Can’t Get Your Coffee to Taste Like a Bought One? Read This for the Ultimate Coffee at Home Guide!

There’s NOTHING like a cup of perfect coffee in the morning to start your day off right – but if your at-home technique has left something to be desired, then read on! We chat to New Zealand barista champion Luise Metelka about all things coffee at home – from your shot through to the milk, and everything in between!

Ok Luise, making the perfect cup of coffee at home can be pretty daunting! Where do you start? 

You want to start with buying delicious coffee! Think of it as cooking – if a chef works with lower quality ingredients, he needs to work a lot harder to ensure his meals taste good. 

Make sure the coffee you use is five-20 days old. Any time before that, the coffee is too fresh and still needs time to oxidise, and after 20 days, the coffee starts to degrade and gets stale. Keep in mind that dark roasted coffee oxidises quicker and therefore won’t stay fresh as long.

The best way is to buy your coffee directly from your favourite roastery. This supports local businesses, and they will always have the freshest stock on hand.

I would also recommend keeping your coffee in a dark, air-tight container to slow down the ageing process. 

Most importantly, you should buy whole beans! Coffee starts losing its flavour and fragrance after only 10 minutes of grinding it! 

Is there an easy few steps people should remember when they’re using their at-home barista machine? 

Making coffee is like baking a cake, you need to follow a recipe. If you try to guess how much flour to use for your cake, the likelihood of it turning out great is very low. Even for an experienced baker or in this case, barista.

A good recipe will help you to brew a balanced espresso, so you don’t end up with an over extracted bitter cup of coffee. 

  • Dose – This is how much dry coffee you use before brewing it. A pretty standard amount would be 18g, depending on the size of your portafilter.
  • The yield – This is how much brewed coffee you get out. A standard amount would be a 1-2 ratio (ie Dose 18g, yield 36g).
  • Time! This literally determines if your coffee will be over or under extracted. A standard time is 26-30 sec, because that’s how long the water needs to extract the acidity and sweetness out of the coffee. Any longer than that, the water extracts too much flavour and you end up with a very bitter coffee. You want your shot to look like liquid honey. If your espresso runs too fast, and it’s shooting out like water, you need to slow your shot down by using a finer grind. Think of the portafilter as a bucket of rocks, water runs through the gaps fast and easily. Whereas if you have sand in the bucket, water has a hard time running through and will take longer. So, when running too fast, you want to make it more like sand, so use a finer grind size. 

Milk is such a big part of a lot of NZers coffee – is there a better kind to get if you’re steaming milk at home? 

The best milk for steaming, texturing, and pouring is regular cow’s milk with a fat content of 2% calcium. The fats, proteins, and sugars in the milk make it easy to work with and give that creamy mouthfeel. If you don’t drink dairy, then I would recommend oat milk. It isn’t only the most sustainable option, but also easiest to get right and pour latte art with. Personally, I also think the taste is not overpowering the coffee as much as other alternative milks. 

What’s the biggest mistake people make when attempting to make their own coffee at home?

They don’t buy fresh coffee, they don’t follow a recipe and they don’t maintain their machinery. I’ve had dinner at someone’s house and they’ve asked me to make the coffee with a plunger and pre-ground old coffee because I’d just won the Barista Champs. But even I couldn’t make that work. It is hilarious I think, because I am also helpless without the right gear, coffee and scale! 

Of course I totally understand that not everyone wants to take it as seriously. And that’s totally fine, but coffee is science and if you do want to make a coffee like a barista at home, then you need to know the fundamentals. Otherwise, you are a chef with fancy knives, but don’t know how to use them.

You’re the reigning national barista champion – how long have you been in the industry for? 

I started working in coffee in Melbourne in 2015. First in a busy takeaway cafe in the Queen Victoria markets, then moving on to a few Specialty Coffee shops. Since 2017 I’ve been working for Flight Coffee here in Wellington! I started off as a Barista, then Head Barista at the Hangar and eventually worked my way up to Flight the Roastery where I now roast and check the quality of the coffee. 

How did it feel when you won? 

It was pretty overwhelming! I had been preparing for it for 2 years (because of Covid it was postponed multiple times)! I think that year was a bit of a roller coaster for everyone, so to win after all this work and all these ups and downs, was a total relief. Especially, because I competed against some of the best in New Zealand and many of them I was already looking up to when I was still a beginner. It is such an honour and I cannot wait to represent New Zealand at the Worlds this year! 

How do you drink your own coffee?

I start my morning with a batch of filter coffee! But I also have a Breville Express Impress at home, so I often make myself an espresso or piccolo in the afternoon.

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