Britain used to be renowned for its coffee, but for all the wrong reasons: light brown, wishy-washy liquid made from instant powder that made us the coffee laughing stock of Europe. But over the last decade or so, the standard of our coffee and our appreciation of this magical drink, has been revolutionised and we are now far more likely to ask for a skinny latte than a pot of tea.
So, now that our taste buds have become accustomed to good coffee when we’re out and about, how do we produce the same divine standard of coffee in our own kitchens?
Well, the good news is that there is now a plethora of different machines and designs available that look as good as their products taste. But first, you must decide what kind of coffee you want to produce and then, how much you want to spend.
Entry level cafetieres are still popular and if you only want to make a few cups at a time and as long as you use the correct level of ground beans, these attractive glass containers with filter plungers make good coffee and offer value for money.
To produce filter coffee in greater quantities, look towards a filter coffee maker. These really take all the hassle out of coffee making and most also have a hot plate to keep the liquid warm, so providing an in-built capacity for top-ups. Fill up with water, add the coffee (either spoonfuls of loose grounds, or pods), switch it on and enjoy.
Creating the perfect cappuccino, macchiato and mocha in your own kitchen used to be rather more difficult, as the skills of the master barista (espresso maker) involve selecting the correct beans, grinding them perfectly and using the steam-driven machine expertly to ensure the water is at the precise temperature to produce the perfect espresso. Now, modern technology has enabled the coffee lover to produce the best espresso-based coffee this side of Turin, at the flick of a switch and without any expert understanding of the art of the barista.
Essentially the choice is between a more traditional machine where you have to measure out the finely-ground coffee and ensure the water is at the correct temperature to steam the water (and froth the milk for cappuccino), or the newer pod systems where you buy pre-produced capsules containing the correct amount of coffee and the machine does the rest automatically. The disadvantage of pods is that you are tied to that manufacturer`s range of coffees and price per pod is higher than buying coffee by the bag.
Real coffee aficionados can indulge their passion with the ultimate in home-espresso technology, a bean to cup machine: just add water, pour milk into a dedicated container, fill the bean hopper, press the switch and wait for your coffee. This is the consummate no-sweat procedure as the machine grinds the beans, dispenses the coffee, froths the milk and even, in some high-end machines, warms the cup too. Not unexpectedly, these machines are more expensive, but espresso addicts would certainly think them well worth the price. And, as well as imitating Italian coffee-making traditions, most of these machines also ape Italy`s sense of style and design.
Good coffee making is an art that increasing numbers of us are now learning to appreciate and one which modern technology has enabled us to enjoy in the comfort of our own kitchens. Make sure you take some appropriate advice from experts such as Caffe Society and you will be well on the way to creating the characteristic atmosphere, ambience and aroma of Italian cafe culture, around your own breakfast bar.