How to make good coffee

Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte and Americano

Posted in How to make good coffee on March 6th, 2010 by admin – 4 Comments
A picture of a cup of espresso

A cup of espresso coffee

Espresso is short and strong. If you are new to it, it may not be, er, your cup of tea. But espresso coffee is the base for making other drinks like Americano, Macchiato, Capuccino and Latte.


Most simple is turning a strong, short coffee into a weaker, taller cup by just adding boiling water.


The name Macchiato refers to coffee being ‘marked’ by a little milk. So still strong and short but a little bit softer due to the addition of hot milk. Find instructions on how to make a macchiato here.

For cappuccion and latte you need to froth milk. Normally this is done by passing steam through cold milk creating millions of tiny bubbles in the milk giving it a velvety texture. Without a good espresso machine, this is hard to do. However, it is not impossible.

Cappuccino and latte

Frothing milk: Jar and shake

One first way is to introduce air bubbles into the milk by shaking it damn hard! Try it yourself. Here are some instructions:

Frothing milk: use a french press

Maybe you have a french press at home. This also lends itself well to making frothy milk. More instructions here:

Making cappuccino and latte

There is a line between latte and cappucino. I have heard people in cafés here describe a real cappuccino as a ‘dry’ cappucino, which I guess just means a latte. Simply put – espresso with added warmed milk is a latte, and with added foamed milk is a cappucino. Feel free to argue about this below in the comments section!

The 5Ms of coffee

Posted in How to make good coffee on February 28th, 2010 by admin – 20 Comments

Somebody once told me about the 5Ms of coffee preparation. I could never remember what they were exactly as each and every M was an Italian one. So today I looked it up and I will tattoo it on to my forearm lest I ever forget.

1. LA MISCELA – The blend

This is a little bit obvious. If the coffee you have is not good, there is no way you’ll get a nice cup of coffee out of it. So get some advice from somebody who knows about coffee, or at least buy a reputable brand. As a maker of coffee at home,  make sure the coffee you use is fresh and tightly close the packet after use and put it in the fridge or freezer if you have. use it within a couple of weeks. Best to buy fresh from ground beans in small quantities and use within a week or two.

If you are in a café, check they are grinding the beans freshly for you. Somewhere near Thapathali there is a young guy an a coffee shop grinding beans to put in a plastic box to be stored on a sunny windowsill. You can always ask them where they get their coffee from and how fresh it is.


Not much you can do about this without equipment. However, espresso grind and filter grind are not the same. Try to get the right one for your needs.

3. LA MACHINA – The machine

Given a good blend, ground properly to the right fineness, the machine is the next factor. The temperature and pressure of the water passing through the coffee directly affect the flavour. With your espresso pot, just try to put hot water on the bottom chamber to shorten the heating time and take off of the gas when the bubbling noise has started.

4. LA MANO DELL’OPERATORE – The human touch (of the operator)

If you are in a café, it never harms to ask the person making your drink which their favorite cup of coffee is. “No sir/ma’am, I don’t like coffee!” This is not a good sign. Leave.

You may also want to take ‘La Mano dell’operatore’ (the hand of the operator) literally for a minute and and read this. Worth thinking about.

Anyway, much of the flavour of your drink is in the hands of the operator. Let’s hope they know what they are doing.

5. MANUTENZIONE (maintenance)

If the coffee machine is not maintained properly its performance is going to decrease. That’s life. While you can’t jump over the counter and check out the big espresso machine, you can check the toilets, the cloth used to clean the tables or the size of the dirty-finger ring around the light switches and deduce how well maintained the machine is.

With your own coffee pot, rinse with water after every use and use your fingers only to remove old coffee and excess oils. Dry with a soft cloth and store in separate pieces.

So if your coffee tastes no good, it’s going to be down to one of the reasons above. Have a go at working it out!

Caring for your coffee pot so that it loves you back

Posted in How to make good coffee on February 18th, 2010 by admin – 6 Comments
  • When you buy a new Moka pot you should throw the first two or three batches of coffee away. To season the new pot well it’s best if you leave the brewed coffee in it for one whole day before you discard it.
  • Wash the Moka pot by hand with plain water. Do not use any detergents or sopas and do not scrub it. Just use a soft cloth, sponge or your fingers. The oils from the coffee coat the insides and give a better flavour apparently.
  • Dry the parts with soft cloth before storing and do not store the Moka pot assembled.
  • When you leave your Moka pot unused for a long time, the oily layer may become yukky. If that happens just put in water with a bit of detergent and boil it on the stove top for a while. Then wash it thoroughly. This should remove the rancid oils.
  • Don’t ever overheat the pot (by forgetting about it on the stove) because you might damage the rubber seal inside and then you’re in trouble.
  • When emptying used coffee from the basket, don’t knock the basket on a hard surface as it may damage its shape – then it may not seal properly and the pot could stop working.

So many instructions! But all simple really. Be nice to the pot, be nice to your coffee and they will be nice to you.

Exciting video of person making espresso coffee

Posted in How to make good coffee on February 17th, 2010 by admin – 13 Comments

We’ve been on the web here looking for tips and tricks about making good coffee. If you are not into reading, this short and exciting video shows how to use one of these things to get nice coffee in your cup.

Some people recommend the following:

  • Turn the gas heat right down (or off) when the coffee first starts to come through). When the water is already boiling inside, it needs less heat to finish the job.
  • When 2/3s of the coffee is through, take the coffee pot off of the heat and serve immediately – this is the best part of the espresso. If you wait until it is full and are serving in more than one cup, stir briefly with a spoon before serving. This mixes the weakest last part in with the strongest first part.

Which coffee to use with a coffee pot?

Posted in How to make good coffee on February 17th, 2010 by admin – 7 Comments

Some more (paraphrased) wise words on storing and using coffee:

  • …coffee (especially when pre-ground) is highly perishable and will maintain its optimal flavour and taste for just a few days at best [though tightly sealing and storing in the fridge help a lot]
  • Whole beans will be OK for 10 to 15 days if you store them in a cool place, away from light and moisture. Pre-ground may last 3 to 7 days max under the same conditions, as more of the surface comes into contact with air. …you can safely store it in the refrigerator to slow the ageing process further.
  • Best to buy the correct pre-ground rather than try grinding at home unless you have a good grinder. Most simple grinders can’t grind fine enough. That said, if you have freshly, freshly roasted beans, then this will be better than some old pre-ground coffee
  • Freshly roasted coffee should smell as such when you open the bag. Trust your nose, not what the manufactures say!

More tips on making good coffee

Posted in How to make good coffee on February 17th, 2010 by admin – 11 Comments

There’s much more art required to get espresso right using a moka than there is in using an idiot-proof espresso machine, but that only makes a successful end-result more enjoyable!

Says someone on this site. To summarise their tips:

  • For very best results, freshly grind your coffee beans just before making espresso if possible – whatever method you’re using. The oils that give coffee its complex flavours deteriorate rapidly in contact with air, and are best kept locked inside the beans until just before coffee-making. Invest in a little bean-grinder if you can. Otherwise, keep ground coffee well-sealed until use.

Actually go to the site and read the article, it’s good … See here: