The best methods and machines to brew perfect coffee at home

Roz Crowley has been busy researching coffee makers as she wanted an upgrade.

The best methods and machines to brew perfect coffee at home

Coffee is the new wine, the new grey, the new pomegranate, Zatar, date syrup. A fashionable obsession. Cultish, faddish, delish.

And now it’s not enough to be fussy about coffee in cafés, we have brought our obsession home.

When we have tasted the best in cafés, it’s hard to go back to a spoonful of granules in a cup. We experiment with coffee types, and now with the vast range of machines, we have what can be quite costly choices.

I fancied treating myself to an all-singing all-dancing machine which would make me a good cappuccino, latté and flat white as well as a decent espresso, and set about my purchase with enthusiasm.

What I have listed here is the result of filtering quite a few brands on line and in shops and getting recommendations from coffee buffs, barristas and from my own taste experiences.

All have something going for them.

CLASSIC ATOMIC MACHINE IS STYLISH AND FUNCTIONAL

The Atomic coffee machine was designed in Italy in 1946 and is made in Australia for the Bon Trading Company.

How it works: Like the classic, simple and inexpensive stove-top moka pot, water is heated in a lower chamber and in this one comes up through a curved arm to drip through the coffee chamber into the beautiful jug below it.

Meanwhile you can heat and froth up milk with the attached steam nozzle. There is a useful video at www.atomiccoffeemachines.com.

Advantages: Stylish, sculptural and functional.

Disadvantages: Expensive. I could not find a genuine model closer to home (there are poor imitations elsewhere, it seems), otherwise available on line www.bontradingcompany.com.au

Price: $495 Australian dollars comes to €370 including postage.

FRENCH PRESSES

Also known as cafetieres, some residue may be left in the cup, but it’s never much. There is a vast range of sizes and prices. I use a few for large numbers, including the Bodum 8 cup double walled stainless steel version which is sturdy and keeps coffee warm (€69.95).

The less expensive models, made from glass with plastic frames, are a good buy from about €8. The best range in Cork is at Maher’s coffee shop, Oliver Plunkett St, and there are plenty in kitchen shops and supermarkets countrywide.

POD/CAPSULE MACHINES

How they work: Simply pop a capsule into the machine, pour in water, press a button and wait for the coffee to drip into your cup. A wide range of flavours in pods is available and there is plenty of choice in machines.

Nespresso is the brand leader and Brown Thomas and Debenhams have a good selection.

Advantages: Efficiency, consistent and no mess.

Disadvantage: If you use brands of pods other than those of your machine, or those they recommend, and something goes wrong, your guarantee will be void. John Sylvan, who invented the capsule, admits he is sorry he invented something that is almost non-recyclable (though aluminium can be) and quite expensive to use.

Pods cost from 36c. Coffee beans can cost that per cup, but also a lot less.

Another disadvantage for me is not being able to experiment with new coffees from small producers such as Golden Bean and Badger and Dodo. I would miss that pleasure.

BONAVITA

Bonavita is a one-touch brew filter machine which keeps coffee hot on its warming tray.

It’s like many old-fashioned filter machines, but a few coffee nuts use them.

It’s worth looking into if you make coffee for five to eight people who need coffee at different times.

See the full range of items at www.bonavitaworld.com

SENSE OF THEATRE BREWING

Coffee siphon is for the coffee lover who likes creating a theatrical experience, and it takes no more than 3 minutes to brew.

How it works: The coffee and water are in contact throughout the process. It is stirred and then siphoned into a jug below. The filter can be cloth (cleaner result) or metal.

Advantages: Fun to watch and coffee ends up having a good, intense flavour. There are different models at different prices.

Disadvantages: Takes time to clean afterwards

More information: www.prima-coffee.com/brew/coffee/siphon

Cost: €35+

AEROPRESS

This simple, clear non-toxic plastic device simulates the pressure of an espresso machine.

How it works: Place coffee onto the removable cap with paper filter attached to the tube, sitting on a cup. Slowly pour in water, just below boiling point. Stir for 10 seconds, then leave it for another few seconds before pressing gently with an inner plunger tube. The air in front of the plunger pushes the water through.

Advantages: Cheap. Easy to use. The coffee is clean and smooth and has none of the residue in the cup found in French presses. Makes 1-3 espressos. Just needs a rinse under the tap to clean.

Used at home by restaurateur Jacque Barry and The Rocket Man who are almost evangelical in their enthusiasm. I use one for my daily cup. There is an Aeropress app if you want to be precise about the timing.

Disadvantages: None, but you need to be sure to use a fine grind, as instructed, otherwise the water goes through too quickly and coffee ends up weak.

Price: From €32. Available in Filter café, George’s Quay, Cork, Mahers coffee shop, Cork, www.coffeeangel.com, www.bewleysonlineshop.ie and other outlets nationwide.

HARIO V60

How it works: These pour-overs have a paper filter in conical shaped containers and you slowly pour over water, allowing it to drip into the jug or cup underneath.

Advantages: Cheap and cheerful from €6 for plastic; €12 for glass. There are also beautifully designed jugs by Hario and Chemex with black or wood style collars which look great at table.

For even more style and best control of water flow, pour over with water from a long-spouted ridged stainless steel kettle. €55 from Filter and www.justcoffee.ie

Disadvantages: You are involved in the whole (short) process

STAINLESS STEEL FOREVER

Barista et Bar CE 837a from Maxi coffee in France was bought by a scientist friend who thoroughly researches his purchases. He insisted on stainless steel, especially those parts going near milk. He says it’s impressive and worth the investment.

Advantages: For those drinking enough coffee and who want a bean to cup machine that will last forever, this seems like the one to buy.

Disadvantages: Costly and can be tricky to get to know.

Price: €749.99 online at www.maxicoffee.com

PRETTY IN PINK

I like the look of Briel espresso maker with milk frother. A Portuguese brand, prices are decent compared to many popular bands. At www.Brielstore.pt you will find a sugar pink one — €99.

GRINDERS

Grinders can cost anything from €35 to €700. Coffee enthusiasts vary in their insistence on a separate one to their espresso maker.

Wine writer for the Irish Examiner’s Weekend Leslie Williams has several coffee makers, but is happy with his bean to cup DeLonghi model which grinds as well as pours a delicious cupful at the press of a button.

I spoke with Alex in Filter café who has an enthusiastic customer who roasts his own green beans in a popcorn machine before grinding it.

Cleaning

Crucial to preventing coffee from tasting bitter is attention to cleaning. “Leave any coffee grounds in any part of the machine and it will go bitter and taint the fresh coffee” says Mirco Fondrini of Farm Gate Café, Cork English Market.

BREWING BOOST

Chef Neven Maguire uses three methods of brewing every day.

At home it’s a Nespresso machine.

“I like the convenience, the consistent quality, the choice of flavours, and there is little maintenance”.

In his cookery school and at MacNeans Restaurant he uses the Astoria barrista style machine for cappuccinos and lattés. For breakfast service and Sunday lunches he uses the Marco brand pour over method with a heated element.

“It‘s not too strong for early morning and customers like it best.”

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