Header images courtesy of Jennifer Gauld and Indochina Studio (Shutterstock)
We love to start the day with a cuppa, often hitting up our favourite baristas to get the morning caffeine fix we need to get through the morning. Unfortunately, those takeaway coffees add up very quickly, and with self-isolation being the norm now what are we to do at home? Fortunately, making a good cup of coffee at home is easier than you think, and with our handy guide to all the different ways you can make coffee at home, soon your wallet will be thanking you and you’ll have a new morning ritual.
Obviously, if you’re loyal to instant coffee, you can disregard this guide completely, and hey, instant coffee can be pretty good too! But when you’re staying home during this health crisis with all the time in the world, why not get sophisticated with your coffee? There are really only two things you need to make coffee, any coffee: hot water and ground coffee beans. You don’t need to shell out a whole month’s salary on fancy coffee or expensive coffee beans to make a satisfying cuppa joe. What you do need, however, is firstly a source of freshly roasted and ground coffee beans.
Buy a bag or two of your favourite light or dark roast from the supermarket, your favourite café, anywhere really, and ask them nicely to grind it up for you. Different brewing methods require different bean coarseness, and if you’re a newbie, there’s always a friendly barista or the internet to help you figure it out. Secondly, you need to decide how you want to make your coffee. An automatic drip coffee machine is easy to come by, and one that most people probably already have. If you already have that, great! You can skip directly ahead and make one of our favourite coffee-based bevvies. If you don’t, here are a couple of popular brewing methods you can try at home.
The French press is by far the easiest brewing method after an automatic machine. It’s made up of two parts: a glass or plastic carafe, and a meshed metal plunger that filters out grounds. You simply scoop some coarsely ground coffee into the bottom, pour boiling water in, then after about five minutes, you push the plunger down and pour the hot coffee into your favourite mug. Even if you’re not drinking it right away, pour it out from the French press anyway, as the grounds will become bitter as it sits and ultimately ruin your drink. You can also use your French press to make tea!
The Vietnamese perfected their brewing method with the creation of the phin, a cross between a French press and a pour-over. The phin consists of a round perforated plate that should be placed over your chosen drink container, and on top, the brewing chamber with a perforated insert to tamp the grounds down then the lid to keep the heat in. Add your ground coffee (err on the side of coarse, or close to what you’d use in an automatic drip) to the little pot and pack it down with the perforated filter insert. Pour boiling water over the grinds, wait about a minute, and pour some more in. Seal the chamber with the cap and wait as your delicious coffee slowly drips down into your cup. The traditional Vietnamese way of serving coffee is over ice with a generous amount of condensed milk, but you can drink your coffee however you’d like.
The pour-over method is widely considered to be the best way to make coffee, and the most popular brand of pour-over coffee maker is the classic Chemex. (The cleverly designed Chemex is part of MoMA’s permanent collection!) The way the Chemex (and other pour-over makers) works is similar to a phin or an automatic drip, but there are a lot more factors to take into account when using it. Firstly, you need filters. You can use regular filters for sure but if you want to be meticulous look for filters that are labelled “oxygen-bleached” or “dioxin-free.” You then have to rinse the filter with hot water to get rid of the papery taste and preheat the carafe. Make sure to discard the water after.
Secondly, the grind on the beans when using the pour-over method has to be at medium-coarse, and if you’re using a Chemex, you can go just a bit coarser too. The pour-over apparently works best with light roasts, but hey, go crazy. Thirdly, most experts recommend getting a gooseneck kettle. The spout of a gooseneck kettle is narrow, long, and curved, allowing the carefully controlled pouring of water that you need with a pour-over coffee maker.
Start pouring slowly from the middle then outward with just enough to saturate the grounds, and stop just before it starts to drip through. This is called the “bloom,” which allows the coffee to de-gas. Finish by slowly pouring in the rest of your water, keeping it between half and three-quarters full and after three to four minutes you’ll have a steaming carafe of coffee waiting for you to enjoy.
We also recommend the Clever coffee dripper, a cross between a French press and a pour-over which allows you to make a perfect pour-over without having to commit to the slow pour, or the hefty price tag. It resembles a phin, and you can dump the water needed in all at once and it delivers a fine cup that can rival any fancy pour-over set up.
There are heaps of other home coffee brewing methods out there, but the French press, Vietnamese phin, and the pour-over coffee maker are our three favourites for people just getting started. Once you feel ready, you can start experimenting with the Moka pot, an ingenious Italian steam-based coffee maker, or the futuristic-looking Aeropress, a rapid coffee maker that utilises air pressure. Quick tip: The general rule of thumb for coffee ground fineness and amount of water needed is medium grind, and one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.
