4 methods make delicious coffee
This post is about how to make really nice coffee at home. It covers four different methods. From the very basic using instant coffee, to coffee made by specialist coffee making equipment. It’s like a moka pot, milk frother, or an all in one coffee making machine.
This post for anyone wanting to grow and cook their homegrown food, or simply wanting to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
You can find these on my website. What I wanted to discover was how to make delicious coffee at home, as a treat to look forward to. With specialist coffee making equipment being quite expensive.
I wanted to find out whether this was really required.
I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with the different methods, and how to tweak them to get the best taste. I’ve learned a lot along the way. Each method described in this post makes a really nice cup of coffee. I hope you like the coffees as much as I do.
The post is not about specific brands of coffee or equipment, and none are recommended in this post. It is about the method of making coffee, and the difference specialist equipment makes to the taste of the final drink.
The post is divided into chapters to make it easy to jump to specific methods if you are re-read the post. My favourite method is at the end of the post, and in my view.
The result tastes just as good as lattes and cappuccinos served in high street coffee shops. However, my favourite method also requires the biggest investment in equipment and is the most expensive per cup. The other methods shown also make delicious coffee and at a much cheaper price. I think these other methods are surprisingly good.
Lastly by way of introduction, I did not want to go down the path of making coffee from capsules, partly because of their cost, but also because of the recycling implications. I know coffee from capsules can taste great, but this method was not for me.
This post covers four methods as follows:
- Method 1
Is the best I’ve been able to make using instant coffee. The method is quite a distance from a cappuccino, but is still a surprisingly nice tasting coffee.
I had initially discounted instant coffee, but by changing the way I make coffee, and using a good amount of coffee granules and the right amount of milk. I ended up with a surprisingly nice tasting coffee, and it is the most easy to make.
- Method 2
The second method involves using a moka pot, a device used all over the world to make espresso coffee, combined with milk warmed in a microwave.
In Spain, this coffee would be called a cafe con leche, their version of a strong milky coffee,
similar to a latte but stronger, and usually served in a smaller cup.
- Method 3
The third method combines espresso coffee made in a moka pot, with frothy milk made in a milk frother. Using a milk frother opens up the possibility of making a cappuccino style coffee with a frothy head.
- Method 4
And finally the fourth method, using a home coffee making machine. The machine described in this post can make coffee either from coffee beans or ground coffee. It also includes a steam outlet for frothing the milk.
All four methods make delicious coffee, and I regularly use all the methods depending upon how much time I have, and whether I want to create a treat. All the methods are different ways of achieving the same thing:
- • A strong tasting black coffee, or espresso
- • And, a way of heating the milk without boiling it, as boiling milk changes the taste of the final coffee
The two biggest differences between the methods are: the strength of the black coffee, or espresso. All of the methods create a strong coffee, but I only achieved the most intense flavour by making coffee from freshly ground beans .
The flavour and frothiness of the milk. Overheating the milk changes its taste, and makes cleaning the equipment harder. To make continental coffees at home, the coffee and milk need to be added in the right proportion.
Cappuccinos are typically about one third espresso coffee, one third hot milk, and one third foam.
You can find a guide to making a range of different continental coffees on my website, including latte, americano, and flat white.
There is a big money saving to be made by making nice tasting coffee at home, especially if, like me, having a cup of coffee is something to look forward to every day.
Here is a comparison:
- the instant method costs about £0.17 per mug, and required me to purchase no additional equipment
- the moka pot only method costs about £0.32 per mug
- required me to purchase a moka pot that costs about £15.
- I do need to heat the milk in a microwave, but I already had that. The moka pot plus milk frother method costs £0.32 per mug, plus the £15 of the moka pot, and an additional £50 for the milk frother.
The cost of the espresso machine method is the most expensive of all at £1.10 per mug of cappuccino made with a double espresso shot, or £0.62 per mug of latte made with a single espresso shot. Nearly all the cost is accounted for by buying the beans, with a 1 kg bag making about 60 cups of latte, or 30 cups of cappuccino. In addition, there is the one off cost of purchasing the coffee making machine. I budgeted about £250 for this. I based my cost per cup calculation on using organic fair trade coffee beans. It would be possible to save money by choosing other brands, and by purchasing on repeat order through a coffee club.
Starting with the instant coffee method. I’ve been making instant coffee for years, but what I wanted to discover was my favourite way of making coffees from it. The jar of my favourite brand of instant coffee shows the problem, turning the jar around does not reveal any instructions on how to make coffee.
I’ve tried a milk only coffee, by bringing milk to the boil in a saucepan. That tasted a little strange to my palette. I’ve tried making coffee like tea, adding boiling water to instant coffee granules, and then adding the milk, which tastes okay, but not great. But my favourite way, and by quite a distance, is to start by adding the coffee granules to a mug, and then pouring in the milk, and give this a good stir to start dissolving the coffee.
