Sep 13, 2009 / misc ~ geek
7 Tips For Perfect Coffee

My friends often tell me I make a great coffee. I'm a big coffee fan, so I've put quite a bit of research into getting it right. Here's my tips:

### Tip: A Machine With 9 Bars Or More

Gaggia 16109 Evolution

This is a bit obvious, but you need a machine that has a enough pressure (9 bar minimum, and 19 bar is optimal). We have a Gaggia 16109 Evolution at home. It costs about £150 ($200), so not the most expensive, but it certainly gets the job done.

Tip: Clean The Machine REALLY WELL Before Use

This is essential for getting a great coffee flavour. You don't want any dull or stale flavours in your coffee, which is what happens when you don't clean it properly. Think signal vs noise. The signal is the fresh coffee and the milk, you don't want anything else in there. I'm happy to spend 5-10 minutes cleaning the coffee machine beforehand.

To clean the machine, I just make coffee without coffee! This flushes out old water and any old bits of coffee in the machine.

I clean the milk wand by using it to steam a cup of boiling water.

Tip: Buy Great Coffee

Right now, Illy is my favourite. We get the ready-ground MOKA stuff, it's awesome. We also have our own bean grinder, but I'm yet to find fresh beans that match the Illy. One thing about the tins of Illy is that you need to use them within 2-3 weeks, I find the quality drops off after that.

Tip: Let The Machine Warm Up

I let the machine and coffee holder warm up before I make the first coffee. This can take 5-10 minutes. If you clean the machine by flushing it through once or twice, you'll find everything gets hot during that time.

When I don't do this the coffee seems to come out bitter and watery. So it's well worth the wait.

Tip: Aim For A Crema Layer

The crema layer is that lovely layer of oil that floats on top of an espresso coffee. You need to have a good crema layer on your coffee, to me this is a signal that everything has gone right. This usually means buying great coffee and getting the temperature right.

Tip: Warm The Milk Before Frothing

I find that scorching hot milk ruins coffee. I usually warm the milk in the microwave, and then use the steam wand quickly to add a little extra heat and get the desired amount of froth.

Tip: Consider An External Frother

Our machine has a steam wand built in for frothing milk, but I'd prefer a separate unit. Basically, with a built in steam wand you risk getting the machine to hot that it scorches the coffee. I haven't bought a separate frother, but I will soon. Something like this looks good.

Bean To Cup Or Not?

I enjoy the ritual of preparing the machine and making the coffee, so I stay away from bean-to-cup machines.

In all fairness, those machines do make great coffee, and they're really convenient. On the down-side, they're as big as a laser printer, and there's plenty to go wrong.

Keep it simple and use traditional a espresso machine with separate frother. Next time I've got £1500 ($2000) to spare I'll be looking at the Gaggia TS or similar.

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