I’ve been making a lot of coffee since I started on my coffee journey. Here are some of my learnings, as well as 3 awesome recipes you can make with brewed coffee!
Coffee is one of the things I love the most, but I will be the first to admit that I never quite made an effort to be knowledgeable about it before. All that changed when I started learning more about beans and brewing methods, and it has been- for a lack of a better word- quite an eye-opener. Since 2020 began, I’ve been spending a lot of time geeking out over coffee beans and coffee gear such as espresso machines. So it was quite timely when Breville Philippines sent me their Breville Precision Brewer to play around with a few months ago. It has really added a lot of color to my coffee journey.
While I will never consider myself an expert, in all these months I have been experimenting with and figuring out my preferences in coffee, I have managed to learn quite a lot. So today I thought I’d write this post just to “put into paper” some of these learnings and personal experiences. Also, I wanted to post about some of the coffee drinks I have been making on repeat.
Though I cannot deny the ease of making coffee with the Breville Precision Brewer, you can still make the drinks I shared in the video using manual brewing methods. Before we get to the drinks however, I thought I’d share with you some of what I consider as the more important tidbits I’ve learned so far in my personal coffee journey. These are the things that have truly changed the way I appreciate and consume coffee– all for the better. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t try to sound like a connoisseur and be all snobbish and stuff. This is all for the love of coffee!
1. Invest in quality coffee beans
Arguably the most important thing when it comes to coffee is the bean. From my point of view, you can have all the fancy equipment in the world, but if you choose to buy bad coffee beans, there’s only so much your machine can do to make it better. For the record, I’m not slamming supermarket coffee beans here, but at some point you have to acknowledge the fact that there are simply some coffee beans that are leaps and bounds better than others. You have to make a conscious decision to pick the better one, even if it costs a little more. (Also, be wary of extra cheap beans. As with most things, you will get what you pay for.)
To be fair, not all good coffee comes with a hefty price tag. We have so many good local coffees that don’t cost as much as, say, coffee from Ethiopia or Honduras, but taste just as good. If you have the budget for buying foreign coffees from local roasters, by all means I encourage you to try as many as you can so you can figure out what you like. (Check out The Good Cup Coffee and H Proper Coffee.) Just trying out a different bean from the usual Arabica will give a different experience. The most unique beans I’ve tried so far are the catuai and gesha beans.
If you want to stick to local, Go Brew! sell really good single-origin coffees at affordable prices. I also really love Yagam Coffee for their lineup of Benguet coffees. Personally, my favorite Philippine coffee comes from Benguet. I’m not particular about the municipality because I have been charmed by everything I’ve tried from Benguet, but if you want a good place to start, I think La Trinidad beans have a quality to them that will be universally loved.
Part of the process of investing in beans is thinking about whether you should buy them whole or ground. Before I purchased my grinder, I used to buy ground beans all the time. If possible, I buy them whole then have them batch-ground. But even if you buy those pre-ground bean bags in the grocery shelves, you can still make a more-than-decent cup of coffee with the good brands. However I cannot deny there is a different oomph to coffee that’s freshly ground and brewed straightaway. It wasn’t until I started grinding my own coffee beans that I realized this. Not only is the aroma more intense, I think I can pick up the nuances of the coffee a lot better too.
Another plus to on-the-spot grinding is how you can control the grind size of your beans. In my experience, there is no one-size-fits-all grind across brewing methods, although the safe common space for coffee machines and pour overs is the medium-coarse grind. I use a Hario Skerton Pro to grind my beans. It’s not a top-of-the-line manual grinder but it works for me, although holding it can be quite tiring! It uses a dial system to adjust the grind size, measured by the number of clicks you hear as you turn the dial. After so many trials and errors, I finally figured out that I prefer to use a slightly coarser grind for my coffee machine compared to my pour overs. I don’t know how to count the clicks however, and just estimate based on the space between the edge of the burr and the edge of the grinder’s cover. (I reckon it’s like 10 clicks.)
The way you grind your beans can actually have an effect on the flavor of your coffee. The only time you want a very fine grind is if you’re making espresso. Otherwise, brewing a fine grind usually produces coffee that tastes more bitter than it should be. On the opposite end, coffee that’s ground too coarse can produce a sour taste. Also, when you grind your beans on the finer side, sometimes it can clog up your coffee filter. The pressure of the water packs the fine grounds together into a solid mass. This makes it hard for the water to evenly pass through the beans and extract the coffee.
The reason why I’m going on and on about grind size is because the last thing you want after investing in an expensive bag of beans is to not be able to properly enjoy it. In any case, don’t be afraid to chat up the brands/roasters and ask them about their coffee selection or grind sizes. More often than not, these passionate people are willing and ready to share what they know.
