How to Make Perfect Coffee at Home

Coffee brewmaster Ria Lingard shares her tips on how to make the best home-brewed coffee

Coffee beans come in many varieties that significantly affect taste and aroma. Picture / Supplied

One of New Zealand's best coffee brewers, Ria Lingard, is competing for the top title at this year's New Zealand Brewers Cup. Here she shares her tips on how to make home-brewed coffe just as well as professional barista.

What beans should I buy?
Just like wine, coffee comes in varieties that significantly affect taste and aroma. With an overwhelming amount of coffee choices on offer, it can be a daunting task to select the right beans for your brew. Visiting a local roastery is a good way to learn the differences between single origin and blended coffee formats, light or dark roasted and local or internationally sourced. It is best to buy whole coffee beans, rather than ground, for optimal freshness and flavour.

Does coffee get better with age?
Coffee reaches its peak 1-3 weeks after roasting.  Have your coffee beans been pushed to the back of the pantry? After this three-week period, coffee tends to taste papery or bland, and is unlikely to impress your fellow coffee compadres.

Wait, I need to calculate ratios?
While you don’t need to be a mathematician to be the best brewer in your neighbourhood, a little bit of precision pays off. For light to medium roasts, use 18-20g ground coffee to 300ml water. For medium dark to dark roasts, reduce the coffee by a gram or two.

Why does my water matter?
Brewed coffee is at least 98 per cent water, so it makes sense to assess your water quality at home. Start by tasting your tap water - there shouldn’t be any metallic flavours and odours. If you're using bottled water, check out the nutritional information panel and choose one with less minerals (less than 150ppm total dissolved solids). Minerals in water have strong flavour pulling power, and throw off the balance of your brew. Cleanliness and water temperature is key - use filtered water where possible. Water at around 94C is best for brewing. Using boiling water can increases the bitterness or sourness of your brew.

Some like it subtle, some like it strong - how can I harness certain flavour profiles?
If you like coffee that is sweet, with a low bitterness and a medium body (similar to tea) try a pour-over method using a paper filter like the Chemex, or cone drippers, such as the Hario V60. Immersion methods like the plunger or French press are perfect for those that like a strong, full-bodied and earthy taste to their coffee. Gentle, high contact brewing (where the water spends more time with the coffee) delivers a caramelly sweetness.

What vessel should I present my brew in?
Ceramic cups are the choice of coffee traditionalists. Double-walled glassware is becoming popular, and mimics the wine or whisky experience.

 • New Zealand’s 2017 Brewmaster champion will be announced at the Brewers Cup Championships on March 18 at John Burton, 159 Marua Rd, Mt Wellington. Spectator entry is free from 10am-4pm.

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