In this post I wanted to cover some great coffee-making hacks I’ve come across recently, and I’ll update this post as I come across more.
Coffee Hack no.1 – No Need for Steam!
For a week, I was using the brilliant Sage Oracle espresso machine, which comes with a steam wand and an auto milk texturing function, so I got used to being able to really easily make great frothed / foamed milk for cappuccino, Latte and other milk coffee drinks. Now the oracle has gone back, I’m lost! I then stumbled upon a YouTube video by coffee expert Todd Carmichael of La Colombe coffee roasters.
In this video he shows how to make textured milk with your cafetiere! I tried it, and it works brilliantly.
Here’s the way I did it today:
1: As Todd instructs, I unscrewed the lid off my cafetiere. I did this with my Savisto stainless steel cafetiere, and it was very simple to do. This is so the plunger can reach all the way to the bottom.
2: I heated my milk to about 60 degrees C, and I cheated by doing this in the microwave. In my 800w microwave with about two-thirds of a cup of milk, just under a minute is all I needed to get to 60c.
3: I rinsed the cafetiere, but on the first attempt I had bits of coffee grounds in the milk, so on the second attempt I did a better job of cleaning the plunger.
4: Poured the milk into the cafetiere, and plunged several times.
5: Poured the milk onto my coffee.
And this was the result:
OK there’s no latte art there, and it’s not quite the same texture as with a steam wand, but actually this was made with semi skimmed rather than whole milk which gives a slightly different result with a steam wand anyway, and still it’s not a bad result!
Update, I’ve since tried it with whole milk, and the texture is better, but the foam was so thick that it was very difficult to integrate any of it into the coffee, so I’ll experiment with the process. I’m probably plunging it too many times.
If you’re operating a third wave coffee shop then you probably wouldn’t be using this method ;-), but for coffee-making at home, this is a great way to make cappuccino, latte, machiato and so on – and also for foaming milk for hot chocolate.
By the way if you’re wondering what my weird-looking keyboard is all about, it’s a Kinesis Advantage – if you do a lot of typing, I’d recommend this keyboard! I type a LOT, and a while back I developed bloody painful RSI, so I tried various different ergonomic keyboards, and I found this one to be the best. It has a really unusual layout, which took a while to get used to as things are in different places, but after a while I ended up typing way faster, and RSI is gone. It’s a mechanical keyboard, the feel from typing with a keyboard like this is way better than a standard keyboard. Any way, I digress…
Below is the video I mentioned, which introduced me to this coffee hack.
Coffee Hack no.2 – Using Aeropress The Right Way… Not Inverted
Initially this hack was with reference to the inverted method, in case anyone wasn’t familiar with it, but it soon became apparent to me that the majority of people were using the inverted method already, thanks to the popularity of this method on YouTube. So I’ve realised that for many people, the hack would actually be using it the way the aeropress instructions suggest…
I actually use the standard way most of the time, and I don’t agree that the inverted method is better. The inverted method takes longer, as the idea with that method is to invert it so that you can leave it to brew without some coffee dripping though the filter during the process. Using the standard process doesn’t require steeping / brewing time, so it doesn’t matter that some of the coffee drips before you plunge. It seems to me that those who want to use the inverted method are those who really enjoy the longer process, and that’s fine, but for me time is of the essence, as long as taste isn’t compromised, and personally I don’t find there’s any noticeable difference in taste between the standard and inverted method. I do sometimes use the inverted method if I have the time, just for the fun of it, but I don’t notice any difference in the taste.
Coffee Hack no.3 – Making Almost Espresso with the Aeropress.
In my opinion, while Aeropress can make something close to espresso, it’s not true espresso, it’s just not quite got that espresso hit, and it’s lacking the rich crema that we love with espresso.
That being said, there is a method that you can try, which some people claim gets them close to true espresso with the Aeropress, and it goes as follows:
You put the filter on the bottom as usual, then put the ground coffee in, put another filter on top of the coffee and improvise by finding something in your home that you can use to tamp with (the guy in the video I found on YouTube uses the bottom of a seasoning salt bottle) and tamp the coffee down as you would if it was in a portafilter. Then pour in the water to the corresponding fill level (one per scoop) and plunge.
Apparently this method is capable of producing crema, whether it is or whether it’s the crema foam that I’ve found you can sometimes produce with Aeropress (which isn’t quite crema), I’m not sure, but there’s no harm in giving it a try. You will need to experiment with your grind to get this right, and it’s probably not worth trying if you don’t have a grinder and if you buy pre-ground instead.
Coffee Hack no.4 – Buy Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans.
This might seem like a strange one, but here’s the thing, when you buy coffee from a supermarket, it’s very unlikely to have been roasted recently, and it probably hasn’t been roasted in this country. If you don’t think this makes a difference, just try using recently roasted coffee beans and see what you think. I’ve looked for recently roasted beans in supermarkets and have never found them.
