This is a guest post from Grace Carter, about the benefits of brewing your own freshly roasted coffee vs reaching for the instant or heading to grab a takeaway coffee from a coffee shop.
Usually, when students think about coffee, most would picture a jar of instant or a giant Starbucks coffee cup – it’s quick, it’s easy and it does the job. Yes, this is coffee – but it’s not AMAZING coffee, it’s not speciality coffee, and British students can do much, much better!
Until you’ve freshly brewed your own coffee from high quality freshly roasted coffee beans, you won’t know what you’re missing, and once you do know what you’re missing, you can never go back – so be warned ;-).
Here are some useful tips on how to up your student coffee game.
First, you’ll need some freshly roasted coffee beans
You’ll never know how amazing coffee can be until you buy freshly roasted coffee beans. I’m not talking here about buying coffee beans from the supermarket, OK, some supermarkets occasionally have a speciality small-batch roasted coffee on the shelf, but even then, it’s not necessarily the same quality and the same freshness as buying directly from the roaster.
The Coffeeblog list of UK coffee roasters is a great resource for finding your local coffee roaster, there are also some great coffee subscriptions now in the UK to ensure you never run out of lovely freshly roasted coffee beans, check out the coffee subscriptions directory.
Next – grind your own!
If you want the best coffee possible, you need to grind your own coffee just before you brew. You don’t need a mega pricey electric grinder, just grab a Hario Skerton, or a Porlex or Porlex mini if you have a slightly bigger budget. If you want to grind in a rush, just Google the hario skerton drill hack for turning y our £20-£30 hand grinder into an electric grinder by simply putting a nut on the top to attach an electric cordless drill!
Whatever you do, make sure you get a burr grinder, and not a “blade grinder”. Many of the cheaper electric grinders have blades, blades don’t grind, they chop, and this doesn’t lead to even grinds, which doesn’t lead to great coffee, if you’re going to use a blade grinder, there’s no point buying great coffee beans.
Don’t grind loads in advance and store them, just grind what you need as you’re brewing, you want to brew with coffee which has just been ground within the past few minutes.
When it comes to storing your coffee beans, just get an airtight container. If you’re buying in big volumes, it’s fine to put them in the freezer, put bag them up in small bags so that you’re only ever taking out of the freezer what you’re going to use that day, rather than keeping taking a big bag of coffee out of the freezer and putting it back, as this constant temperature changing can negatively impact on the beans.
Next – Time to brew your coffee.
After you have ground your coffee beans, it’s time to make coffee. Fortunately, you don’t need an expensive electric coffee maker. Some of the best possible ways to brew speciality coffee involve the least expensive brewing equipment.
Sure, Baristas use Espresso machines, which are expensive – but pro Baristas also use manual drip brewers such as V60, Kalita wave or Chemex, or full immersion brewers such as Aeropress & Cafetiere, and these are inexpensive to buy, and easy to maintain.
So grab yourself a brewer. If you’re brewing usually just for yourself, then a small cafetiere, Aeropress or V60 01 size, or Kalita wave will be fine. If you’re regularly brewing for more people, the bigger V60, Chemex, or a bigger cafetiere may be best.
Google for the best brew recipes for the brewer you buy, try a few, and see which work best for you. If you’re starting with great coffee beans, freshly roasted and freshly gound, you really can’t go far wrong.
With all brew methods, water quality is important. You want the best water you can get. Consider using a Brita filter, or splash out on a quality mineral water if the student budget permits (The Aldi Aqueo water from Chase Spring in Staffordshire is very inexpensive, and it’s lovely).
Water temp is important too, check the temp of the recipe you’re following, but in most cases you’ll want to let the water cool for 30 seconds or so before you brew. If you want to brew like a home Barista, then get a thermometre, or even a temperature control kettle.
Finally, drink your coffee
But wait, before you do whatever you would usually do with your coffee such as adding milk and/or sugar, try it black first. I would recommend that everyone tastes their coffee black first, even if they go ahead and add milk and/or sugar after first tasting it.
Remember, once you add sugar and milk, you’re not tasting the coffee, your tasting a blend of this coffee with milk and/or sugar.
Since there are so many different coffees, from different coffee plant varietals, from different origins, different processes, different roast profiles, there are so many different flavour profiles available with coffee – and if you always mask these flavours by adding other things, you’ll never get the full benefit of these flavours.
So, get to know the different flavours that tend to come with all the different types of coffee, even if you only have a few sips before you add your usual accompaniments. In time, you will start to be able to pick up the taste differences between the washed process, and the natural process, between an Ethiopian coffee and a Rwandan, between a Bourbon and a Caturra, between a 100% Arabica and an Arabica/Robusta blend, and so on.
Benefits of brewing your coffee vs drinking instant.
You just can’t come close to the taste of freshly brewed speciality coffee!
- Caffeine content.
It’s actually difficult to know what the caffeine content is in instant coffee since the jar doesn’t usually tell you, but from the research I’ve done, instant coffee doesn’t tend to have a particularly high caffeine content in comparison to freshly brewed coffee. A lot of the benefit that comes from coffee is from the caffeine, of course, including that great buzz we get after drinking coffee. So if you’re looking for that caffeine kick to get you properly awake in the morning, you’ll probably find it’s more noticeable and longer lasting from freshly brewed coffee, than from instant.
- Save money.
OK, you’re probably not going to save money by drinking freshly brewed coffee vs drinking instant coffee from a jar, as instant coffee is available from a very low price. If you’re already spoiled for instant coffee, though, to the point that you skip coffee at home in the morning and pick up a proper coffee from a cafe’ on the way to college/uni, then brewing your own is going to save you money.
- Save time.
Again, you’re not going to save time vs drinking instant, but if you usually avoid the instant in the morning and opt for a coffee shop, being able to enjoy a fantastic coffee in the morning as you’re getting ready, or making it to go and taking it with you in your travel cup, then you’re going to save yourself the time of heading out to the coffee shop.
- It’s Enjoyable.
Brewing your coffee in the morning can be really enjoyable, you may even find it relaxing, to the point that it helps to relieve you of your morning anxieties, or at least distract you from them for a few minutes prior to getting that lovely coffee into your system.
Brewing your own coffee vs drinking instant, will completely change your relationship with coffee, and there are tons of benefits in addition to the amazing taste of freshly brewed speciality coffee – so what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a coffee brewer, a hand grinder, and some lovely coffee beans!