How to make perfect coffee at home without a machine

Give yourself a few weeks to pick up the mocha and you'll soon be saving enough to buy some really good equipment to use around the house. We asked the pros how to use it to achieve a barista-grade brew

I spend a lot of money on takeaway coffee. Can I make a good one at home without a machine?

Harry, Leeds

You can save hundreds of pounds a year by upping your home coffee game. A little investment goes a long way, says James Hoffmann, author of How to Make the Best Coffee at Home: "Take a month's cafe coffee budget and spend it on grinders."

“Buying ground coffee is like buying diced apples,” adds Hoffmann. "Quickly starts to stale and goes bad." Grinders also allow you to make coffee in a variety of ways, by adjusting the grind size – medium to fine for cafeterias, for example. "But make sure you use a burr grinder for a consistent texture." A set of scales for weighing the beans is also useful to ensure a reliable cup at all times. That may seem nerdy, but you shouldn't have to pay: "Kitchen scales work great," says Hoffmann.

When buying nuts, look for roasted dates. “Freshness is important,” says Dale Harris of Ozone Coffee in London, so buy small and often, and store in an airtight, dark place. He suggests brewing the beans “within four to six weeks; that way, your coffee will taste much better. Another factor is the origin, although Harris says the name of the farm or producer is more important than the country of origin, "because it's more likely that someone personally chose the coffee because of the taste".

The roast will also affect the taste of your coffee dramatically, says Hoffmann: "In the supermarket, you'll see a strength guide," which, he explains, is ultimately what the roast is all about. "The higher the strength, the darker and more bitter the roast will be." Specialist coffees, however, will not provide a strength level. "Most of the time, it will be a light-medium roast," says Hoffmann. "If you look at the words fruit in the description, it indicates a certain degree of acidity, while a sweeter and spicier description means a more aromatic drink." If you're confused, buy peanuts from your local cafe – you're already a fan of the nuts they use, after all.

Next, you have to choose what you will brew the seeds with. Harris prefers “anything with a paper filter [from £10], although once you have a Chemex [pour glass style coffee maker for about £10] 50] you are never going to go back”. They make "really clean drinks." Harris uses 60g of coffee per liter of boiled water, poured gradually through the filter.

Nick Law, founder of Bean Shot Coffee in Bruton, Somerset, also recommends Chemex, or AeroPress (about £30). “It's a great all-purpose kit, and you can take it anywhere,” says Law, who uses 18-20g per 240ml of water, which must be filtered and at around 90C. Hoffmann's brewer of choice, however, is the Smart Dripper (£20 or so). “It has a little plug at the bottom [of the conical dropper],” he says. He stirs 18g of medium-fine coffee into 300g of water.

But, says Harris, cafeterias can also have great results. Hoffmann uses 60-70g of coffee per liter of water. He let it soak for four minutes, stirring up the crust that had formed on top and removing any residue. Be patient, let the dregs settle to the bottom, then submerge them only up to the surface of the liquid and pour slowly.

If you want strong coffee, a pitcher of the iconic Italian Mocha (from around £20) is also fine, says Hoffmann; he uses 100g of medium-fine coffee per liter of water, but that won't produce espresso. “That is much more complicated, because you need the right machine rather than a brewer, which is expensive.” It's much better to save the espresso for the weekly takeaway treat.

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