• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

Brewed Just Right...

Photo Credit :

Wondered why you cannot get your cup of cappuccino right even though you are buying expensive, imported coffee powder from your supermarket? And why that espresso machine you bought doesn't give you the right taste? Making great coffee is an art and, luckily, it is an art you can master, provided you are willing to work hard and follow the correct steps. Here's a handy guide on making a great cup of coffee that matches anything you get at your favourite café. (Caveat: This article does not cover the special south Indian filter coffees, which is a separate art form in itself. That will be the subject of another article.)

Start With The Right Ingredients
The reason many people don't get their coffee right is simply because they do not pay enough attention to the two key ingredients — coffee beans and water. While you don't need to know about every kind of coffee growing in the world, experts say that knowing the basics will definitely help you improve your final cup of java. Essentially, there are two main categories into which most coffee species can be sorted. One is called Arabica and the other is Robusta. Experts generally

GETTING IT RIGHT: A coffee froth design made by a trained professional at one of the Gloria Jean's outlets in New Delhi. The outlet also sells special coffee beans (BW Pic By Tribhuwan Sharma)

consider Arabica to be vastly superior to Robusta, in terms of both flavour and complexity. There are people who swear that the best coffees are made if you use only Arabica beans, while others are equally vehement that a blend of the two in equal proportions is the right way to go about it. Robusta has more caffeine than Arabica. And even within Arabica and Robusta, there are excellent grades and lousy grades. What is worse is that there are dozens of coffee-producing countries, and within each co

untry, quality of coffees tend to vary widely. Costa Rica, Columbia, Jamaica and Puerto Rico are the famous Arabica-producing nations while Java, Bali, Borneo and Sumatra are known for Robusta coffees. Brazil produces both.
The thing to remember is that you will probably need to go to a specialty coffee bean shop and try out several options — both single origin as well as blended — before you find the one that you like best. Also remember that if you wish to be known for your coffee, buy fresh beans — not a freeze-dried coffee powder. You can get good quality beans in many shops around the country (see ‘Where To Buy Your Beans').

GOOD CRUSHER: KitchenAid Pro Line is a burr grinder

The other thing, experts stress, is that you should use good water. A cup of coffee contains a lot of water and if you use your tap water with its metallic taste, you will end up with a coffee that tastes funny even if you have bought excellent beans. While filtered water will do, using bottled spring water is the best option, agree most coffee gourmets.

Get The Equipment Right
A lot of people invest in good espresso machines. But that is only one piece of equipment — and it comes into play only after several other steps have been taken. What's more, espresso is only good for making espresso-based coffees — that is, the espressos, the lattes, the cappuccino or the Americano. There are other varieties of coffee as well, and for that you need other machines — either a French Press or an American style drip filter coffee machine (not to be confused with South Indian filter coffee makers).
But much before you go about choosing your coffee machine or espresso machine, you need two other pieces of equipment — a coffee roaster and a coffee grinder. The first is important because coffee starts losing its flavour within days — some experts say hours — after it has been roasted. And while there are plenty of people who claim they can roast coffee beans in all sorts of kitchen appliances, including open pans, it is best to invest in a good quality coffee roaster if you are planning to make great coffee. There are plenty of roasters available in the market today. A good coffee-roasting machine allows you to get your beans roasted just right — not too oily and not too burnt. The well known coffee roasting machines include HotTop drum roaster, i-Roast 2, and Behmor 1600 drum roaster, and you can buy them in most cities.


A good quality grinder is also a must because it is best to grind the coffee just after roasting it, and then use it up within a few days. As we said before, coffee tends to lose flavour fast and keeping a grind for more than a week is flirting with trouble. Most specialty shops that stock roasters will also have grinders available. Try and buy one that allows you to get high-quality uniform grinds in different sizes — from fine ones (required for espresso machines) to slightly coarse ones (if you plan to use French Press machines).

                                                    Roasters And Grinders

BUILT-IN TECH: HotTop drum roaster has special features

Roasters: There are two types of home coffee roasters — fluid bed and drum. Fluid bed roasters are similar in design to hot-air type popcorn poppers. They have a glass-roasting chamber that allows you to watch the roasting process. While fluid bed roasters are more common at home, it is drum coffee roasters that give the coffee more body. HotTop drum roaster, for instance, is for the serious roaster. You can roast about half a pound of beans at one go, in 20 minutes. The electronic controls allow seven roasting levels. There is also a built-in, smoke-reduction system plus features such as temperature control, fan speed control, power control, and time control. On the other hand, i-Roast 2 is a small fluid-bed roaster that's great for the average home coffee drinker. It also comes with temperature controls. There are also two simple pre-set roasts for easy use — one for a lighter roast, and one for a darker roast. There is also the Behmor 1600 drum roaster, which is cheaper than most others in its category. It can roast 1 pound of coffee in one batch. The attaction of the Behmor is its smoke-control system; the vent is good and it's only at the higher levels of roasting that light smoke appears.

