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How to Become Your Own Barista

Feature: Long Read
Words by Emilie Dock

If there’s one skill we should all learn during lockdown, it’s how to make a decent cup of coffee at home – and who better to advise us than our multi-award-winning master roaster Bartosz Ciepaj? Then, of course, you’ll need the kit to suit how you take your cup; state-of-the-art espresso machines, precision filter-brewers, latte-perfecting milk jugs... Coming right up!

Taste testing coffee

At Harrods, Bartosz oversees the roasting of 1,000kg beans and the 25,000 cups of coffee made per week. He’s also an international judge for the Cup of Excellence (the world’s most prestigious award for high-quality coffee) and a certified Q Grader, meaning he identifies and scores speciality Arabica coffee. In short: the man knows his beans – and provided you’re starting with fresh, high-quality beans, he’s absolutely certain that you too can brew excellent coffee at home. Firstly, it’s a case of knowing the basics...

Bartosz Ciepaj, master roaster at Harrods

“Making coffee is an art, a craft and a science. I’m in constant search for the perfect flavour – and every day my tasting vocabulary expands”

Testing coffee beans

At Harrods, Bartosz oversees the roasting of 1,000kg beans and the 25,000 cups of coffee made per week. He’s also an international judge for the Cup of Excellence (the world’s most prestigious award for high-quality coffee) and a certified Q Grader, meaning he identifies and scores speciality Arabica coffee. In short: the man knows his beans – and provided you’re starting with fresh, high-quality beans, he’s absolutely certain that you too can brew excellent coffee at home. Firstly, it’s a case of knowing the basics...

  • 1. The Roast

    “A light roast sees less heat than a dark roast, meaning you’ll be able to taste all of the subtle nuances of good-quality beans – notes of rosehip, jasmine or blueberry, for instance. Dark roasts are more single-note in flavour, and the pressure on the beans means they release more oils, producing a thicker or more full-bodied cup – usually reserved for lower-quality beans. As ever, choosing your roast is a question of taste!”

  • 2. The Grind

    “Your brewing method should determine which coffee grind to use; it’s all about how long the coffee will be in contact with the water. For a full-immersion brewer such as a French press, where the coffee will sit in the water for a few minutes, you need a coarser grind. For an espresso machine, or even a V60, where the coffee will only come into contact while it’s passing through it, you should use a fine grind.”

  • 3. The Water

    “The water you use to brew your coffee can have a huge impact on its flavour. The Specialty Coffee Association recommends using water that measures 120ppm–150ppm [parts per million, aka how ‘hard’ it is]. Tricky, seeing as tap water in London can have as much as 330ppm… Try brewing your next coffee with mineral water; you’ll easily taste the difference.”

Let’s Get Brewing

For Flawless Bean-to-Cup Coffee

It won’t deliver your coffee with a smile, but that’s about the only thing this smart machine won’t do. Simply pre-load with beans, select your style of brew (espresso, latte, etc.) and a few minutes later out comes a delicious cup.
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SAGE The Oracle Touch Coffee Machine

For Strong, Black Coffee

Nine out of 10 Italian homes own a moka pot, with good reason. Invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, the stovetop brewer is designed to mimic espresso-quality coffee at home without the need for big, fancy equipment.
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BIALETTI Moka Express Espresso Maker

BARTOSZ ON CREMA


"Crema is that tan-coloured foam that appears on top of a freshly pulled espresso. It’s formed when tiny bubbles of C02 combine with coffee oils. I personally think crema is overrated, but if you’re intent on achieving it at home, you’ll be hard pressed to make it without an espresso machine, as it requires a good grinder and intense pressure."

For Filter Coffee Connoisseurs

This clever machine has five settings and an option to customise your own, meaning you can fine-tune the bloom time, flow rate and brewing temperature exactly to your liking. You can even detach the filter provided to use a V60, and if you grind your beans the night before you can set it to have a fresh pot ready for you in the morning.
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SAGE Precision Brewer Coffee Machine

For Aspiring Baristas

De’Longhi’s Dedica machine is compatible with both ground coffee and pods, sp you can practise pulling espressos AND make yourself a fuss-free cup. It’s also small enough to fit on most kitchen counters and comes with a steam wand for all your frothy-milk needs.
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DE'LONGHI  Dedica Coffee Machine

BARTOSZ ON BREWING TEMPERATURES


"Brew coffee with water over 95°C and you’ll extract too much bitterness; under 87°C and you won’t pull out all of the individual, delicious flavours, resulting in a cup that’s flat and lacking in complexity. Water that’s been off the boil for a minute should do, or you can eliminate the guesswork with a precision brewer."

For Easy Coffee, and Lots of It

If you aren’t too worried about customising your coffee and just want multiple, delicious serves, this stylish filter brewer will more than meet your needs. It holds the equivalent of 10 cups and has an auto-start and keep-warm function – ideal for busy, caffeine-dependent households.
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SMEG Drip Filter Coffee Machine in cream

For the Daily Grind

You know the drill: freshly ground coffee yields a more flavourful cup. You also need to get the right grind size for your brewing method (see Bartosz’s explanation above). With 18 settings, this professional grinder will do just that.
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DE'LONGHI Smart Grinder

BARTOSZ ON OPTIMISING YOUR BEANS


"For optimum coffee drinking you really want to be using your beans within two weeks of them being roasted. If you’ve bought more than you can drink, just pack them into small portions and pop them in the freezer. Otherwise, store them in an airtight vessel in a cool, dark place."

For Latte Art

Hit the sweet spot for perfectly texturised milk (between 65°C and 70°C) every time with Sage’s clever milk jug with a built-in thermometer and indicator strip, and use the expertly designed spout to practise your latte-art designs.
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SAGE TheTemp Control Milk Jug

For Tamping

Not to be underestimated, tamping ensures ground coffee is tightly compressed and evenly dispersed within the portafilter (the bit that holds your coffee in an espresso machine), so the machine can create enough pressure to extract all of that lovely coffee deliciousness.
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DE'LONGHI Coffee Tamper

BARTOSZ ON FROTHING MILK AT HOME


"You can use a French press to pump hot milk until frothy, or you can get a little electric frother. But for latte art, there’s really no substitute for a professional steam wand – they allow you to ‘stretch’ or ‘texturise’ milk to create microfoam, which you can use to draw patterns on your coffee."

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