Coffee: the fuel we need to kickstart our engines in the morning. For some, the thought of facing the day without an early dose of caffeine almost seems incomprehensible – in today’s society, the reliance on coffee is a great one.
It’s not just the kickstarting characteristics of coffee that has us obsessed. We’re appreciating the flavours and blends of caffeine brews more than ever before. Tea is taking a backseat, coffee is the modern day ‘cuppa’.
But do you know how to make the perfect coffee from the comfort of your own home, rather than relying on the services of the local barista? Unsuburbia has provided an insight into how you can craft cups of caffeine completeness using different methods, and which produces the best outcome.
The much-derided instant coffee is often seen as the bottom rung of the caffeine ladder. Yet the instant coffees in today’s market have become more sophisticated, infusing themselves with specialist flavours and aromas to become a tastier option for the coffee drinker’s palate. Instant coffee has gone full circle and become cool again.
The history of instant coffee is a rich one. The first soluble coffee in Britain dates back to the late 18th century, where the government patented the idea of the ‘coffee compound’, but it wasn’t for another century before New Zealander David Strang developed the ‘dry hot air’ process for the manufacturing of instant coffee. It became a staple part of a soldier’s rations during the US Civil War and the First World War and in 1938, the iconic Nescafe – still seen on our shelves today – was released.
From ease, convenience and price point perspectives, instant coffee is streets ahead of other techniques – a cup can be made, well, instantly, and you can pick up a good quality jar of grounded beans for around £5. But if you’re passionate about your brew and time isn’t of the essence, instant may not be for you.
Barista-style drinks at the click of a button. A major thumbs-up for pod machines is the plethora of choice available; flat white, cappuccino, Americano, espresso. You name it, there’s a pod for it, all providing a stimulating, flavoursome brew. It may seem a modern-day invention, yet the idea of the pod machine was first devised by Eric Favre over 40 years ago, when he pioneered Nespresso for Nestlé in 1976.
The practicality of the machines is very much a hit-and-miss territory, varying from brand to brand. Trying to find a coffee machine and the right pod can seem a Sisyphean task, due to fiddly capsules and scalding hot water.
But with coffee pod machines, you need to look at the bigger picture, especially when it comes to sustainability. The sheer amount of plastic and aluminium waste caused by pod machines is alarming, with a ratio of one piece of waste for every one drink made – it’s indefensible. The problem is so rife, the German city of Hamburg has banned coffee pods in state-run buildings to combat the amount of plastic waste. A more sustainable way of producing the pods is imperative to the future of these machines.
A cafetière, or French coffee press, brought a more sophisticated method and taste to the morning ritual. Originally patented by Milanese designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, it underwent varying design modifications before Faliero Bondanini, a Swiss innovator, created the most iconic iteration of the cafetière in 1958. Danish kitchenware company Bodum and Household Articles Ltd, a British-based outfit, helped bring the brewing device to the masses – and an appearance in the Michael Caine espionage film The Ipcress File boosted its popularity.
This form of coffee making is based on letting the coffee brew in the cafetière, then using a plunging system to separate the grounded remains from the brewed beverage. However, there’s an array of considerations that you need to take and be aware of when brewing in a cafetière.
You can’t leave it steeped for too long, the filter has to be perfectly blended to the edges of the glass cylinder, you have to have judged the grind size of the beans correctly, and the plunging action can’t contain a single judder. Any deviation from above can ruin the brew and result in a flat flavourless coffee which is full of bitter ground.
Pour-over filter coffee
High quality, cost efficient and sustainable, pour-over filter coffee ticks all the right boxes from a practicality perspective. Similar to the cafetière, this method is also known as the Melitta process, in honour of Melitta Bentz, the German heralded as the pour-over inventor in 1908. As founder of the Melitta Company, she is believed to be the biggest influencer in popularising the pour-over technique.
Requiring freshly ground coffee, a filter and a filter holder, the brewing process involves pouring water over and through the coffee to extract the aromas and flavours. The major benefit of this technique compared to others is that the brew is constantly replenished with fresh water being poured over the top, promoting faster and more efficient brewing. The ongoing supply of water also takes off any surface layers on the coffee to give you a fresher brew. And with this fresher, faster and efficient brewing comes a rich, full flavoured coffee.
If there’s one downfall of pour-over filter coffee, it’s the time it takes to get the right flavour to suit your tastes. It may be a case of ‘trial and error’ until you find the perfect coarseness of ground coffee to suit how strong you want your brew. If you’re in need of a quick caffeine fix too, this may not be best method – a strong brew can take upwards of four minutes, plus the prep time.
An Italian staple when it comes to making coffee. A New York Times article once reported that 90 per cent of Italian households owned a moka pot – it’s as iconic as the country’s Fiat 500, Vespa and Tower of Pisa. Invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, the core principle of the moka pot is to boil water in the bottom of the chamber on your stove, which then works up through the ground beans and creates the caffeine-infused hit. In practice, a simple approach to beverage making.
The pots come at a cheap price too – you can pick one up for as little as £25. Cost efficient, sustainable and an easy process, surely the perfect option, right?
Well, to be blunt, no. Italians are renowned for their love of strong coffee and a full moka pot would be enough to power a rocket for a tour of the solar system and back, the taste is that powerful. The flavour is bitter and the texture is thick, whilst getting the coffee ground to right size can be highly problematic and severely hamper the taste.
For the authentic flavours of an independent coffee shop, look no further than a bean-to-cup machines. The taste, textures and aromas of a shop-bought coffee are transported to your kitchen, as you freshly grind the beans before brewing – the scent of this alone is enough to get your internal cogs turning in the mornings. The serving temperature is flawless, the strength can be catered to suit your taste buds and the milk can be frothed up a la cappuccino style. You’ve got your own barista in the comfort of your home.
The price of a bean-to-cup coffee machine, however, can be excessive compared to other methods of making a coffee. Obviously, for a better-quality caffeine brew, you’ll have to pay more, and prices will vary depending on what features the machine has.
For some, a coffee is a coffee, regardless of how it’s made. Yet to truly embrace the variety of flavours the humble bean brings, the approach taken when brewing can accentuate the aromas and bring a whole new taste, and strength, to your cup of caffeine.