Grinders: Freshly roasted coffee beans need to be powdered as well, or the aroma and texture get killed if stored for a long time. There are chiefly two kinds of grinders — blade and burr grinders. Coffee connoisseurs, however, have a soft corner for the burr one. The Breville Ikon Conical burr grinder, for instance, is way ahead in terms of performance compared to blade grinders (which are also cheaper). It has grind settings to create ultra fine to coarse coffee and is easy to use. KitchenAid Pro Line, another burr coffee grinder, can hold 200 gm of coffee and is dish-washer safe. The grind control dial features 15 settings, making this a great buy. Then there is Cuisinart DCG-20N Coffee Bar coffee grinder, a blade grinder, which is a compact option for grinding small amounts of beans every day. It features a stainless steel bowl and blades that can easily crush coffee beans.



Coffee shops and retail outlets in India:

DELHI: The coffee board, Devan's Coffee and Tea, Usha Coffee, Kaveri Coffee, Tamil Nadu Store

MUMBAI: MR Coffee Stores
CHENNAI: Leo Coffee Outlet, Kumbakonam Degree Coffee outlet, Narasus Coffee, Philips Coffee

BANGALORE: Kalmane Coffee, Bayars

KOLKATA: India Coffee house, Sunrise Coffee International chains that sell coffee beans including Ethopian, Kenyan and Jamaican Blue Mountain and others:

  • Gloria Jean's

  • Barnie's Coffee and Tea Company

  • Café JubileeCosta

  • CoffeeLavazza: Fresh & Honest

Once you have got your grinder and roaster choices done, you will need to choose your main coffee maker. If you are planning to stick to espresso-based drinks (cappuccino, latte, Americano, etc.), go for a good quality cappuccino maker. If you plan to have your coffee the old fashioned way, it is best to choose a good French Press machine or an American style filter paper drip coffee maker. In both the latter cases, a slightly coarser grind is used. In a French Press machine, you first pack in the grind, then pour pre-heated water, let it soak for a few minutes and then push the plunger to get coffee. The American-style filter paper drip coffee makers work on the basis of gravity. Both machines have their die-hard fans, and it is largely a matter of individual choice as to which one to go for.How does espresso differ from these methods? Essentially, espresso machines use pressurised steam to force water through the coffee grind. Espressos are generally far stronger in terms of caffeine content than French Press coffee.

Black Coffee, Latte, Americano Or Cappuccino?
Once you have your basic coffee ready, it is time to decide what you want to turn it into. A French Press machine will get you a basic black coffee. An espresso machine will give you a good espresso — which is again a black, concentrated coffee drink with no adulterations. An Americano is nothing other than good quality black coffee. You can make an Americano from an espresso by diluting it with some hot water. To many people, a cappuccino and a latte look similar because they both have plenty of milk and, in some cafes, come topped with froth.

However, for purists, there are some basic differences. A latte is essentially a milk drink flavoured with coffee. You get it by pouring a lot of milk over a little amount of espresso or even plain black coffee, and what you get is a hot, coffee-flavoured milk. (Okay, technically, if you use an espresso as base, you get a latte. If you use double-strength coffee from a French Press, and then add milk, you get café au lait.) You could add a little froth on top to make it look better, but it is essentially the milk that makes the difference. A basic cappuccino, on the other hand, is one-third espresso, one-third milk, and one-third froth. It should be far stronger than your basic latte.

How To Raise A Good Froth

The best froth is made from no-fat or skimmed milk. It is best if your espresso maker has a frothing attachment. In case it doesn't, here's how to get some acceptable froth. You first heat milk and then use a high speed electric whisk, which will give you a similar effect. (Purists will scoff at it, but you do get acceptable milk froth with it.) Be careful when you pour the froth on the top of your coffee. You could use a spoon to place the froth on top, and get the effect that professional baristas get.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 28-03-2011)

Top themes and market attention on: