The first thing with drinking coffee is to assemble the right ingedients. These are:
- Fresh water, just off the boil;
- Freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee.
It's worth adding a brief note here about the grinding bit. Having the recently roasted coffee freshly and consistently ground to the correct size for the brewing method that you wish to use is vital. I regret that there is no simple (read cheap or inexpensive) solution. One has to buy a conical burr grinder or mill or else have a coffee shop grind you sufficient coffee for your daily needs. Ground coffee is useless after 12 hours, except for using as colouring in children's playdough. I've been lucky. Consumer alerted me to DeLonghi's KG100 conical burr grinder and through the services of the excellent North Shore home based business Corpespresso I managed to purchase one. It is excellent and really highlights how important it is to have correctly ground coffee. A final note: there are electrical things on the market that are sold as coffee grinders that have small whirring metal knife blades in them. These are of course 'choppers' and not 'grinders', and I guess they're very good for something. I recollect that a former flatmate of mine used one to make peanut butter. They don't grind coffee, however, they reduce it to something that could be used to add colour to mortar.
Now one has the essentials, one needs to blend them together. My preferred method of brewing is to steep the coarsely ground coffee in a ceramic pot and pour it through a sieve. The French Press or Plunger is perhaps a more effective way of using this method. However, I hardly ever use these methods, even though I prefer the taste. In a truly human fashion, I usually have espresso, even though this masks the taste of the coffee.
I have a Gaggia Coffee espresso machine, which I use for my early morning short black. In fact, I have a number of coffee brewing devices, most of which I no longer use. With the exception of the aluminium stove top percolator, a device that cries out for listing by Amnesty International and the UN as a banned instrument of torture, they all produce good coffee. Filter machines, Kona, stove top espressos, 'pressure cooker' espressos; they all make good coffee.
A final note on brewing devices. If you're really keen on espresso and have a limited budget, or even a good budget, then I have to agree with Consumer and recommend Breville's Cafe Roma. Two of my friends are lucky enough to have purchased one and it really does produce a superb espresso. Its milk frothing ability is mediocre, however, so if you're a skilled barista, world renowned for your cappuchinos, mocchachinos and frothachinos, this may not be such a good device for you. Since writing this, I've purchased a Cafe Roma myself. The Gaggia's seals finally gave out, and I decided that the cost of maintaining it was outweighing the advantage of adding it to my collection of older unused coffee making appliances. So I followed the advice above and have lovely short blacks every morning. And it's even OK for small frothing forays, though it would not keep up if I did anything substantial.
One needs to check what one is doing well and find out what is not so good. To this end, I would like to try to keep up a regular cupping routine. This involves infusing a defined amount of coffee with a defined amount of boiled water for a defined period of time, and then slurping it round one's mouth, reflecting on the result, spitting it out, noting its characteristics on a chart, having a slurp of water to cleanse the palate and repeating the process with another coffee. Oh, and one must use a silver spoon. Seriously.
Actually, also seriously, if you'd like to help and encourage me to do some regular cupping, please contact me and we can make arrangements to meet and cup.