Only then do I add the boiling water. This creates a really strong coffee, and tastes much more like the coffee served in coffee shops. I think this has something to do with the coffee granules not being heated as much by the boiling water, thanks to the cooling effect of the milk. The milk itself does not get heated as much, which helps keep its flavour.
My method uses two spoonfuls of instant coffee and a good amount of milk. I have measured the actual quantities and these can be found on my website, the link is below the post.
The final coffee is hot, about the same temperature as that served in coffee shops, but not boiling hot as with the more common method of adding water to instant coffee with a dash of milk.
I think instant coffee tastes far better when made this way.
I also like the fact that the undissolved coffee granules leave a ring around the top of the mug. It reminds me of the chocolate rim when drinking cappuccinos. Maybe that’s just me, but having drunk it, the mug looks like I’ve drunk proper coffee.
The second method of making coffee at home is to use a moka pot to make espresso coffee, and combine this with milk warmed up in a microwave.
I think moka pots are wonderful things. A moka pot divides into three sections. A water vessel below, a tray where the ground coffee goes, and the collecting vessel above that collects the brewed coffee.
Now, like many things, waiting a little longer gets much better results. I don’t like to rush making coffee in my moka pot, which means I start by adding cold water to the vessel, and then heat this on a moderate heat so that the water gradually reaches boiling point.
This method means that the pressurised steam passes more slowly through the ground coffee, and I think it tastes all the better for it. And for the 10 minutes or so I am waiting for the coffee, I get the lovely slow release of coffee aromas. 10 minutes is also the right amount of time to prepare a snack, breakfast, or lunch to accompany the coffee.
A few things to point out with using a moka pot. The water vessel should only be filled up to the pressure release valve on the side. If you want to make more espresso, it is possible to buy larger sized moka pots. There is room for error when filling the coffee tray. The thing I’ve found to avoid is over filling it, or squashing the ground coffee down into the tray to fit more coffee in.
I have tried both, thinking this would produce a stronger tasting coffee.
However, what happens is that the coffee becomes too much of a barrier, the steam is not able to pass through effectively, and I end up with very little coffee to use. I’ve found the best way of getting the best flavour from my moka pot is not overfilling the tray with ground coffee, and heating the water slowly. Some people add hot water to the water vessel, or heat the water vessel over a high heat. This runs the risk of the steam rushing through the coffee grounds, and thereby not having the same strength of flavour.
The full method I use is as follows:
Make the espresso using the moka pot.
After about 10 minutes the espresso will be bubbling through into the upper chamber. As soon as the espresso starts to bubble through, I add milk to a microwave safe mug, about two thirds full, and heat this in a microwave on full power for 90 seconds.
Microwaves vary in power, so this needs to be checked, but in my microwave this is the right length of time to get cold fridge temperature milk hot – without it boiling.
The last step is to pour the espresso into the hot milk, and give a good stir. The result is a really delicious tasting coffee, ideal on its own, and even better for dunking a nice biscuit or cookie. The coffee I make is about one third espresso and two thirds milk.
One last thing to say on this method, is that different varieties of ground coffee vary a great deal in taste. I’ve tried several brands of ground coffee before arriving at my favourite. By perseverance, I’ve found a taste of coffee I really enjoy.
My third method for making great tasting coffee at home is to combine espresso from a moka pot with frothed milk made in a milk frother. Coffee shops use steam to heat milk, whilst a milk frother uses electricity to warm milk whilst whisking it at the same time. The milk frother I purchased is about £50, and it does a good job at heating and frothing milk. All that is required is to pour milk into the frother, choose the setting either for frothed milk – which is good for cappuccinos, or just hot milk – good for lattes. And that’s it. A minute or two later, and the milk is ready for use.
It’s a quick and easy way of heating milk, and avoids any risks of overheating the milk and changing its flavour. Another big advantage, is that the milk frother is much easier to clean than heating milk in a pan. All that is required is a gentle wipe with hot soapy water.
Whilst using a microwave to heat milk is easy, a milk frother did take me a step closer to the coffee shop experience I wanted to emulate. I’ve found it a good piece of kit, even if there is slightly more cleaning involved than heating milk in a microwave . If making coffee for family and friends at home, I think it makes the difference in creating a special treat.
Overall, I found that a moka pot is great for making lattes, but falls a little short compared to the stronger espresso taste of cappuccino. It’s not quite at the level of a high street coffee shop, although it is very close.
The final method is making coffee using a specialist coffee making machine. I’m neither recommending or not recommending the machine I use, as I have not tried a variety of machines and therefore I don’t know how my machine compares.
