Doing our bit (by bit by bit)

Do no harm. Maybe even do some good. Make a living. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

We try not to overwhelm ourselves with dos and don’ts. The volume of input coming at us these days is overwhelming, but we think these four little nuggets are worth their weight.

On the doing no harm front, we’re frank about the fact that coffee comes from far away and it needs to cover those distances. We can’t do much about that. But in the areas of our business where we can mitigate our impact, we do. 

Something we’re really proud of is that we’re the first roastery in the UK to use refillable tubs for our wholesale operation – when we supply batches of our delicious arabica beans to cafés and shops, we deliver them in containers that last around 25 years. That saves on a whole lot of disposable packaging material. What’s more, the tubs themselves can be recycled. So you can understand why June 16 is one big party at jute HQ. Endless espresso martinis. (What happens on June 16, you ask? Why, World Refill Day of course!)

As for proactively doing good, the possibilities are endless!

We work with bio-bean, for instance. If you’ve not heard of bio-bean, they’re quite something, taking waste products from the production and consumption of coffee and turning them into biofuels. We’re especially huge fans of bio-bean’s Coffee Logs, made from recycled coffee grounds, which burn beautifully, efficiently, and with minimal carbon footprint or greenhouse gas emissions – turns out coffee can warm both the cockles of your heart and your tootsies.

There’s nothing like the buzz you get from bee-related good deeds, and we sponsor hives at a local charity called Workbridge that delivers vocational training – such as beekeeping – to people with mental illness, learning disabilities or brain injuries. Over in the other corner of our virtual farm, we also sort out the chaff from our beans and give it to a local farmer for animal feed. Lucky pigs.

We’ve probably all had the creeping sense that ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword – and rapidly emptying of meaning as a consequence. Well, we think we’ve found the remedy: getting hands-on with the nuts and bolts of being a sustainable operation. Our search for the right packaging – packaging that’s right for the planet and right for you, our customers – has helped bring home so many issues around sustainability.

For us, so-called ‘compostable’ bags are not as eco-friendly as they sound. Turns out most of them only compost in an industrial processor, not in your garden compost bin. Strike one. And while virgin oil-based PET 100% plastic bags can be recycled, they didn’t quite cut it either, as we wanted something bio-based. Enter the jute pouch! Each one is made from at least 70% waste from the sugarcane industry. Double-check your local regulations but you should be able to put our pouches out with your plastic recycling – failing that, at a supermarket collection point.

There’s no getting round it – being sustainable takes hard work. And on that note – phew – time for a second cup of simple pleasure.

Is coffee good for you?

Slurp some coffee, you soon know you’re alive.

It’s one of those glorious substances that makes an instant visceral impression – you jolt from a slump, you conjure an idea, you untie a creative knot, you get up and go, you va va voom. What’s more, your mouth floods with aromatic flavours. So at breakfast coffee makes pastries taste (even) better and after a meal it goes beautifully with digestifs. It even makes it easier to exercise the next day, to burn off those pastries and brandies.

But (maybe apart from the pastry + breakfast thing) much of this could be said of cigars and tequila. What’s really fabulous about coffee is that, unlike those two, it won’t make you smell, it won’t give you a hangover and it won’t make you a social pariah. 

In fact – stop press – it won’t do you any physical harm at all. More than that – while we’re well aware that coffee feels good (in oh so many ways), it seems it actually does you good, too.

How can this be? Some people point to coffee’s heart-racing, blood-pumping effects as evidence that, surely, there must be something amiss here, some health penance to be paid for this delicious sin, something suspect going on. 

Not so, according to research released in March 2022 that suggests drinking a few cups of coffee a day will not only not do any harm to your ticker – it could actually improve its health.

The research’s senior author is Peter M. Kistler, head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia. According to the good professor, medical advice to steer clear of caffeine if you have any sort of heart complaint is based on the assumption that a coffee-induced increase in heart rate is a bad thing. We didn’t think doctors made assumptions. Turns out they do, and, as all assumptions risk being, this one’s wrong.

