How to make a perfect coffee – by Hayden Kerr

The glue for cyclists that binds us all together?  Coffee .

Before, after, and mid ride, coffee is an integral part of the cycling community.

Hey, this stuff was cause and effect for me to actually switch from riding downhill mountain bikes and persue the road. I was able to meet people and get a handle on this great sport through sharing coffee.

Whether you are lucky enough to have your own home machine or are looking for a bit of a change in pace for work, producing espresso and coffee takes one thing; passion. Well, alot of milk, fresh coffee beans and practice also play a part.

The TIPS below came from making coffee on a commercial machine, but these TIPS work just as well on the home domestic models.


Freshness

Having the best beans ain’t the be all and end all. Its the freshness of the grind. Grind immediately before you pack your coffee handle. This allows the oil on the coffee grounds not to evaporate and leave you with a flat lifeless crema on your espresso.

Grinder

Having a grinder at home will make the single biggest difference to your home espresso, and if at a commercial venue, never let the ground beans sit for more than 10 mins. Even less in hot humid weather.

Buying ground beans will make better compost than espresso.

Grind Texture

Grind depends on the style of the bean and how it was roasted. I could write my own blog on the different roasts, and various levels of coarseness, but beans do come down to personal taste. Simply, if you find a something you like, stay with it for a while.

Ok, lets say that you have a bean like Genovese. This espresso needs to run a little longer (more water) and the grind needs to be more coarse than say a bean like Coffee Supreme. Think stones and sand. If you have a big pit full of stones and pour water through, its going to run straight through. This is classed as a coarse grind. The opposite is sand, runs really slow and would be considered a fine grind.

Dosing from the Grinder

This depends on whether you are using fresh beans or not. With a fresh grind, I like to fill the handle so it is overflowing and then tap the base of the handle down to settle the grounds. Then I level it off.
Due to the nature of pre ground beans, you may have to put a bit more in and tamp (next step) the crap out of it.

Tamping

Pressure. It turns your coffee grounds from a pile of ground stuff into a puck before we apply the water to it. As you see from the photo below, this process pushes the coffee grounds level they fit in the group head, underneath the shower head.
(picture)

Water and Machine Temperature

Note: Make sure that when the machine is turned on, you have the group handles in the group head so they warm up to the correct temperature. The best crema happens at a certain temperature and pressure, and having these handles pre-warmed is going to save you time.

On a home machine, whether it is plumped or filled from a jug, use the greatest amount of filtered water possible. This will make a big difference. All commercial machines have a filter place.
Also, keep your cups on top of the machine so they too are warm. Having cold cups ruins the taste. If you don’t have room on top of the machine for the cups then pre heat the cups with boiling water.

Espresso Length

Everyone says that there is a standard of 25-30 mls, in 25 – 30 seconds. But its all personal preference.  It is up to you to practice and find your own personal style.  Short sweet shots or something a touch longer? Of course if you are working at a business, follow their standards.

Ristretto – the bees knees.  Zippy and just the oils in this one. Try it from the double handle for more oooomph!

Espresso – a bit longer than the ristretto, it is the measure of all good coffee and the base of your future creations.

Macchiato – means to stain or dirty, so adding a dollop of foam or splash of cold milk stains the black coffee. The style of milk changes from place to place so go with your personal preference.

Cafe Latte – where would Melburn be without this. Espresso shot in a latte glass, fresh textured milk poured to leave about 15mm of foam. Pour straight after the milk is done.

Cappuccino – those crazy capuccian monks have a lot to answer for here. Espresso base with a headier textured milk poured in

Milk

Steaming milk seems to be a problem for a lot of people, even in the industry. However its something that, if practised and done correctly, will create that silky textured milk.

Always start with cold milk and a clean jug. Place the steam wand in the jug with the nib about an inch in the milk and to the left or to the right of the jug. The wand should be placed in the jug at an angle so that when you start the steam off, it pushes the milk down and around in the jug. This is called spinning the milk. The milk is pushed down and around the jug and then back over itself creating tiny little air bubbles in the milk. Do this slowly at first, so that you get nice small bubbles. As the volume of the milk increases (called stretching), move the jug slowly away from the steam arm so that the nib of the wand is always about an inch inside the milk. Once you have stretched the milk to the right texture (enter link here for youtube vids), push the jug up so the wand hits the bottom of the jug and heats the rest of the milk. Once the jug is too hot to be held in you hand, turn off the steam.

Pouring

Pouring should be done without the use of a spoon. Using a spoon is a cheats way, and only done when the milk has been badly textured with steam. Pour straight away, without much of a rest, as the milk and foam will start to separate. There is no need for latte art, but the levels of the foam vs milk content are important.

All the photos for this post were taken at Danny Colls’s  new cafe, LiaisonMonaco House, 22 Ridgway Place, Melbourne. He is running it with his partner, the lovely Siany. Hard to find but worth the effort as you will be welcomed with open arms and a consistently awesome coffee.