Coffee

How to brew perfect coffee at home every time

From temperatures to brew times and types of bean, this is officially everything you need to know for the perfect cup of joe

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How to brew perfect coffee at home every time

Any true coffee connoisseurs will recoil in horror at a badly prepared brew. 

And if there's someone who knows their beans, it's Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, three times winner of the UK Barista championship, co-owner of an award-winning independent roastery and author of The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting

From brew times to milk choice and optimum temperatures, we grilled Maxwell on everything you need to know to make the perfect cup of coffee at home. You'll never need to queue in a grab-and-go coffee shop again!

Keep it sealed

"Whole bean coffee has a much longer life than ground coffee. Ground coffee stales almost immediately.

"The exact optimal life for coffee is up for debate. Lighter roasts will taste better for longer than darker ones for example. 

"Exposure to oxygen will make your coffee become stale very quickly. The worst place to store your coffee would be in an open, transparent container on a window ledge in full view of sunlight as direct light also causes beans to go stale.

"To keep it as fresh as possible, store your coffee in a vacuum-sealed air-tight package somewhere cool and dark and consume within two months."

The ultimate brewing times differ greatly

"Fine grinds can be brewed really quickly, as fast as 30 seconds. Coarse grinds can brew for a much longer time, closer to 5-10 minutes. Temperature also affects the flavour - hotter temperatures extract flavour more quickly.

"A great cup of coffee is where you extract the right intensity and the right flavours. Not enough and the coffee is sour and empty. Too much and the coffee is woody and flat."

Know your optimum temperatures

"The perfect temperature can vary wildly depending on the method and the coffee.

"Typically, a lighter roasted coffee will need a higher temperature, but not too high, or you'll get harsh flavours. 96 degrees (water will boil at 99.9 degrees) would be the highest you would want to brew at, and for most coffees you wouldn't want to go below 88 degrees. It's fascinating to see how different temperatures release different flavours. 

"Take a look at the cold brew craze sweeping the nation. Cold brew coffee uses such low temperatures that it can take in excess of 24 hours!"

Use a wide coffee cup

"I love any cup that is nice and open at the top, allowing me to get the full aroma of the coffee."

Experiment with milks

"The world's best coffees are often best enjoyed black, but there are plenty of great coffees that also combine beautifully with milk. A high single origin milk can have lots of its own flavour to add to the drink. Even though it's generally considered that full-fat milk brings the best texture and flavour, sometimes a semi-skimmed option works better as it doesn't drown out the coffee. 

"For non-dairy drinkers, soya milk works really well. Another alternative that's becoming really popular is almond milk. This milk is often less likely to 'split' when combined with the coffee’s acidity."

Try seasonal crops

"Coffee is a seasonal crop and my 'go to' will change throughout the year as the harvests change.

"I love a complex and balanced black filter coffee made on an Aeropress (a coffee press for serious coffee lovers) as my everyday cup. This method is easy and has vibrancy with a full body. I would opt for a really moreish coffee like a round Kenyan, or a complex Colombian depending on the weather outside."

Stock up on instant, freshly ground and whole bean coffee online, or pop into your local store.

The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood is out now.