For Professor Kistler’s study, some 380,000 people without known heart disease were assessed over a period of ten years, with the finding that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day translated to “a 10%-15% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying for any reason”. Having fewer or more than two or three cups saw a drop in the beneficial effects.

In a second study of some 34,000 people with known heart disease, “two to three cups a day was associated with lower odds of dying compared with having no coffee” and “any amount of coffee was not associated with a higher risk of heart rhythm problems.”

It is pretty hard to process, this conclusion. It’s not usually a good sign when core machinery – engines, motherboards, computers, etc – starts going into overdrive. Sparks and smoke soon follow. But it appears that our hearts are different – and in any case it’s apparently not the heart-rate increase per se that brings benefits.

Kistler and his team are at pains to remind us that there’s a whole lot more going on with coffee than just caffeine, and they believe it may be some of the other hundred or so active compounds in coffee that benefit our hearts. Kistler points to the possibility that the compounds “reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity […] inhibit the gut’s absorption of fat and block receptors known to be involved with abnormal heart rhythms.”

He also mentions coffee compounds’ capacity to “boost metabolism” – and that brings us to yet more good things coffee can do for our health.


The power of polyphenols

Coffee is a natural product, minimally processed. It is one of the plants that contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant compound. With its get-up-and-go qualities, coffee helps you pack more into life – but it might also go one step further by actually lengthening that life. Those polyphenols again. Studies in Japan have even suggested that coffee is a boon to what the researchers call “all-cause mortality”.


Metabolism and weight loss

If keeping trim is one of your reasons for going jogging, bear in mind that coffee might – might! – tip your “energy balance” towards weight loss. There are suggestions, too, that coffee can boost your metabolism.


Long-term brain health

Another of coffee’s qualities – sharpness of mind – may also, surprisingly, extend beyond the immediate here and now. The results are far from conclusive, but there have been indications that coffee could help stave off developing Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. 


So there we have it. That something so delicious could actually bring you health benefits might seem like a dream, but we’ll take it. You can browse our award-winning range of single-origin and blended remedies in our online pharmacy over here.

Our guide to the best coffee gifts

One of the many great things about us coffee lovers is that we’re easy to buy for. We get that unwrapping-the-presents feeling every time we open a bag of freshly ground coffee, so receiving a bag never gets old. And opening gifts is even better when it comes with a waft of caffeinated deliciousness.

So some actual, real-life coffee is the obvious choice of gift for the coffee lover in your life – may we steer you towards some jute single origin? – but there are loads of other possibilities, which is why we’ve put together this gift guide jam packed with the best coffee gifts out there.

There’s no coffee tat here. No coffee joke books. No gift packs with more air and unrecyclable plastic than a cheap Easter Egg. Nothing that says “Don’t speak to me till I’ve had my first cup of coffee”. Just surefire-hit gifts to make any coffee lover smile.


A reusable cup

Of all the litter we blithely generate, takeaway coffee cups look fairly benign, with their muted tones and rustic textures, but recycling them still takes its toll on the planet. Every coffee fan should have a reusable cup – there are some lovely, design-led ones out there – and, even if they already have one, a spare is never a bad thing, since it’s easy to forget yours as you head out for the day. We think the jute reusable cups are rather nice.  Made from single-use paper cups, they’re extra specially virtuous and come in 8oz and 12oz sizes.


A flipping good flask

Of all the reasons not to relish long motorway journeys, ‘bad coffee’ is high on many people’s list. There are a few ways to go here. One, you can opt for a high-end, high-tech, high-spec Nasa-standard capsule of a flask that’ll keep the brew at the perfect temperature for hours on end, without impacting its subtle flavour notes. Or you can go retro and embrace that flasky flavour with a vintage Thermos – many of us have a fond nostalgia for that classic accompaniment to camping holidays and coach journeys.

Alternatively, see your giftee for the coffee nerd they are, and buy them an AeroPress.


