What’s The Best Way To Create Barista-Level Coffee At Home?
Whether you’re working from home or self-quarantined, your favourite coffee shop may feel miles away. Read up for some tips on how to recreate the experience at home until the next time you venture out
A cup of coffee means many different things, depending on who you ask. For some, it’s jet fuel to kickstart the day—a bang-for-buck caffeine injection, spewed at the touch of a button and a mechanical whirr while your eyelids still droop. For others, it represents a certain feeling of hygge—a cheeky afternoon break, perhaps enjoyed in tandem with a baked treat, to jolt oneself out of a lull in productivity. And let’s not forget Singapore’s myriad coffee shops—little buzzing oases spinning locally roasted beans into silky flat whites and bracing single-origin pour-overs, where conversations both sobering and frivolous thrive over mugs clutched in the hands of kindred spirits.
These days, visits to the cafe are few and far in between, not to mention inadvisable—in the eyes of the authorities, anyway—in a time of social distancing. Coupled with the fact that many of us are working from home, it’s quite possibly the best time to pick up some coffee brewing skills to bring that café feeling closer.
You’ll find that there is a true sense of reward in prepping a high-quality cup of coffee at home—much like baking your own sourdough, or making other simple foods from scratch, there is a calming, almost meditative quality to carving out some time to create something we used to take for granted. When we eventually return to a semblance of normality, brewing your own coffee will be second nature. But don’t forget to go back and support your favourite coffee shops when all is said and done.
Bean To Brew
Much like getting the best quality produce before you cook, sourcing the right beans will elevate your cup. Forget the flavourless packs that have been sitting on the supermarket shelves for an indeterminate amount of time and head straight to—or order online from—a local independent roastery or cafe that sells high-quality beans. Do yourself a favour and refrain from asking the barista to pre-grind the beans for you—it’s a surefire way to lose maximum flavour in the shortest amount of time possible as the coffee oxidised.
The Daily Grind
One of the best pieces of equipment you can invest in is a proper grinder, says Noddy Lau of Artista Perfetto. After all, you wouldn’t butcher a beautiful sea bass with a blunt knife—do the right thing and treat the beans with respect. A decent grinder means your coffee grounds are most likely to be evenly sized—crucial if you want to get the most out of your delicious beans, and avoid the unpleasant flavours (either too bitter, or overly sour) that come from under- or over-extraction of inconsistently sized coffee grounds.
Make sure you’re investing in a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder—the latter does not so much grind as brutally chopping up your precious coffee beans. Hand grinders are economical—the Porlex Mini is often touted as the best value manual grinder out there. If you’re feeling fancy (or simply drink a lot of coffee), electric grinders are a bigger investment but save you time (though not necessarily space); Baratza is a barista favourite when recommending home options.
“Precision is the key to making a good cup of coffee,” says Rity Wong, founder of Elixir in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. She recommends investing in a scale, which will help you measure out just the right amount of beans each time as well as the correct volume of water. “From a top-grade Acaia scale to an affordable Hario V60 scale, you can find the right ratio and helps you to be consistent when brewing at home.”
Many coffee shops swear by a 1:17 ratio of coffee to water, meaning around 18-20g of beans for a smaller cup and 30g for a larger carafe of the good stuff.
“Water temperature is important in brewing a good cup of coffee as it might affect the flavour of the extraction,” says Sophie Chan, founder of Coffee Daily, a platform for coffee lovers. She recommends around 88-93℃ to brew most types of coffee: “But if you don’t have a proper thermometer at home, you could bring your water to boiling hot then wait for a few seconds till it settles. Then it should be ready.”
Other Brewing Tips
Always rinse your paper filters, whether or not you’re using bleached or unbleached ones. Doing so will help avoid tainting your brew with an unpleasant papery smell, and also helps to warm up your brewer and mug/vessel beforehand.
“I usually pour in 50g water in and wait 30 seconds for the coffee to bloom—a process also known as degassing,” says Chan. “This part helps release the CO2 from the coffee, especially with freshly roasted coffee, and can help make an even extraction. And I try to manage my brewing time within three minutes as the longer the brewing time, the easier your coffee will get over-extracted with bad flavours coming through.”
When in doubt, consult online. Wong recommends following the hashtag #brewathome on Instagram for inspiration. "It is a global social campaign to help the coffee community," she explains. "There are lots of brewing tutorials and tips available, so you can learn and improve your coffee making skills even you can't go out."