictionary Part 2 - Your coffee toolkit
If you read the first part of this coffee dictionary, you now know all about selecting your beans. But there’s still a few steps to the perfect cup, and we’re going to dive into them all. Before you even start brewing, there are some things you must know. Coffee can be simple, as easy as mixing a spoonful in hot water. Coffee can be slightly finicky, changing the taste depending on the ratios you choose to make it with. Coffee – as we all know – can be delicious, no matter how or when you make it. One thing coffee isn’t though, is hard. Making coffee should be a fun part of your routine and shouldn’t be stressing you out before you even take a sip. Coffee shouldn’t be and isn’t hard if you know what you’re doing.
(it can however be chewy, like we said in our last article.)
On Instant Coffee
Now if you go to your average connoisseur, you’ll often see how it isn’t just the least favoured option, but the one you are shamed for. Whether it’s considered low-brow or inferior in taste, instant coffee is a controversial topic, to say the least.
But we’re here to tell you that instant coffee (including ours) is nowhere near the catastrophe it is made out to be. Instant coffee provides most of the benefits of regular coffee, like the large number of antioxidants and its benefits to the liver. It’s also easy to make, cheaper, and as easy to customise as any other coffee on this list. It also tends to have less caffeine, which is great if you like to scratch that coffee itch later in the day (without spoiling your sleep).
Flavoured Instant coffee like Cocobroma’s also opens a variety of flavour choices for you to have. Getting instant coffee with infused flavours allows you to control the flavours you like. It’s delicious and uncomplicated, just like coffee should be. With flavoured instant coffee, you have the variety and options of a coffee bar only a spoonful away. Whether you’re just looking for a hint of caramel or vanilla in your coffee, or a sweet, delicious Coffee KitKat Shake, flavoured instant coffee allows you to make that an easy option.
Whether you love or hate instant coffee – what matters most is what it does for you. If you’re a coffee scientist who loves experimenting with new tools and techniques, that’s awesome. But if you love instant coffee – and will continue to drink it every single morning (afternoon and evening), more power to you.
However, if you don’t – there’s a lot you can use to get the coffee of your dreams. Your guide to that begins right here.
Tools of the trade
While we’re not telling you to run off and buy these the first chance you get – they do end up being very useful for the coffee making process. There’s no point buying things that you won’t need, so make sure you customise this list to your own coffee habits. Some of these you might already have in your home kitchen – so make sure to make the most of it!
Most baristas worth your time will tell you that you must grind your own coffee beans. That freshly ground is better, more consistent, and will provide a better flavour. We understand where they’re coming from. Coffee oxidises over time, and with that, many of the oils and flavours we love fade away. Grinding your coffee fresh is the best way to retain those flavours. However, any coffee will eventually oxidise if left unused. Some coffees will use preservatives to slow that down – and that helps keep many pre-ground coffees fresh for longer. If you hate grinding coffee beans, hate the equipment and the time it takes (and like many people, can’t taste the difference), you can absolutely skip to the next section. We won’t tell. If you do, however, want to grind your beans, here’s what you need to know.
The Burr grinder. Burr grinders are an optimal choice for home brewers. Manual or electrical, the burr acts as a mortar, giving you an even and customisable grind. While the burrs come in two types, flat or conical, conical is more versatile and suited for a starting grinder, whereas flat grinders are more often used in cafes. Manual grinders look somewhat like a pepper mills, where the burrs can be separated (for a coarse grind) or pushed together (for a fine grind). Manual conical burr grinders are user-friendly and easy to store, but they take a fair amount of time and elbow grease to get a perfect grind. Electric ones are faster, but also more expensive, so the manual is a great starting point. Conical burrs are perfect for espresso and other brewing methods, where grind size and consistency are critical to the flavour.
The blade grinder. Blade grinders are very similar to spice grinders – something you probably already have. Blade grinders are cheap, easy to store, and come in a variety of brands and shapes. They’re also multipurpose since they’re useful even as regular dry blenders. However, there is very little you can do to control the grind size. While burr grinders may rely on clicks for you to realise when your desired consistency is reached, blade grinders cannot do the same. It will always have room for uneven grounds, since all the coffee may not disperse evenly. Blade grinders, however, reduce the labour of manual grinders in half, so it’s worth it for people on the go. Its multipurpose functionality helps increase its value.
For those of you who scoff at measuring cups and throw your ingredients straight into the bowl – we love your gutsiness. However, playing with coffee ratios is a great way to change up your daily cup – and we highly recommend trying it out! Even something as simple as a teaspoon or tablespoon will do – just remember, that a teaspoon accounts for approx. 3-7 grams of coffee, when a tablespoon can be up to 15. If you’re an A+ student, you probably have a nifty set of measuring spoons at the ready. Aside from regular tableware, it will help you get the closest measurement possible. These can help you when you play with your recipes in the future.