Brewing kit to expand their coffee-making repertoire

Do you know which brew method your giftee generally uses at home? You could get them an upgrade on the kit they use, or nudge them towards trying a new coffee-making method.

The classic kit for pour-over brewing is the V60 dripper. The Hario brand is the queen of this method – they also do a lovely pour kettle. You’ll need some paper filters, too.

A Chemex is another pour-over coffee maker that produces enough for a few people at once. It’s a good one for sociable coffee drinkers.

The cafetière (aka French press) and stovetop (aka moka pot) methods look pretty old-school and you might think your coffee aficionado is above them – not so. It’s always good to have these two in your repertoire, and there are some very handsome examples about these days.

If your giftee is into espresso and espresso-based drinks (lattes, flat whites, cappuccinos, etc) then encourage their displays of at-home barista prowess with a beautiful Italian-made espresso machine. While some machines incline towards manual operation, the De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul Automatic Coffee Maker is more of a push-button choice, without compromising on the quality of the espresso end product. There are also more budget friendly options, of course – we love this neat De’Longhi Dedica Manual Espresso Machine.


A few more cute coffee gift ideas

How to use old coffee grounds

From the farmer and producer to the roaster (us!) and you yourself, your coffee gets treated like the precious product it is throughout its life, from sapling to sip. Except that is, for the very end: once you’ve brewed your cup according to your particular method of choice, doesn’t just chucking the grounds in the bin seem a bit of a shame, somehow?

Try out one of these suggestions to give your coffee a more fitting send-off.


Make a coffee scrub-mask

Anti-inflammatory, astringent, exfoliating, antioxidising: a whole range of benefits are claimed for skincare products made with coffee grounds. To make a DIY coffee scrub-mask at home, mix two parts coffee grounds with one part olive or coconut oil.

As aroma bases go, coconut and coffee aren’t bad at all, but you might introduce some other ingredients in there, too. Lavender, shea butter, cinnamon, bananas and honey are all contenders.

You’re after a paste consistency. Gently rub a little onto your arm and leave it for half an hour, then wash it off and wait another half an hour. Assuming your skin doesn’t respond badly, you can now apply the scrub-mask to your face and leave for ten to twenty minutes.


Make bad smells go away

Even the grounds of coffee smell an awful lot better than most things. If the aromas emanating from your fridge leave something to be desired, try popping a dish of used grounds in there. Some people fashion deodorisers using old tights filled with coffee grounds, to leave in their drawers and cupboards. If you try this, be sure to dry the grounds out as much as possible first; a spell in the fridge should do the trick.


Make some art

As long as you’re fond of the brown end of the colour spectrum, coffee art might be for you. It will, at least, be an excuse to visit the art supplies shop you’ve walked past a thousand times, since you’ll need some watercolour paper. For inspiration, take a look at Ghidaq Al-Nizar’s @coffeetopia Instagram page. Ghidaq has 35K followers. Hopefully you won’t lose any.


Make slugs and weeds go away (maybe)

Slugs hate coffee’s acidity, while weeds (and indeed any plant life at all) hate its caffeine. Or so some say: there are countless schools of thought on the use of coffee grounds in the garden, many contradicting one another. The online anecdotes says coffee grounds are responsible for everything from towering parsley plants to composting calamities, so tread carefully.


ethical coffee: a jute guide

At jute, we drink coffee every day, but we’ll never stop regarding it as a treat. It’s a marvel, after all, that we can enjoy coffee here in the UK – this most special of crops, grown at such giddying altitudes in such far-flung landscapes. When we roast the beans, we know we’re unleashing aromas that this chilly island could never produce under its own steam. The whole thing is magic and we try to remember how lucky we are.

But then we have a head start when it comes to recognising our privilege: we’re well aware of the lengths coffee growers go to before they hand the baton to us to roast and pack and sell the finished product to you. When you hear about the care and toil they put in, you feel a keen responsibility to not mess up their good work.

