Become the perfect home barista

Updated on 11 August 2011 | 0 Comments

Buying coffee from a cafè is expensive. But can it taste just the same, if not better, if you make it at home?

With many people's increasing passion for coffee, coupled with salaries that are not keeping pace with rising prices, being able to brew top notch coffee at home is becoming an essential skill to indulge your palate, while keeping your bank manager happy too.

New legions of coffee fanatics are setting to work with all manner of domestic brew equipment, some of which would look more at home in a chemisty lab.

This year, the first London Coffee Festival was packed with coffee enthusiasts, amateur to connoisseurs, all keen to find the latest and best beans and equipment.

There are some fantastic coffee shops out there - personally, I find the London coffee guide to be excellent. Chains abound and coffee is certainly easily available for that necessary caffeine jolt, but the quality is not always amazing. So can you make a better brew at home?

Getting started

Fortunately, it’s fairly cheap to get started with making good coffee at home. All you really need is a kettle, cafetière (or French press) and some coffee. Many speciality beans respond best to gentle handling and a longer brew. An espresso machine can be too aggressive, so a cafetière is perfect. 

This method is recommend by Alan Miller, Marketing Manager at Union Coffee, a speciality coffee roaster situated in London's East End. For less than £20 you can equip yourself with the kit and ingredients to start making fantastic coffee at home.

Dale Harris, from Has Bean, agrees, saying that “well made brewed coffee is much easier, and cheaper to prepare at home, and almost always tastes better than that served in cafés, restaurants and hotels.”

Choose your coffee

Alan believes that people can be cautious and can hesitate when buying a new type of coffee. The range of varieties of bean, country of origin and strength of roast can all be confusing to non-coffee geeks. To help combat this hesitation, Union writes extensive tasting notes on each of the 12 coffees in its retail range. Together with comprehensive brew notes it is like having your personal barista to take home with you. 

Coffee can have flavour notes of anything from light citrus fruit or red berries through to the fuller flavours of chocolate, caramel and nuts. It’s all down to personal preference, mood and time of day. 

At between £3.99 and £4.25 per 227g packet, it is probably cheaper than a single Starbuck's Trenta would be were it available in the UK, so why not literally take the plunge and grab a bag next time you are in the supermarket?

The first brew

Getting the best from coffee in a cafetière requires a little more care and attention than just pouring water from the kettle into the pot.

Has Bean publish a series is excellent brew guides; including one for the cafetière.

Simply follow the instructions for your perfect first pot.

The next steps

Once you have mastered the cafetière you may want a little more performance and fun in your coffee brewing. The laboratoryesque syphon was first invented 180 years ago. Despite its age, it looks high tech, makes an excellent clear brew and will not fail to impress.

For those not wanting to display such showmanship with their coffee making, there is also the classic filter cone, or for a little more money, a Chemex.

With the Aeropress, you brew the coffee for about ten seconds and then force it through the filter. This makes a brew that is more espresso-like in character. It also has the advantage of being relatively small and robust which makes it portable. So it’s ideal to take travelling or for use in the office.

Both Has Bean and Brewmethods have brew guides for all the above way of making coffee.


It is harder to make good espresso at home; you need to learn about your machine, patience and practise go hand in hand. Brand leaders are Gaggia and De Longhi. 

Gaggia reports that “The espresso machine market in the UK has seen exceptional growth over the last few years, and is currently growing at a rate of 37% versus last year”, with its most popular machine being the Classic.

For those wanting to get the most from their machine, Union Coffee runs a popular "Espresso ER"; simply take your machine along and Union will help you to get the most out of it.

Coffee classes

Food blogger and coffee aficionado, Chloe Callow, advises chatting to baristas when you are in a coffee shop, asking what is new and who currently has the best beans.

Additionally, for those keen to learn more, she recommends some classes she has been to recently. Cupping, which is learning how to taste coffee, at The Sunday Club, and brewing at Prufrock Coffee.

So are you ready to jump in and join the home brew revolution?

Also worth your attention:

Coffee culture comes to Kentish Town

Can caffeine make us healthy?

10 things your barista isn’t telling you


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