I buy my coffee mainly from Pact Coffee, they roast a range of different coffee all which they source direct from the coffee growers, they roast it all here in the UK shortly before shipping, and the roasting date is printed on the bag. I really like hasbean too, some great single estate coffees, great service, and they’re really passionate about their coffee. Cafehormozi.com is another good supplier I’ve been impressed by recently, and there’s a discount code I can give you too – coffeeblog5, just copy that in at checkout for a 5% discount, not huge but worth having. For freshly roasted single origin decaf, try Decadent Decaf.
Regardless of the brewing process, I’ve found that coffee made with freshly roasted beans is far superior than from beans that have been sitting on a shelf for weeks and prior to that were probably sat in cold storage somewhere.
Coffee Hack no.5 – Drink Without Milk or Sugar for Maximum Metabolism Boost
A number of scientific studies have suggested that drinking coffee can increase the metabolism and therefore help to lose fat or maintain weight. This isn’t new, and this isn’t the hack, on the contrary this is something that people have known about for quite some time, but it may be partly responsible for people NOT losing weight. The hack is simply understanding that any metabolism boost from drinking coffee is lost if you add stuff to the coffee, such as sugar, syrups, milk or cream. If you usually drink coffee with sugar and milk, and you begin to drink more coffee the standard way you drink it, thinking this may be helping, it will more than likely be hindering due to the sugars you’re consuming with the coffee.
Coffee Hack no.6 – when NOT to Drink Coffee for Maximum Health Benefit.
Coffee stimulates the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Drinking coffee in the morning and early afternoon is thought by many health and diet professionals (including the guy who was my personal trainer for a while when I really needed some help losing weight) to be a good thing for the metabolism where as drinking it later in the afternoon and in the evening is considered a bad thing, as cortisol production is being stimulated later on in the day, which can impact on sleep and in turn affect metabolism. I’ve experienced the effects of this first hand, a while back I became a bit of a porker, and I decided to invest in a personal trainer to help me for a few months. He tested my fat levels with caliper pinch tests before each work out, and when I was ignoring his advice to not drink coffee later into the afternoon, it did seem to have a negative impact on my weight loss as opposed to when I was following this advice.
Coffee Hack no.7 – Drink Coffee in Sync With Your Circadian Rythm
OK this is similar to the hack above – but slightly different. While hack no 6 basically says watch it when it comes to drinking coffee later in the day, this hack is more scientific and suggests that you can time your coffee consumption throughout the day to get the very best effect from the coffee, and not just the health benefit, but also in terms of maximizing the feel good factor.
The idea is (and this comes from a scientist) is that we have levels of peak alertness throughout the day, which is linked to our natural cortisol production, which relates to our circadian rhythm. If we drink coffee when we’re already at peak alertness thanks to cortisol release, then it’s not going to be noticed by the body, we won’t get the buzz we expect as we’re already at peak alertness, and even worse, it could result in a tolerance developing which means a continual reduction in the effectiveness of coffee to give you that boost you’re used to.
This research suggests that the best time to drink coffee to synch with circadian rhythm would be after 9.30am until 11.20, and after 1.30pm until 5pm (although as per the previous hack, I’d be careful about drinking coffee after 2PM.
Update 03/04/16 Coffee Hack no.8- Turning a Manual Grinder into an Electric Coffee Grinder
As I mentioned in my post Coffee Grinder, Which One? It took me a while to decide on which electric coffee grinder to go for, and in the meantime I found that in terms of hand operated grinders, the Hario Skerton is one of the few that can cope with the fine grinding required for espresso.
It’s great, although I wish it was possible to adjust slightly more finely, the steps are fairly big, but I was able to dial in with most beans with it, except for one medium roasted single estate bean which choked out the espresso machine at one setting, and was slightly too coarse on the next.
The one thing I really don’t like about it though is how long it takes and how much effort is required. It’s hard work, especially if you have dodgy wrists – I had bad RSI a while back, it’s fine now but I was getting a few twinges while grinding. Also I dislocated my thumb recently, and I’m still in a bit of pain with that, so I found hand grinding a bit uncomfortable.
So I had a look of it, and thought ‘drill’!
I got my hand drill out, took the top silver nut thing off, and just attached the drill to the bolt as if it was a drill bit, and to amazement it worked a treat!
In the image you can see that I’ve left the handle on, you can obviously do it without the handle being on, the only reason I left it on at this point is I wanted to keep an eye on how fast I was grinding, as I noticed that without the handle it’s very easy to grind really quickly, but having the handle allows me to be careful not to go mad. The Hario instructions do state that you need to grind slowly, so I have the impression that if I do it too quickly I’ll probably break it, or wear the burrs out or something.
I’m not claiming to have invented this by the way, as I had a look on YouTube and found other people doing a similar thing, but they’re doing it better than I am! Rather than just making a hash of it by attaching the drill directly to the bolt as I have, as if it’s a drill bit, what others have done (people with more common sense than me obviously) is they’ve attached a not to the bolt, and then used a socket attachment to the drill to attach to the nut. This makes sense because doing it this way you can then take the nut off and put it back to normal if you wanted to, whereas if you do it the way I’ve done it, you start to chew up the thread, meaning that you’ll struggle to get that top fastening nut back on to put it back to normal.
Do you know any more coffee hacks?
If so, reply below and let me know 🙂