And you feel a keen responsibility to ensure they’re fairly remunerated for their work, too. We’d never expect or feel comfortable paying pennies for, say, a bunch of English asparagus. We’d wonder who was being exploited to make that price possible – and we’ve always felt similarly queasy about £1.50 bags of coffee.


So, what is ethical coffee?

And so to the labyrinthine topic of ethical coffee. We’d love to give a quick fix and say that paying more equates to doing good (or at least no harm) every single time, but the ethics around coffee – from workers being paid a decent wage to issues around sustainability and environmental impact – are really complex. Neither the price nor the excellence of a coffee necessarily means excellent working conditions. Until the worldwide industry is 100% transparent about processes, expenditure and wages, we can only do our ethical best. Here are some of the things that we at jute bear in mind when it comes to coffee ethics.


Is your coffee fair on the grower?

Around eighty percent of coffee today is produced by smallholders, which is good and bad. It’s good for the grower in the sense that the smallholding system equates, by its very nature, to greater ownership by the worker of their day-to-day labour. It’s good for the environment because industrial processes are not in use. (Sometimes coffee is organic for the simple reason that the grower can’t afford expensive pesticides and fertilisers.) Smallholder coffee is good for us drinkers, too, since smallholdings lend themselves to flavour-profile variety.

Yet smallholders generally get just 7 to 10 percent of the coffee’s retail price – if that – largely because a very small number of huge buyers controls a huge amount of the world’s output, thereby wielding huge influence.

Consider, too, the impact of climate change on coffee cultivation. Ever higher altitudes are required to bring out the best in the crop, which means upheaval for coffee-growing communities, while pests are moving into areas they wouldn’t historically have been found. An already tough livelihood is getting tougher.

As a consumer, it would take some serious investigative work for you to determine who has been paid what down the entire chain that leads from your cup to the soil. Roasters dealing with the wholesale business are, however, in a different position. So speak to your roaster – us! – or to whoever’s making your drink in the café.

Now, you might be wondering why you can’t just rely on accreditations like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ and Smithsonian Bird Friendly, which brings us to…


The certification situation

Even now, growers perpetually teeter on the brink of selling their coffee crop for less than it costs to produce. Sometimes they do sell it for less than it costs to produce. That’s one reason that coffee is arguably the highest-profile Fairtrade product, with the charity’s reckoning of what constitutes a fair price for coffee beans far exceeding the current market price. While the emergence of Fairtrade is, overall, undoubtedly a positive thing, it’s not a flawlessly ethical seal of approval.

First, it takes time, money and bureaucratic know-how for a grower to show it is meeting the standards that Fairtrade set to secure certification – that means the Fairtrade label is beyond a lot of worthy growers. Then there’s the issue of loopholes. Gaining valuable certification like Fairtrade means ticking a lot of boxes, but for unscrupulous operators in the production chain, there are ways of getting boxes ticked without embracing the ‘fair trade’ bit.

Your roaster or café should be able to tell a thorough story about the provenance of the coffee they’re selling you.


Your coffee and the environment

The growing and roasting of coffee don’t have a great impact on the environment. Compare, for example, the 130 litres of water it takes to produce one cup of coffee to the 250 litres for the same amount of milk (or – wait for it – the 15,000 litres per kilogram of beef).

Two coffee-production factors that are harmful, however, are transport (which you can’t do a great deal about, short of moving to a coffee-producing country) and brewing. This is where you come in.

It goes without saying that single-use coffee pods are the kind of product we’ll look back on in thirty years’ time, horrified. At the other end of the scale is cold brew, which produces your pick-me-up without using any electricity or gas. With hot coffee, it’s best to only make as much coffee as you want to drink, to avoid the need to reheat. Keep your equipment clean so that it works efficiently and, for pour-over, heat as little water as possible.

If you do want to zoom in on the growing stage, there are some things you could look out for. One issue is sun-grown coffee versus shade-grown coffee. The latter is the traditional way of growing coffee, with the crop cultivated beneath a tree canopy. The coffee plant forms part of the local ecosystem.

Finally, a word on packaging. You can find out more about our low impact packaging here.

