Having an excellent coffee machine is a big step towards preparing delicious coffee, but once you’ve got one in your possession, you want to be making the most out of it. Each coffee machine is a bit different so it’s very important to refer to the instructions and directions set out by the manufacturer. Here are a few pointers to follow to ensure the consistency of the coffee you make and the longevity of your machine.
1. Keep it clean!
It is very important to keep your coffee machine clean. Coffee machines often have mould and yeast growing in their reservoirs which is where a lot of germs are harboured. The number one reason for machine faults is a poor cleaning regimen. Keep your machine clean, and it’ll keep making delicious coffee. Ideally, you should decalcify your coffee machine every month or so in hard water areas and once every quarter in soft water areas. Most manufacturers make their own cleaning products, but decalcifier can be found easily online.
If you enjoy milky coffee it’s also very important to ensure the frother on your machine is kept clean. Urnex Rinza Milk Frother Cleaning Fluid is specifically formulated to break down milk protein to effectively remove any milk residue. Vinegar is sometimes recommended for cleaning parts of your coffee machine, but it’s better to use a specially formulated cleaning product. Vinegar needs to be rinsed several times to remove the residue and can negatively impact on the taste of your coffee.
2. Fresh beans
The coffee you find in the supermarket is often over 6 months old in comparison to local independent roasters who focus on getting coffee to you within a matter of days after roasting.
Coffee beans can be kept for around 6 months if they’re kept in an airtight container and a bit longer in the freezer (although freezing coffee is never ideal). Ground coffee doesn’t last quite as long – you’re best off using it within 3 months of roasting which is why investing in a good grinder is always worthwhile.
Ideally, coffee should always be ground just before it’s brewed. If you need to grind the beans yourself, it’s best to use a burr grinder, as opposed to a blade grinder, to make sure you get an even, solid grind. The outer casing of a coffee bean acts as an armour for all the components inside which are delicate, volatile and water-soluble. Once you grind coffee, the delicate oils held inside the beans will take on nearby odours which means that within 15 minutes, ground coffee loses about 60% of its aroma.
Bean-to-cup coffee machines take the grinding process off your hands and only grind as much as you need. If you are grinding beans yourself, it’s important to use the right grind size.
4. Grind size
The grind is imperative to the extraction process and in turn, the flavour.
You can achieve many different sized grinds, but here are 5 as a starting point – coarse, medium, fine, extra fine and Turkish.
- Coarsely ground coffee tends to be used in cafetieres
- Medium ground coffee should be used in drip coffee makers which have a steel filter or use paper filters
- Fine grind is used in drip coffee makers which use cone paper filters
- Espresso coffee machines need a fine to extra fine grind to operate properly
It’s worth experimenting with the size of grind you use, especially if you are using an espresso machine. The correct size is crucial to the perfect espresso and you’ll find that the smallest change to the grind can make a noticeable difference to the cup.
Different coffees react differently depending on the grind size so it’s always worth asking your coffee supplier how to get the most out of your coffee.
5. Fresh water
If you have a machine which has a water tank which you manually fill, such as most of the Bravilor Bonamat filter coffee machines, it’s best to use filtered or bottled water rather than distilled or softened water.
If you’ve got a machine which connects directly to the water mains, your machine will have a filter which will need replacing from time-to-time. It’s especially important to check the filter and to clean the machine regularly in areas of hard water where calcium carbonate levels are above 200mg/l.
6. Brew fresh, drink fresh
Once you’ve made a delicious cup of coffee using your sparkly clean machine, enjoy it straight away. You’re excused from brewing coffee hours before drinking it when you’re trekking over the mountains, but if you’re able to brew coffee fresh, brew it fresh! It’s easier to make up a jug up to see you through the morning, but after 60 minutes that freshly-brewed flavour will have been lost.