The coffee snob #2
In my previous post [link] I introduced you to my world of coffee, as it has become, and I mentioned that I have discovered many many variables when making coffee with my ‘new’ coffee machine. Here are those variables:
- Brand and blend of coffee
- I have now purchased a coffee grinder so I will have options regarding how finely the coffee is ground (really I’m just looking to buy a big bag of beans).
- How much coffee to use
- How firmly to press the coffee down
- What to press it down with – the previous owner of my coffee machine suggested a rolling pin… I didn’t have one of these at first to I use just used the back of a spoon, and later I found a plastic milk bottle cap was ideal.
- How firmly one presses the coffee down affects the strength because the water will pass through at a different rate… too firmly and it will pass through too slowly, and can ‘burn’ the coffee, not firm enough and the water will flush through and make the coffee weak – so getting the balance right with the actual amount of coffee is key.
- How much water to use (the previous owner of my coffee machine included a measuring jug, very helpful)
- with my machine it is simply a case of putting an amount of water in and letting it run through the coffee to the amount desired. Other, more fancy machines, I believe, will let you adjust water temperature and quantity/time.
- Also, instead of my machine stopping the water flow at a pre-programmed point, it just kind of keeps going, seemingly at some point of its choosing or when it runs out of water. I learned to watch the ‘thickness’ of the coffee as it flowed into the mug… as soon as it suddenly ran sort of clear I moved the mug aside. Ideally, for my preference I aimed at half a mug of coffee, and the rest for milk.
- Steaming the milk.
- Well, you don’t have to steam the milk, but it depends what kind of coffee you want – flat white, laté, cappuccino etc. At the café I was used to being served a flat white with steamed milk, but she would hold back the foam (to let that go would cost me a little more!) And while I’ve now seen diagrams illustrating the differences between laté and cappuccino, I’m still not sure which I’m making – you either want foam or you don’t!
- Actually steaming the milk is largely down to technique and I’ve watched some Youtube videos to help me out. I don’t microwave the milk first as advised by the previous owner of the machine – for a flat white that was his preference. However, if I put too little water in the machine the steamer doesn’t produce steam for long enough to prepare the milk. So, I have to put enough water in to steam the milk, but not let all that water run through the coffee. I have used the measuring jug but I can also see by eye both how much is in the mug, and how the coffee coming out of the machine turns more liquidy, by which time I skilfully move the mug to one side, put the jug in place to catch the rest, and finish steaming the milk.
- Oh the jug! At first I tried using the plastic measuring jug that came with the machine, but it was too big, so I started using a small cup… then, when I found some coffee mugs (see below) I found a little milk jug too – I fill it up to half with milk and then aim to steam it until it foams up to the rim, it seems ideal.
- Pouring the milk.
- Again, there are Youtube videos showing how to make heart shapes with the milk, but my few attempts have failed so I’m sticking with simple pouring for the time being. With my new little jug pouring is pretty easy, but I can’t do them hearts!
- The mug
- The mug. At first I only had tall glasses to make coffee in (which didn’t fit under the machine so I had to use the included jug and then decant the coffee. Getting the right about of coffee/water and milk right to fit in the glass was tricky. The I happened upon some big but shallow coffee mugs which I thought would be idea… but they turned out to be to big – I would have to alter all my water/coffee/milk quantities and timing to make it not look like I was selling myself half a cup of coffee… plus, frothing enough milk seemed like a tall order… oh I picked up a dainty little milk jug too!
- After finding those two coffee mugs it just so happened that my mum had acquired a lovely, smaller mug of a similar shape, including a saucer… it turned out to be perfect. I only have the one though so I can’t have any guests.
- Actually, the shallow mugs look good, and they fit under the machine, but I have learned from buying coffee that is served in them, that the coffee will cool quicker, due to the greater surface area exposed to the air (fresh coffee is generally made cooler than instant is made – if you want a beverage to sip and chat over then either coffee in a tall cup/glass, or order a pot of tea).
So, not too many variables! In my next post about coffee I’ll talk about my justifications for switching from instant coffee to proper coffee… is it greener? Click here.