How to describe what coffee tastes like

The phenomenon of tasting notes is a funny one. We use them at jute, of course: you’ll find brief notes on our bags and more in-depth ones on our site’s product pages. But really they’re an odd thing, because while they come across as self-assuredly exact and concise, in reality their chances of resonating 100% with the person buying and then drinking the coffee can be pretty low. Why is it unlikely that many drinkers will experience a coffee in all the ways the tasting notes suggest?

Well, because while we try our best when writing our own tasting notes to dance that fine line between specificity – otherwise, what’s the point? – and a broadness that accounts for individual palates (e.g. ‘chocolate’ not ‘milk chocolate’ or ‘bitter cocoa’), there are so many variables that we can’t account for: the quality and temperature of the water used to brew the coffee, the method used (e.g. cafétiere or V60, etc) and, of course, the way the person tasting the coffee perceives and then describes flavour.

So to help you find the words to differentiate one coffee from another, we thought we’d give a few pointers on how to describe what’s happening in your mouth when you take a sip. Top tip: don’t take it too seriously!


Don’t edit yourself.

When you taste, allow yourself to just say (or think) the words that try to come into your head. A stream of semi-descriptive gobbledygook is fine: at this stage it’s about getting used to crystallising those fleeting sensations in words. You might also hit on a point of reference that’s likely only to be meaningful to yourself – that microwaved Mars Bar sauce, all treacly and nougat-y, that you used to make to put on ice-cream when you were a kid, say. That’s also fine.


Make yourself two very different coffees.

Appreciating just how different one coffee can be from another gives you a feel for the size of the coffee flavour universe. And the most impactful way of doing that is in the moment (rather than comparing today’s coffee to a fading memory of one from last month). So brew up, say, a natural Ethiopian and a washed Honduran or semi-washed Indonesian and compare sips. The reason that washed coffee is often described as ‘bright’ and natural coffee as ‘earthy’ will become much more apparent when they’re experienced side by side. Now when you have a new-to-you cup at a café, you can plot it on your mental map.


Remember your AAABF.

Try to keep the following five categories in mind when you taste a coffee: aroma, acidity, aftertaste, body and flavour. Rather than feeling you have to come up with poetic, nuanced descriptions for each of the categories, a good way to start out is simply to ‘rank’ them against each other for any given coffee. So you might have something like ‘The aroma really lingered and seemed to merge with the flavour’ or ‘I didn’t get much of an aftertaste but there was a really obvious body to this one’. (If you’re not sure what is meant by ‘body’, try thinking of it – if you can bear to – as ‘mouthfeel’.)

What you notice most often when tasting might well be an indication of what you look for in a coffee. For instance, if you find yourself picking out acidity, that could well be because it’s the cleaner, brighter coffees that speak to you.


Try different brew methods and temperatures.

We’re really getting into geeky territory now, but you might brew your new bag of single-origin jute using different apparatus. Using a cafétiere retains more of the coffee’s oils, for instance, so you’re likely to detect more body and less acidity than if you were using a V60. Something else to bear in mind is that a cup of just-brewed coffee left for a minute or two can be like an unfolding flower bud, in terms of the release of aromas. (In fact, some people think that if a coffee doesn’t taste good cold, it’s not a good coffee.)

Easy coffee recipes

The more you explore the flavours of coffee, the more that’s revealed to you. You get a taste for nuance and start tuning into subtle shades of flavour. A reaction that was at first something like, ‘Wow, that’s fruity/nutty/chocolatey’ opens out into a whole world of major and minor notes.

That’s why the only addition we generally make to our coffee is milk.

But that’s not to say that coffee doesn’t complement other flavours. It just needs the right pairing. And coffee doesn’t just have to be sipped, either: you can even crunch it, which brings us to…


Coffee granita

Coffee granita is two treats in one. It makes for wonderful refreshment on a hot day but it can also serve as a simple, delicious dessert or boozy post-dinner pick-me-up.

