How to become an overnight coffee expert
Our coffee expert Celeste Wong shares her insider tips to rapidly spruce up your coffee skills, from decoding jargon to storing coffee properly and tasting like a pro
Want to learn more about coffee, but don't know where to start? Get expert advice from olive’s expert, Celeste Wong. Read below for coffee tips including how to store your coffee, how to confidently order at a coffee shop and how to make barista-style coffee at home. After, make sure you get the best coffee beans to grind at home. You can also check out Celeste's guides for how to make pour-over coffee, how to use a French press, how to use a moka pot and how to use an Aeropress. For perfecting your lattes, check out our guide on how to do latte art.
Listen to Celeste on our podcast, where she shares expert advice on choosing beans, brewing methods and how the time you drink it can improve your experience!
How to store coffee at home
Keep your beans fresh
It’s better to grind fresh, so keeping your coffee stored as whole beans is best and will help it to last longer. I always say to think of coffee beans like potatoes, store them in a dark cool place. However, I wouldn’t recommend storing your beans in the fridge or freezer. If you can buy fresh beans regularly do that over bulk buying. Try a coffee subscription so you can experiment with new flavours or get your favourite beans delivered to your door.
Keep coffee beans in an airtight container
Once coffee beans are roasted, they start to degrade and release gases (CO2) which will eventually cause them to loose vibrancy and freshness. Keep coffee in an airtight container or something that lets gases out but no oxygen in. Often coffee bags have a release valve. For fit-for-purpose containers, you could try the Fellow Atmos canister or Soulhand vacuum canister.
Freeze your coffee beans
If you have bought more coffee than you can use in the next 2-3 weeks, then you could freeze it. Domestic freezers don’t really get cold enough to completely stop oxidation and things going stale. You could portion your coffee beans into 250g or how ever much you use per week, but do not bother portioning out what you brew, that would be counter intuitive. Put the coffee beans in a reusable airtight container like a freezer-proof mason jar or freezer bag (vacuum sealing is best, but has wasteful packaging). Then, at the start of the week, take the jar out and leave it overnight to defrost to use as normal. Don't open the lid until the next day, as it will introduce oxygen and condensation will form on the coffee which is not good for the beans. Generally it’s best to try and buy enough for 1-3 weeks, rather than freezing coffee.
More like this
How to become an overnight at-home barista
Invest in a grinder
The best appliance to invest in would be a good quality grinder for both manual brew methods or automatic brewing. Having a good, consistent grind will optimise your coffee. Burr grinders are best. If you are going through a lot of coffee get an electric grinder. If you are only making one coffee a day or every now and then, a good hand grinder is practical and convenient. It's even more important to have a good grinder if you are making espresso at home. Make sure you get the best coffee grinder with my picks here.
Use a gooseneck kettle
To master the pour-over coffee technique it is essential to use a gooseneck kettle. There are a range of affordable to luxury electric or stove-top kettles to choose from. This kind allows for precision, and thus an even saturation of coffee, and is safer than a regular nibbed kettle because you have more control over how much water comes out and the speed it pours. There’s something meditative about it too. For electric gooseneck kettles, I like the sleek Bodum Bistro (£169, Bodum) or Hario temperature controlled kettle (£45, Pact) because you can use them for any hot beverage. For more affordable, manual kettles for stovetop and travel, get a Melitta (£21.99, Amazon).
Buy accurate scales
If you want to make precise coffee at home, get yourself some accurate scales that are able to weigh both your coffee dose and a higher volume of coffee as add water. I like to use the Brewista (£89.90, Coffee Hit) – it has automatic and manual functions and can calculate how much water is needed based on the amount of coffee you are using and on the ratio of coffee you like to drink. It's also rechargeable. Other simple scales I like are the Hario V60 drip scale (£50, Pact) and the Acaia Scale range. See how to make pour-over coffee with my step-by-step guide.
How to use your coffee grounds
Don’t waste your used coffee grounds! Throw them in the garden. Plants thrive from the nitrate in the soil. If you are lucky enough to have a veg garden (or have just started one), you can add your used coffee grounds to your green compost or as a fertiliser by just throwing it on top of the soil. As compost, it helps to add nitrogen to your pile, and as a fertiliser it is good for aeration, water retention and drainage, as well as encouraging microorganisms that aid plant growth. It will lower the pH levels so is great for plants that thrive in more acidic soil – such as radishes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsley, rhubarb... the list goes on. Also, used coffee filters can be composted.
You can also mix used coffee grinds with epsom salts, brown sugar and some olive or avocado oil for a body exfoliator!
How to taste coffee like an expert
If you wonder what all the talk about tasting fruity coffees is about, try Ethiopian coffee, which often has notes of blueberry. This is a good one to try as a filter coffee to see if you can taste it.
The main coffee processes
- Washed coffee (wet processing) is often described as clean, clear or vibrant because the bean is thoroughly cleaned before drying. You’re tasting the coffee bean without influence of other parts of the cherry in the processing.
- Natural (dry processing) can be described as having more acidity, sweetness, fruity flavours and body (this is often my favourite).
- Pulped natural or honeyed processing is a mix of the two where some of the mucilage (the cherry pulp around the bean) is left on while drying. There are different levels of this process but it generally can make coffee taste sweeter.
How to read a coffee label
Arabica or robusta?
Generally robusta is poorer quality as it's grown at lower altitudes, which mean that the beans mature faster and don't have as much time as arabica beans to develop unique flavours. You are more likely to find arabica beans in a specialty coffee shop, so look for that on the bag or ask your local barista and choose arabica wherever possible.
This means that the beans are from one certain place or area. It is not a mix of beans. Most often used for filter coffee so you can taste the characteristics of the bean from that origin.
An example to decode a coffee label, Easy Joe’s coffee:
- What it says on the bag or website: Mayni – Indigenous Community Coffee. Process: Fully Washed. Varietal: Caturra, Geisha & Typica. Producer: Mayni Indigenous Community. Origin: Junin, Peru. Elevation: 1650m. NOTES: chocolate, almond, honey & orange acidity.
- To decode: This means the coffee is a single type of bean from Junin, in Peru from an indigenous community coffee called Mayni.
How to order coffee like a pro
Personalise your coffee
If you're very productive, perhaps you could make the most out of your daily coffee by personalising it with a liquid vitamin or CBD booster. A few cafés are offering these now, which is a handy addition to those who like efficiency. Make sure they are high-quality though; the good boosters don’t add sugar or affect the taste of the coffee and are water soluble. Two boosters I love are the Davinci Gourmet immunity booster with vitamins and zinc for good health, and the OTO CBD booster for calmness and clarity.
Swap your flat white for a cortado
If you want a strong coffee with milk but you don’t want the volume, ask for a cortado, which comes from Spain and is about three-quarters the size of a flat white, with less milk. If you want even less milk than that (about 1-2 mouthfuls of tasty coffee), you could order a piccolo. Try one at your local café to see if you like it. Learn more about the different coffee serves.
Swap your cappuccino for a dry cappuccino
Instead of a cappuccino ask for a dry cappuccino. It has less milk than a regular, and a thick layer of foamy, textured milk on top.
Want to learn more about becoming an expert at-home barista? Read our guides here:
Celeste Wong's guide on how to make iced coffee
Celeste Wong's best moka pots
Celeste Wong's best gooseneck kettles
Celeste Wong's best coffee grinders
Celeste Wong's best decaf coffee to try
Celeste Wong's best reusable and compostable espresso pods
Celeste Wong's best coffee beans to try
Celeste Wong's best cafetières to buy
Celeste Wong's best coffee bags