So you’ve got your coffee brewing set up, you’ve found your favourite beans, and now you want to venture out of the regular espresso, latte, cappuccino realm to make some fancy coffee-based drinks. From local cha-chaan-teng favourites to Starbucks copycat recipes, we’ve got you covered.
You don’t need any of the coffee brewing set-ups we’ve mentioned to make this viral coffee sensation at home. A South Korean creation named after a popular brand of toffee sweets, all you need is instant coffee, brown or white sugar, and hot water… and maybe a strong wrist if you don’t have an electric mixer. You can drink the Dalgona topping with any drink base you’d like: Whole milk is the original recipe, but we like chocolate oat milk or unsweetened almond milk. Don’t forget to rake in those likes on social media.
Springtime in Hong Kong is cold, wet, and rainy. What better way to relax at home than with a good book and a strong boozy coffee? The Irish coffee was originally created in 1943 as a warming treat for weary travellers at Foynes Port near Limerick, Ireland, then brought to the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco in 1952 where it exploded in popularity. All you need to make an Irish coffee is hot coffee, Irish whisky and whipped crème, and we guarantee you’ll be savouring this tipple at any time of the day.
How is cold brew different from iced coffee? For the caffeine addicts out there, cold brew eliminates the acidity and bitterness that’s present in regular coffee making, and the slow extraction method results in a way higher caffeine content. Stock up on your favourite fresh light roast bean blend and lots of cold mineral water, grab a big jar and paper sieve, and prepare yourself for a test of patience. Cold brew coffee is definitely our favourite summer morning wake-up.
Now that you’ve got your cold brew, turn it into a classic Italian summer dessert with this affogato recipe! It’s beyond easy: Add some ice and water to your cold brew and top with your favourite, traditionally vanilla, ice cream. Make sure you get the fancy kind of vanilla ice cream, where you can still see bits of the seeds scattered throughout.
If you’ve been to a local cha chaan teng, chances are you’ve heard of this local coffee and tea drink. For the days when you can’t decide between tea and coffee, this is the drink for you. It’s simple: Mix together hot coffee, hot black tea, and top it off with some evaporated milk (Black & White brand is the norm here). Best served iced.
Let’s face it, we’re a sucker for that calorie-dense, cloyingly sweet Starbucks frappuccino. Whether it’s mocha, vanilla, green tea, this icy treat is hard to beat. Fortunately, you can make this right in your kitchen as long as you’ve got a blender. All you need is chilled strongly brewed coffee, lots of ice, and whatever syrup you can get your hands on. Don’t forget the whipped cream!
As we’ve mentioned before, the traditional way to serve Vietnamese coffee is over ice with lots and lots of condensed milk. A spin on this recipe is the egg coffee, which may sound icky to most but we promise it’s a creamy drink akin to a liquid tiramisu. Originating in Hanoi during the First Indochina War, Nguyen Van Giang whisked in egg yolks into a customer’s coffee as a substitute for the shortage of milk. His recipe was such a hit that he opened Café Giang, where his son still serves the original recipe to this day. Of course you don’t just crack an egg into your morning coffee: Simply whisk the egg yolks with sugar or condensed milk until it becomes a rich sugary foam and add it to your coffee.
No, this coffee won’t actually stop bullets, but it does apparently help with weight loss and metabolism! This bulletproof coffee recipe is perfect for anyone on a low-carb, high-fat (otherwise known as the Keto diet) diet, and is chock-full of nutrients, using ghee (Indian clarified butter) or grass-fed butter, coconut oil and a little something called MCT oil. MCT oil is a supplement made from a type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, which are smaller than most of the fats we normally consume which makes them easier to digest and absorb into our bloodstream, thus creating more usable energy.
The dirty chai is one of our favourite tea and coffee mix drinks, and is super flavourful to boot. You don’t need an espresso machine for this, just regular coffee and your favourite chai blend and dairy or non-dairy milk. Chai lattes are an aromatic, warming drink on their own, but why not add that much needed caffeine kick in?
It doesn’t have to be autumn for you to enjoy a delightful pumpkin spice latte. This version is also much better for you than the one made famous by the famous coffee chain, using almond milk, maple syrup and real pumpkin puree to sweeten your strong coffee and pumpkin spices. If the spice blend you’re using isn’t strong enough, chuck a couple dashes of cinnamon and cloves in there, your tastebuds will thank you.