The difference between making a coffee and making a GREAT BLOODY COFFEE is consistency.
But before you can make a GREAT BLOODY COFFEE, there are some simple steps to take, to ensure everything is setup.
Turn on your coffee machine!
It doesn't matter if you have a cheap coffee appliance that you bought during EOFY sales or you have a semi-pro coffee machine with multiple porta-filters and pipes...all coffee appliances or machines should be turned on at least 15 minutes prior to using, this allows the boiler and all the piping to heat up.
Place your cleaned porta-filter into the group head at the same time, so that the basket can also heat up.
Place your coffee cups on top of your machine (the warming pad), to allow them to heat up. If your machine doesn't have a warming pad, then fill them with hot water.
Whilst the machine is warming up, lets talk about grinding the coffee beans.
Grinding the Coffee Beans
If you have done your research and watched videos on purchasing a coffee machine and making coffee, then you may have heard people say "If you can afford to, use most of your budget in purchasing a better coffee grinder than a better coffee machine".
This is probably good advice, but we all know the coffee machine always looks better on the kitchen bench than a coffee grinder! Just remember this advice for the future when you need to/decide to upgrade your equipment.
Anyway - Grinding Beans. A wise man once said to me "You will need to adjust your grinder for every different bean you use. Even the change in weather can sometimes effect the grind". It's true!
You can't go and buy cheap beans that are on sale to setup your coffee grinder. You need to use the beans you are going to be making coffee with because you are setting up the grinder for the beans, not the other way around!
There is a simple method that ensures you don't waste too much of your beans and your time.
For clarity, I'm talking about grinding coffee beans to make an espresso from a machine. Grinding for other coffee making methods will be discussed later as they are mostly different. This is why you can't purchase ground coffee and think you can just use it in your machine...chances are it will come out of the porta-filter like muddy water! Most pre-ground coffee from the shops is meant for French Press, pour over or stove top making methods.
"It's all in the grind..." Grimes - Black Hawk Down 2001
Grind about a teaspoons worth of coffee. Then get your fingers dirty.
You want a fine grind, the coffee should stick together between your fingers and not crumble away too easily. But not stick too easily either.
If it crumbles then its too coarse, adjust the grind a little finer.
If it's too fine, it will stick together like wet sand, adjust the grind a little coarser.
Keep repeating this until you think you have the right texture.
Discard your grind as you go.
This will get you to a good starting point.
Just grind enough for one shot of coffee. about 18g. If you like, weigh the coffee beans and then grind them, then you'll know your ground coffee is the correct weight/ amount for a single shot (and it's less messy!).
There's a small but very important step here before you begin your pour...leveling and tamping the grind.
Don't just throw the ground coffee into the porta-filter, like you trying to replicate someone salting a nice scotch fillet steak. Get the ground coffee into the basket and tap the porta-filter on a chopping board or tea towel (something that's not going to crack, like your $10,000 granite bench top!).
You want to help distribute the grounds evenly in the basket. Clean the rim of the basket, making sure you don't have coffee outside of the basket and sitting on the little lugs that help it lock into place within your machine. Overtime that will get stuck up inside the shower head area and cause you issues.
Now with your porta-filter level on your bench or working area, tamp the coffee down firmly and evenly. The coffee shouldn't be on an angle, nice and level.
Once tamped evenly, the coffee should sit about 5ml lower than the top of the basket. Now there are many different sized baskets, so if 18g of coffee is overfilling your basket then use less. (or see If your machine came with another size basket like a 20g or 22g).
These steps are important because otherwise the water will find the path of least resistance, and if you've helped it, you won't be getting the best extraction you possibly can cause the water has by-passed part of the coffee.
Now what we are aiming for is 40ml of coffee extraction. you can use scales, a small measuring cup, a shot glass, whatever you like! eventually you will use your favourite coffee glass or cup and you will roughly know where the 40ml mark is on that cup.
We want that 40ml of extracted coffee to pour out of the porta-filter in about 30 seconds, give or take a second or two either side.
Most people will probably get 40ml in about 15-20 seconds to begin with...so you got to fine up that grind. Make small adjustments if you can (all grinders a little different so do your best with what you've got).
Keep doing this until you have 40ml of extracted coffee goodness in 30 seconds.
The used coffee that you will bash out into you bin (or other receptacle), should come out nice and solid and not crumble away or be all muddy. This called a "puck". The puck is also another way to know you have your grind dialed in.
When you have it right, you will notice that your extracted coffee is looking a beautifully golden caramel colour, with a nice thick crema...THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT.
Your grinder is now set to those beans!
Now you have become a master grinder (or you have learnt something you didn't know previously), you will also now know why cafes sometimes have multiple grinders...because they offer different beans.
Froth or Throff
If you have milk with your coffee (or substitutes that want to be milk but aren't milk), then this is the second biggest reason (maybe even the only reason), why your coffee tastes bitter...your making it too damn hot!
We've all been to that cafe that's all nice and trendy, they have woven coffee bags from Colombia hanging on the wall and sell those health homemade nut bar things for $14, but you buy them anyway...you get your coffee and can feel almost straight away that's it burning your hand. (Stop butting in people who like extra hot coffee, I'll get to you). You sip it, or at least try, and it tastes bitter! AND STRAIGHT AWAY YOU BLAME THE COFFEE. Most of the time it's not the coffee!
It's because the hot milk (or derivative), has burnt the coffee.
Milk should be heated between 55-75 degrees Celsius. And for you hot heads that's the 75 degrees. Yes you could burn it more, but this is when it can start affecting the taste (creating bitterness) of the coffee. Between 60 and 65 degrees Celsius is perfect.
Get a thermometer to become consistent.
As I mentioned in the beginning, a Great Coffee is all about consistency. If you can work through all of the above, your coffee will not only taste better, it will taste better every time!
We hope you enjoyed this small insight in coffee basics...the rabbit warren goes very deep in the coffee world!
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