Rather, what I wanted to discover is whether it significantly improved the quality of the coffee I make at home, compared to the other methods shown in this post.
The first comparison is making espresso coffee. My coffee machine is able to make espresso coffee two ways, either using ground coffee like in a moka pot, or with coffee beans. Starting with the ground coffee. To make the espresso, all I need to do is scoop a level measure of ground coffee and pour it into the funnel on top of the machine.
I turn the knob to ground coffee, press start, and the machine does its job. A few seconds later and the espresso is pouring into my coffee cup. Compared to a moka pot, the process takes about 20 seconds compared to about 10 minutes in a moka pot. That’s great! But what about the taste of the coffee?
I had high hopes that the espresso would be that extra bit stronger than coffee made in a moka pot, as the machine passes steam through the coffee at even higher pressure, at over 10 bars, compared to the moka pot pressure of a couple of bars.
However, to my palette, whilst the coffee did taste stronger, it was not that much better in my view. Or to put another way, a moka pot espresso is almost as good as my machine when making espresso coffee using ground coffee. Nevertheless, the big advantage my machine has over the moka pot is the speed of making the espresso.
So what about the second way of making espresso, using coffee beans? To make coffee this way there is a reservoir on top of the machine that can be filled with beans. This is more convenient that using ground coffee, which requires me to scoop in the ground coffee every time I want a cup.
Therefore, to make an espresso using beans, and provided that the reservoir contains some beans, all I need to do is to make sure the coffee dial is set on my preferred strength of coffee, and press the start button.
The coffee machine whirs into action, grinding some beans for a few seconds, before making the espresso. For me, the espresso made from beans is noticeably better than my moka pot. I’ve tried a few varieties of beans, and I’ve found some that give a taste I really enjoy, with a strength that I think is comparable to espresso in coffee shops.
Faster way of making it
Perhaps even slightly better. And, it is reliably good. I was really pleased with this. So, two advantages over a moka pot, full strength espresso and a faster way of making it.
The machine also has a way of heating milk. The classic way to heat milk in a coffee shop is to use a steam vent to blow steam through milk, causing it to both heat and bubble up into a froth. The method is very fast, but it does require a good amount of steam.
My machine also has a steam vent, fed from the same water reservoir along the side of the machine that is used to make espresso. There is a button pressing procedure to switch the machine from making espresso to generating steam, and then it is possible to heat the milk by holding it up to the steam vent using a milk jug.
The machine did not come with a milk jug, nor a thermometer, both of which I think are essential for heating milk, and is something I needed to buy separately. After about 90 seconds, the milk is hot enough for coffee, as measured by the thermometer at approximately 65 degrees C.
My experience with heating milk this way was good. It did the job well – the milk was warm and frothy, and the process was relatively quick.
The part I never enjoy with heating milk is cleaning up afterwards. This was quite easy on my machine, but does involve waiting for the steam pipe on the machine to cool, so that I can remove the plastic nozzles to clean them without risking burning my fingers. Also, there is a button pressing process to switch the machine from making coffee to making steam, that has to be reversed when making coffee again. So, what is my favourite way of making coffee at home?
My current favourite method is a combination of using my coffee machine to make espresso from coffee beans, and my milk frother to heat the milk.
And why? The coffee machine makes the strongest and best flavoured espresso when using roasted beans, and the milk frother is the easiest way of heating the milk. I like my milk frother because I can just press a button and walk away to do something else whilst it’s working, whilst on my coffee machine I need to stand next to it to hold up the milk jug and control the steam as it heats the milk. Also, there is less button pressing and less cleaning with the milk frother.
Perhaps inevitably, making coffee this way is also the most expensive method, but at about £1 a cup for a cappuccino, it is still much cheaper than going to a coffee shop.
And the taste really is excellent, made even better with a few chocolate sprinkles on top using my favourite brand of hot chocolate powder. And what about the other methods?
If I didn’t have a coffee machine, I think a moka pot espresso combined with milk warmed in a microwave, is an excellent alternative. This makes a delicious cafe latte or cafe con leche. Waiting for a moka pot to make espresso may not be for everyone, but the espresso is delicious, and I like the smell of coffee that spreads around the kitchen as it is being made. The result is a really delicious spanish style strong milky coffee.
And my third favourite method is a milky coffee using instant coffee in the way described in this post. It is the cheapest and fastest way to make a coffee that I still really enjoy drinking. I think a jar of instant coffee is worth having in the kitchen cupboard for a simple treat, and will save significant money for the person who enjoys multiple cups of coffee per day.
And that’s it! I hope you found my guide to making nice tasting coffee at home useful. Please let me know by a comment. It would be great to know your thoughts on what I’ve included in the post, and to know your favourite ways of making coffee at home.