Friday, May 20, 2022

How to Make the Best Cup of Coffee Ever at Home – From Plunger to Espresso

With more time at home than ever before, our non-café coffee game is being put through its paces. If you’re gonna do it, do it right – right? So to mark World Coffee Day, we caught up with coffee expert, former barista champion and De’Longhi coffee ambassador Sam Low to find out how to make the best cup of coffee ever. Read his top tips below!


I am positive that regardless of your coffee brewing choice or limitations you may have at home, your brew knowledge and the way you will think about this incredible product will change for the better after reading this.

Let’s talk about brewing (coffee extraction) first before I share some tips on achieving a delicious coffee with different brew methods at home. 

Essentially all coffee brewing methods involve using water to carry flavour from dry grounds of coffee into a brew (water-carrying coffee particles, solids). The general rule of brewing is the larger the grind size the longer the brew and the finer the grind the shorter the brew. E.g. a plunger, which uses a coarse grind setting, should be brewed for around 4 min, whereas an espresso that uses fine grinds is usually brewed within 30 seconds.

If the coffee is too bitter (usually an indication of over-extraction), extract less, you can achieve this by brewing for a shorter time period, using less coffee or using a coarser grind setting.

If the coffee is too sour or flat in flavour (usually an indication of under extraction), extract more, you can achieve this by brewing for a longer time period, using more coffee or using a finer grind setting.

Different brew methods will give you different flavours, tastes, aromatics, and mouthfeel of the same coffee so it’s important to understand what brew method is right for what you’re looking to extract out of a coffee. Here are some of my game-changing tips on achieving a perfect coffee at home from plunger to espresso.

The perfect cup – totally achievable at home!

Plunger hacks

A plunger, which is also known as a French press or cafetière, may be the most familiar home brewing style to you. It’s where you extract coffee from coarsely ground beans to typically get a longer coffee. 

  • Preheat the plunger by pouring hot water into the carafe with the lid on and the mesh pushed down to the base for 1 min before discarding, this will maintain a more consistent temperature for brewing the coffee, allowing a fuller extraction.
  • The perfect ratio of coffee to water depends on your personal preference however a great general brew guideline to start off with is 30g coffee to 500g water. Depending on the size of your plunger, adjust based on this ratio eg. 15g coffee to 250g water.
  • Use water that’s just off the boil, ideally 93 – 96C. This is the ideal water temperature for dissolving all the positive aromatics in coffee.
  • To avoid the muddy slurry on the bottom of the plunger, try to stop pouring the brewed coffee into your vessel when you start to see heavy sediments being poured out. 
  • The ideal grind size of the coffee is coarse sea salt.

Filter or Pourover tips

With the growth of coffee connoisseurs and black coffee drinkers, filter methods are becoming more popular, achieving brews that are light and delicate to give a sense of the coffee’s truest expression. These come in the form of manual devices such as cones that sit over a serving vessel and then have water poured over the coffee, and automatic batch brewing machines that make it easier to replicate consistent filter brews, like the Clessidra Drip coffee machine from De’Longhi. Here are my tips for making a delicious pourover coffee:

  • Preheat and rinse out the paper filter by pouring a sufficient amount of hot water (roughly 100g) over the brew device. This will rinse out the paper taste from the filter whilst heating up the brew device and serving vessel.
  • Use water that’s just off the boil, ideally 93 – 96C. This is the ideal water temperature for dissolving all the positive aromatics in coffee.
  • Using a gooseneck kettle will help achieve a more precise distribution of water over the coffee.
  • Use bleached paper filters (white) as the brown papers tend to add an undesired flavour of ‘paper’ to your brew.
  • The perfect ratio of coffee to water depends on your personal preference however a great general brew guideline to start off with is 15g coffee to 250g water.
  • The ideal grind size of the coffee is similar to sand or castor sugar.

Espresso

This is a pressurized way of brewing coffee that enables the creation of an intense and flavourful coffee extract that can be consumed on its own or with the addition of steamed milk. It’s actually the most popular amongst coffee drinkers within NZ. 

The best and easiest way to replicate an authentic café quality espresso at home is with a domestic machine. De’Longhi has a great selection of machines from fully automatic to manual machines – there’s something that will suit everyone.

I currently use a De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro at home and it has been incredibly easy to replicate barista-style coffees. They have also recently launched the La Specialista Arte (RRP$899) that enables coffee explorers to enjoy the art of coffee effortlessly from the comfort of their own homes. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the first one in the country to test out before its launch and I can truly say for its price point and its capabilities, it’s an incredible all in one coffee machine!

Lastly, the main thing with coffee is to experiment with these options and find the best brew method for you!

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