However, possibly the most relevant piece of advice in this post is coming up: Get yourself a kitchen scale. Not very expensive and endlessly useful, a kitchen scale is almost essential for coffee experimentation. And believe me, if you have one in your home, you will use it for a lot more than coffee. For baking, snacking or just regular measurement, the cooking scale is going to help you even out any ratio you try. It’ll make the very annoying challenge of juggling measuring cups unnecessary and will help you perfect your coffee. (read, 1:60 of grounds to water is a great place to start.)
Do not let anyone tell you that you can only make great coffee with a fancy gooseneck kettle. While these help with evening the wetness of the grounds and provide tons of precision, there is nothing it can do that a good old tea kettle can’t. If you don’t have one of those, heating it in the microwave or on the stove is just as good.
Most coffee brewing methods (like the drip or pour-over, we’ll get there) would ask you to use the hottest water possible. Some, however, allow several seconds of waiting before pouring your water. While for many techniques this doesn’t make a difference, make sure to pay attention if you notice any grand changes in taste.
If you’ve seen any south Indian drink filter coffee – you know a huge part of it is repeatedly pouring from one cup to another. Not only is this very fun, but it also helps create that signature froth and melts any remaining large pieces of sugar. But as nice as it is to do this for filter coffee, you can do it to any other coffee you make! The back and forth helps cool down the coffee to the perfect drinkable temperature, so you can enjoy your coffee without waiting for it to cool.
This is the step that’s easiest to understand. Really, there’s no coffee without beans, so we recommend you get them (even pre-ground). After your beans are bought, ground, and measured, you can, finally make your coffee. Ideally, you would use one of these brewing methods to make your coffee.
The Pour over. The pour over is one of the cheapest and most fun ways to make a bright, delicious cup of coffee. It involves pouring hot water over grounds in a conical holder, letting the coffee drip through the filter into the cup. This allows the water to soak through the grounds without any grittiness of the minerals. The coffee you get is very clean and tends to bring out bright and acidic flavours. It has steady extraction and ends up being a lot cheaper and easier to clean than many other coffee brewing methods. You have seen different pour over coffee makers, such as the Chemex and Hario V60. The cones even come in different materials, like ceramic, plastic, and stainless steel. There are a few downsides to using pour over coffee makers. They aren’t the most conducive to travel because of their shape – and they can be a little finicky to use. We think pour over techniques are a great way to update your coffee routine. Drip coffee methods are very similar to pour over ones but are usually found in electric machines. They’ve witnessed huge amounts of popularity in recent times, because of their speed, ease of use, and the incorporation of single cup machines.
Immersion. Immersion methods, like they sound, are all about letting the coffee steep in the water for a certain period, letting the water infuse with the flavour. The time for this can vary from a few minutes to several hours. They’re extremely easy to use, cost effective, and end up giving you a silky, full bodied cup of coffee. A French press is a very popular immersion brewer, where you steep your coffee for 4-8 minutes before pressing down a mesh plunger, creating a strong brew. Cold brewing, where a large amount of coffee is steeped in cold water for close to 24 hours, is also an interesting way to immersion brew. Since the coffee blooms in cold water, it does not extract as much bitterness or acidity as if it were steeped in hot. While Immersion brews are easy to use, they don’t always provide the depth of flavour that appears in other methods.
Boiling. A very easy method to brew coffee, the boiling method is just like that. Just as you would make tea, boiling brews involve boiling water with the coffee already mixed. This allows a very easy way to make strong, flavourful coffee with no frills and no equipment. But the simplicity of this method does not take away from the delicious coffee it can create, both in small and large batches. Moreover, small inexpensive makers like a Moka Pot, which helps you make espresso on the stovetop, are very useful to enhance your coffee.
Filters are important. Whether metal, paper, cloth or mesh, a filter is what will separate a smooth, yummy cup of coffee from a gritty, silty brown juice. While every brewing method has a variety of different filters to use, which come in use for all brewing methods (like using a Hario v60 filter to filter your cold brew or adding a paper AeroPress filter to reduce the oils in a French press). Our recommendation is to use filters which they recommend on the box. Usually, those filters are created by the same companies that make the product and end up being the best choice to use with the brewing instructions. They are the safest way to go. However, if you can taste the dryness that often accompanies a paper filter, or think they’re not eco-friendly, metal filters are an interesting choice. While they can affect the flavour of your final brew, they may allow more of the oils and interesting flavours to seep into your coffee. Of course, if you don’t like the idea of a reusable filter, there are many single-use coffee filters that can fit in your compost bin along with your grounds. Just make sure to read the label! Least comes to least, you can get an AeroPress – where each paper filter can be used up to 80 times!
Like we said earlier, no one is here to judge you for your taste in coffee. Even if you do like brown juice, that’s absolutely your prerogative. All we want is for you to make your mornings just a little bit better – and that’s why this coffee dictionary is here for you. To check out our collection, click here. And look out for the next part, where we teach you about (almost) every coffee drink out there!
Remember to keep an eye out for new blog posts, especially if you want to know how to use some of the products we spoke about. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook to keep with all the cool coffee related content you can think of!