The Sicilians are the masters of this delectably crunchy coffee drink. They call it granita di caffè (it’s just one of many granita in the Sicilian repertoire) and on the island espresso is the only acceptable base.

We feel that any strong, delicious batch of coffee will do the trick. The knack to coffee granita is getting the ice right. To ensure a perfect glass of gorgeous icy gravel, there are two main things to bear in mind:

First, granita ice should retain a crunch, so don’t add too much sugar, which tends to make such drinks soft and slushy. Use anything between 10–15 parts coffee to one part sugar, depending on the sweetness of your tooth.

And you do have to sweat a little for your granita. As the coffee freezes, beat it furiously every hour or so with a fork. This way, once the lovely icy mess is fully frozen, the consistency will be just right.

So it’s a case of making the coffee, sweetening it, letting it cool then freezing it. Administer brisk whiskings every hour or so, right up until the freezing process is complete.

That’s for your basic coffee-granita-as-refreshment. To make a dessert of this base, you might add any (but not all) of vanilla, whipped cream, grated chocolate, mascarpone cheese or coffee liqueur.


Iced coffee

Our preferred origin story for iced coffee is very much inspired by the Nick-Kamen-stripping-in-a-launderette Levi’s ad. It takes place in some unnamed but sweltering Italian city where an Italian waiter sweats despairingly at the espresso machine, before he is struck by a life-saving brainwave that sees him commandeer the aperitivo ice for a world-changing new invention: iced coffee!

The real story is less glossy. And it’s French. The original iced coffee is café mazagran, named after a siege at Mazagran in Algeria, when French soldiers drank their coffee cold to combat the heat. (We much prefer the Levi’s ad version.)

Just like granita, you need a strong brew for iced coffee. If you like it on the sweet side, be sure to add the sugar when the coffee is still hot. Some people prefer the Canadian warm buttery mellowness of maple syrup.

If you’re having milk, whether cow or non-dairy, it goes in last. This stage is to be savoured, actually, with the white tendrils racing around the ice cubes rattling in the black depths. Opting for cream over milk just makes the whole thing silkier.

As for the coffee itself, it certainly doesn’t have to be espresso – if you’re preparing iced coffee at home, just make the coffee stronger than you normally would. And if you think homemade iced coffee is going to become ‘a thing’ for you, go the whole hog and make a big batch of black coffee ice cubes – this way the ice won’t dilute the final drink. You could chill your glass, too.


Espresso martini

They’re one-of-a-kind, espresso martinis. You’d be forgiven for being confused about their role. We tend to drink espresso in the morning or following a meal, after all – two occasions when whipping out the slender-stemmed martini glasses seems a bit off (or, in the former case, troubling).

Legendary Soho bartender Dick Bradsell invented the espresso martini in the early 1980s, when an exhausted fashion model instructed him to “wake me up and then f*ck me up”; this London original has since wended its merry way across the world.

Like many classic recipes – Thai green curry and carbonara pasta, we’re looking at you – it is frequently massacred. The quantities, ingredients and technique really matter here.


First, the ingredients:


  • 45ml good vodka
  • 25ml even better coffee liqueur 
  • 50ml espresso or other very strongly brewed coffee
  • 10 ml/2 tsp vanilla syrup; you can make your own using granulated sugar


Now get a cocktail shaker and fill it around two-thirds full with ice. Pour all the other ingredients on top, fasten the shaker, then rattle like your life depends on it. That’s what produces the creamy froth when you strain the liquid into your (chilled) martini glass. We like a bit of chocolate powder sprinkled on ours, cappuccino style.


Gingerbread latte

Starbucks. There. You might be surprised to see their name on our blog. But the coffee behemoth’s bells-and-whistle dessert-drinks are a cultural phenomenon and their dastardly gingerbread latte arguably the defining Christmas flavour of our time. 

Unlike the espresso martini, you’re not tapping into a heritage of gastronomic perfectionism here. The gingerbread latte is the onesie of the drinks world: it’s all about getting cosy.