2. Pick out good brewing tools
After the beans, it’s time to consider the tools you will use to brew your coffee. Depending on what you’re willing to shell out, you can purchase anything from a plastic dripper to a coffee machine. Heck, you can even use a Vietnamese phin to extract your coffee. (I’ve tried. It works for certain coffee grinds.) Whichever tool you choose, take time to learn how to use them properly.
I’m personally a big fan of the process of the pour over. Starting from the grinding to the extraction, everything about it is relaxing to me. Most days I use a brandless ceramic cone patterned after a Hario V60, but I also like to use the plastic Kalita 101 for single cups of coffee. I think these two drippers are among the cheapest in the market, making them perfect for a “Manual Brewing Starter Kit”. It’s also nice to have a scale and a gooseneck kettle. I actually just use a generic digital scale I bought from Shopee, but I splurged a little when I bought myself a special electric gooseneck kettle. It has a built-in thermometer that shows me when it reaches 200°F/100°C. I always brew at this temperature because there is a noticeable difference when I don’t.
Of course, for people who just want a cup of coffee minus the nitty-gritty coffee brewing details, coffee machines are a great option. Breville’s Precision Brewer for instance literally makes you a great cup of coffee with just one push of a button. It takes a lot of the math out of the coffee brewing process, even providing a coffee to water ratio guide you only need to follow.
When I first took this thing out from the box, I was intimidated by the number of accessories inside. Turns out you can switch the filters or attachments, and even convert the machine into an automatic pour over machine. The Precision Brewer is also a lot simpler to manipulate once you take time to digest the options.
One of the things I love the most about this machine is how it has a mesh basket option that doesn’t require filter papers anymore. All our old coffee machines needed a cone filter. Here, I just dump my beans into the basket and brew.
I won’t go into the finer details of the Breville Precision Brewer here any more because I have previously made a first impressions video that shows how this thing is operated. I will say however, without bias and pressure, that I absolutely love this machine. It’s easy to use and straightforward, fairly easy to clean despite its bulk, and I have been using it almost every morning to make a liter of coffee for the household. I love that the stainless steel carafe keeps the coffee hot for quite a long time as well. It’s just a darn good product. And heck if you’re okay with keeping it plugged overnight, you can even program it to automatically brew at a certain time in the morning.
Despite how much I love this Breville Precision Brewer, I’m not telling you to go out and buy it. In fact, I urge you to read reviews and weigh your options when it comes to investing in coffee machines, because these things aren’t exactly cheap. What I’m really trying to say is that finding coffee tools you can be enthusiastic about (as I clearly have) will really bring a lot into your personal coffee experience. As wonderful as it is to consume coffee, it’s a different kind of wonderful to know how to prepare your coffee in the way that you like.
3. Experiment with different kinds of milks
It’s funny how among my milk drinking acquaintances, every person seems to favor a different milk brand for their coffee. I get it. I love drinking my coffee just plain black with nothing added in, but there are days when I want to mix things up. The first thing I always turn to is milk. We make a lot of different yummy coffee drinks with milk after all.
Before, I almost always used either 2% milk or whole milk for my coffee, mixed with a bit of sweetened condensed milk for sweetness. And then I discovered Milk Lab’s Coconut Milk, and suddenly it felt like a whole new ball game! I never thought coffee would taste so good with coconut notes. This brand in particular makes a milder tasting coconut milk that’s perfect for coffee. You can also try mixing soy, almond, or even macadamia milk with your coffee just to see what interesting flavors you create. I think this is the easiest and simplest way to change up your coffee drinking experience.
4. Try out various brewed coffee recipes
There comes a time in every coffee drinker’s life when they want to kind of recreate some of their cafe favorites at home. This is the case for me most of the time anyway. Since I can’t make espresso-based drinks due to the lack of an espresso machine, I found myself a little workaround. I do a strong brew coffee, which basically means brewing double the amount of beans than usual to recreate that super intense coffee you can mix with anything. So for example, with 250 mL water, I normally use 15 grams of beans. To make it a strong brew, I’ll use 30 grams of beans with 250 mL water instead.
These are the three super easy and super delicious strong brewed coffee-based drinks that I love to make on repeat–
Recipe 1: Shortcut Cafe Mocha
Normally, a Mocha makes use of chocolate syrup as the chocolate component, plus milk and espresso/coffee. This time, we’re doing a shortcut by using cocoa powder. You literally just dissolve the cocoa powder into the hot coffee and that’s it!
