It has been 15 years since Starbucks opened its first UK branch, triggering the rise of the high street coffee shop. Since then they have become a nation of coffee enthusiasts with a cappuccino on the morning commute a daily ritual for many.
Recent research revealed that as a nation we spend £6.8 billion on takeaway coffee with the average person splashing out £393 annually. Paul Meikle-Janney, barista and coffee expert with Gaggia (philips.co.uk/lovecoffee) explains the recent boom, saying: "We've definitely been influenced by American-style espresso bars. While once the only readily available option was freeze-dried instant, roasted coffee has allowed people to enjoy the wonderful flavours offered by different varieties of bean."
It is possible to achieve cafe quality coffee at home for a fraction of the cost of a takeaway. First make sure you buy high quality beans or pre-ground coffee. "Raw beans or green coffee has to be roasted before it can be ground up and drunk," explains Jeremy Torz, co-founder of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee (unionroasted.com).
"When buying beans check they aren't burned around the ends or tip which means they have been roasted at too high a temperature and will have a harsh flavour. Generally beans that are a light chestnut or hazelnut colour will have the best balance between the natural sugars and zesty fruit tones that a great coffee possesses."
With coffee grown in more than 70 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia there is plenty of choice for the beginner barista. "Central American countries such as Guatemala continue to be popular producers but recently I have tasted some great coffees coming out of Bolivia," says Paul. "Ethiopia, where coffee originates, offers a range of unusual flavours from light and floral through to rich blueberry and strawberry notes." Although coffee shop menus are crammed with a bewildering number of drinks, from the flat white to the macchiato, espresso is the foundation of most coffees.
"It's a small, intense shot caused by forcing water through ground coffee under high pressure," explains Paul. "Cappuccino, for example, should be one third espresso, a third hot milk and a third foam." If you plan to invest in an at-home machine look for one that is driven by a pump that forces the hot water through the coffee.
"Cheaper machines may use steam to push boiling water through which results in a very bitter drink," says Paul. "Check how well it is constructed, as a flimsy machine will not last, particularly if you are going to use it daily." One common but avoidable problem is using coffee ground too coarsely for your machine, resulting in a weak flavour.
"To prevent this, buy coffee that has been ground specifically for use in an espresso machine rather than the coarser grind more suitable for a filter machine or cafetière. "I would also recommend buying a grinder so you can adjust the grounds for yourself depending on what machine you are using."
To keep your coffee as fresh as possible Jeremy advises storing the beans in the freezer.
"Many people keep their coffee in the fridge but it's a humid environment and the coffee can be contaminated by the other foods. "The freezer will lock down the delicate oils that carry the flavours, making the most of every cup."
Laura Jackson/Daily Express