The key is the spice syrup. You want those Christmassy flavours, so dig around in the cupboard for ground ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Per cup, you need a teaspoon of ginger and a quarter to half a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon. 

Add them to a pan with a little vanilla extract, a tablespoon of sugar and 100ml of milk. You could pop a clove in there, too. Warm the whole lot through until everything melds beautifully together. Whisk in another 150ml of milk then add 70ml of strong-brewed coffee. 

Toppings of whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate shavings and mini gingerbread men optional. Any day you make gingerbread latte is Christmas day, when everyone knows calories don’t count.

How to brew excellent coffee at home

Cafés that take their work seriously often adopt a certain ‘look’. It’s kind of a mash-up of white cube gallery foyer + Scandinavian wood cabin + rickety laboratory and it has caught on the world over. The last ingredient in this aesthetic – the lab, with bulbous glass vessels perched in wooden stands, attended to by focused-looking folk – speaks to the seriousness with which craft coffee is taken and the myriad ways in which it is prepared.

The array of kit associated with brewing craft coffee is not just for show. Coffee has thirty percent more chemical compounds associated with flavour than wine does: there’s a lot going on in those little beans and many ways to tease out their flavour potential. That’s why quality coffee shops often have so much apparatus.

You don’t need to fit your kitchen out like a café but it’s fun to have the choice of a few different methods to call on at home. We’ll get onto the different kit below, but there are also other factors to bear in mind when brewing domestically: it goes without saying that the quality of the beans is key, but similarly significant are the quality and temperature of the water used; the water-to-coffee ratio (in terms of quantity); the brew time; and the grind size of the coffee.

But, never fear – brewing excellent coffee at home need not be intimidating. Let’s break it all down a little.

Water-to-coffee ratio

One common misconception is that more coffee means more bitterness, but adding more coffee to your brew will actually just make it stronger. What does lead to bitterness is when you don’t use enough coffee, because you end up over-extracting the coffee that’s there.

The best brew ratio is 15 parts water to 1 part coffee. So if you know how big of a cup of coffee you want, weigh the water on an electronic kitchen scales and divide the figure by fifteen to get the weight of coffee you should use.

Water temperature

If you don’t fancy going the whole hog and using a thermometer, the main thing to remember here is that coffee doesn’t like being boiled. If you are going full thermometer nerd, the best temperature for brewing is 90-95 degrees Celcius, a range that amplifies coffee’s natural flavours.

Grind size

The right grind size (i.e. how coarse the ground coffee is) really depends on the brewing method used. See the next section for more about that. But one thing to note is that the quality of grinder has a big influence on the end result. Treat yourself to a burr grinder for the best results.

Brew time

A good rule of thumb is that brewing your coffee shouldn’t take less than two and a half minutes or more than four minutes. But there’s the odd exception, such as the Chemex (see below).

Brew method


Popular since the early noughties, this is a lovely method for brewing one pour-over cup at a time. This option is a great way to get started in trying new brewing methods. V60s take a medium grind.

Kalita Wave

Similar to the V60, but with a flat bottom which, in theory, gives you a more even result. But that also depends on the evenness of your water pour!


This stylish, vase-like contraption is a great pour-over option when you want to brew high-quality coffee for a few people at once. You can make up to six cups in one go with a Chemex, and the brew time is longer than for other methods: four to six minutes. Go for a medium-coarse grind.


Satisfyingly ingenious, fun, hard to break and really easy to transport. You can end up making a bit of a mess if you don’t plunge carefully, though. Once you have the knack (we go for the ‘inverted’ method), the AeroPress produces consistently excellent one-cup results. Medium-fine grind for this one.

Cafétiere (aka French press)

A classic piece of kit that generates a quite intense body. Use a scoop of coarse ground coffee for each cup you’d like to brew and serve with a chilled out playlist and pastries.


Invented nearly two centuries ago, this marvel of glass chambers and metal coils looks like it should come with a Bunsen burner and a pair of goggles. It’s a theatrical choice but hardly straightforward, and oh-so easy to smash. Takes a medium grind.

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