The drink this recipe produces is a very deep chocolatey drink with a prominent coffee hit. You can adjust the amount of sugar to sweeten, or add more milk to thin out the intensity of the drink. Personally, the amount of milk I add to this depends on my mood. Sometimes, I mix in the cinnamon powder with the cocoa, then throw in some ice for a Chilled “Mexican” Mocha.
Shortcut Cafe Mocha
- ½ to 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ to 1 Tablespoon white sugar
- ½ cup hot strong brewed coffee
- ¼ cup milk
- More cocoa powder or ground cinnamon, optional
- In your serving mug, add the cocoa powder and white sugar. Pour in the hot coffee and milk, then stir until the cocoa and sugar are completely dissolved.
- Sprinkle cinnamon or more cocoa powder on top, if desired. Enjoy!
Recipe 2: Frothy Cafe Bombon
This second one is really just a layered drink with condensed milk and frothed milk. The coffee in the middle is really strong, so sometimes I like to add more warm milk, bit by bit as I drink it down, to temper out the strength of the coffee. This coffee is inspired by the Spanish Cafe Bombon, but it reminds me quite a bit of Vietnamese Coffee sans the ice. The taste is different of course, because Vietnamese beans are rather distinct, but the effect is similar.
There’s a lot of novelty involved in this drink because of the layering, but my favorite part is watching those tendrils of milk run down the coffee layer. I couldn’t get a stable froth on my milk using my dying handheld frother, but I did have enough time to stand back and admire the layers before the froth disappeared. (Like 10 seconds!) Nonetheless, you’ll mix it all up before drinking anyway so I suppose it doesn’t matter that much.
Frothy Cafe Bombon
- 3 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
- ½ cup hot milk
- Ground cinnamon, optional
- In your serving cup, add the condensed milk to the bottom and let it even out before proceeding. Slowly pour coffee on top of the condensed milk, being careful not to disturb the condensed milk layer. (You can pour the coffee over a spoon to make the liquid fall more gently.)
- Froth your milk using your favorite method. (I used a very old battery-powered frother, so it wasn't very stable.) Spoon the foam over the coffee, then sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon if desired.
- Take a bit of time to admire the layers before mixing and drinking. You can serve the drink with the remaining milk to add as desired.
Recipe 3: Sea Salt Iced Coffee
Ah! My favorite! I don’t make this as often because it’s VERY indulgent, but it’s my favorite way to really treat myself with a coffee drink. I honestly don’t buy the Sea Salt Latte from Harlan & Holden anymore ever since I learned to make this recipe. This drink has that beautiful creamy sensation and playful salty flavor that somehow blends well with sweetened strong coffee. I’m not sure if this drink can be considered an acquired taste, but it is a bit unusual compared to most coffee drinks that lean towards sweet.
Instead of milk, heavy whipping cream is mixed with some sea salt to create a thickened salty cream that’s layered on top of some iced coffee. The trick with this drink is to balance the sweet and the salty, otherwise it will just taste weird. I highly recommend adding double the amount of sugar you usually put in your coffee. (I don’t put sugar in my coffee but I found that about 1 tablespoon of sugar hits the spot for this drink.) You won’t really feel the sweetness because the salty cream will pull on the sugar for balance.
In any case, you can easily adjust the level of sweetness once you’ve mixed the sea salt cream into the coffee. You can use your favorite sweetener apart from sugar, and in fact a simple syrup might be best because it mixes in more easily with a cold drink.
Sea Salt Iced Coffee
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
- 1 Tablespoon sugar, or more to taste (can also use simple syrup)
- Ice cubes
- In a bowl, combine the salt and cream. Use whisk to whip the cream just until slightly thickened. Don't whip it to the soft peak stage as it will be too heavy for the coffee and will sink rather than stay on top. (If you accidentally overwhip, add a bit of cream and whip briefly until thickened.) Set aside a moment.
- Dissolve your sugar or simple syrup into your hot coffee, then taste. You want it to be sweet enough to balance the saltiness of the cream, so you may need to sweeten it just a touch more than you usually do.
- Add ice into your serving glass, then pour in your sweetened coffee. Spoon the salted cream on top carefully. Serve the drink layered like so with a stirrer or straw, allowing the drinker to stir in the cream as much or little as desired. (I like to stir it all the way!)
And that’s it for this lengthy coffee post. I hope I’ve managed to encourage you to geek out on coffee with me!
Full disclosure: I received no compensation for writing this post. I am merely sharing my own experiences using the Breville Precision Brewer, because I enjoyed it enough to share the recipes I’ve been making with it.
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