How did you celebrate International Coffee Day on October 1? Did you duck out to support your local cafe which has kept brewing during lockdown? Did you power up your own machine at home, now, because just like the sourdough bakers, you've had more time to develop your own barista skills? Or did you simply make yourself a mug of instant coffee and celebrate the small joy of being able to drink it all while it was warm because the kids were outside playing?
Do people even drink instant coffee anymore? I'll admit straight up I'm not a coffee drinker and I don't understand the whole coffee culture so I tracked down an expert to find out the secrets of a good at-home experience.
Yanina Ferreyra is a green bean buyer and sales manager with Project Origin, a Canberra-based company that works with farmers in more than 10 countries across the world to source the best beans with a focus on community, sustainability and ongoing development.
She's worked in the coffee industry since 2010 and has competed in many barista and brewing competitions. In 2019 she was the first woman to win the Australian Brewers Cup and in the same year she represented Australia at the worlds, where she placed ninth. All this expertise and she's happy to spill the beans.
"What will define a good coffee can only be the consumer themselves," she says.
"If you have a favourite café, or a favourite coffee experience, keep that in mind as your aim. Maybe you value bitterness, some people refer to this as 'strong coffee', or maybe you like the milk froth sensation from cappuccinos.
"Be honest with yourself about what you enjoy."
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She says if you are a true coffee lover it can be worth investing in a machine for the kitchen bench for espresso style coffee.
"The machine doesn't need to be super expensive," she says.
"Some of those machines used in cafes could cost $10-20,000. They are built for consistency and also to be able to produce many coffees a day.
"A home machine might produce only a few coffees a day so there's no need to spend a lot of money on them. But keep it clean, not cleaning the machine daily can really affect the flavour of your coffee."
What is worth spending money on is your coffee grinder. Pre-grinded coffee oxidises quickly and if you are investing money on nice quality coffee beans, think about your grinder.
"Buying nice quality beans from a local roaster and using a basic $15 grinder might be the equivalent of buying a very high-quality steak and preparing it in a microwave," she says.
When it comes to milk, make sure it's chilled for a better froth and higher-fat milk adds to a richer flavour. Experiment with alternative milks too.
"Oat milk and almond milk bond very well with the flavour of coffee, but this really comes to personal taste," she says.
Water is also important, change it regularly, and while Canberra water is fine as a general rule, many tap waters are full of minerals such as calcium which can affect the flavours.
"In coffee competitions for filter coffee, baristas will build our water from scratch," she says.
"This means starting with a base water with no minerals and adding them back to achieve the desirable water to brew coffee."
Even us non coffee drinkers can be impressed by this skill. Ferreyra says it's not as hard as it looks.
"Latte art will form when you have frothed milk and a base coffee with crema on it. Crema is the amber colour coating you can see normally on top of espressos. It's created by the high pressure on the coffee machine," she says.
"You can achieve this two ways at home: with an espresso machine, or with an aeropress.
"Next you need frothy milk but too much froth or too many air bubbles in the milk make the froth sit on top and milk stay in the bottom.
"Make sure it's well incorporated - when you swirl the warm milk around it should look like fresh white paint, and, if possible, be glossy.
"Cafe baristas sometimes bang the jug gently on the bench to get rid of big bubbles, you can use that technique too.
"The pointy tip of the jug also influences the style of latte art too. Round tips help patterns like tulips or hearts while sharper tips would help more sharp designs like swans or rossettas.
Just like different pencils can help you draw different styles.
"Tilt your coffee cup to an angle to increase the surface area of crema and pour. It's possible to get frustrated at first. Every professional baristas has produced a white blob.
"And while that white blob is a great place to start, once you master it you can start giving the jug a last flick when finish the pouring and make a love heart."
Ferreyra also says good baristas love to talk about coffee and are always willing to share tips and ideas with customers. She says YouTube is also a good place to go to find videos with tips and ideas for all things coffee.
"I know people can be quite sensitive when it comes to talking about coffee, everyone has their way, and their favourite coffee, their favourite cafe even," she says.
"Which is why I always say good coffee is what you feel it is, you're the one drinking it after all."
This lobbed in my inbox during the week. Looked delicious, even for this non-coffee drinker. TikTok creator Golden Brown Coffee, in a collaboration with MILKLAB, has created a lamington latte recipe using their new range of oat milk.
350ml of MILKLAB oat milk
raspberry jam sauce
1. Generously rim the top of your glass with thick chocolate sauce. On a plate, spread your shredded coconut and then dip the top of your glass, coating the chocolate in coconut.
2. Take your raspberry jam sauce and drizzle it on the inside of your glass in a circular motion so it runs down the side.
3. Place a shot of espresso in your glass.
4. Add two tablespoons of chocolate sauce to your MILKLAB oat milk, and steam the milk until it reaches your preferred temperature. You can also heat your oat milk over the stove.
5. Fill up your glass with the chocolatey oat milk, and finish it off with a dusting of chocolate powder.