Making barista coffee at home: a step-by-step guide to the process and equipment you need

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Come on, admit it. We’ve all seen those baristas in Starbucks or those cool guys (usually with beards) and girls (hopefully without beards) in YouTube videos energetically wiping down a steamer wand and then pouring perfect cups of latte art. We all enjoy the hiss of the coffee machine and the smell of freshly roasted beans. And, let’s be honest. We want it.

We all want to be that smiling barista who can make the perfect cup of coffee with beautifully textured and sculpted foam. We want to be that cool guy or girl. Well, the good news is that we can all channel our inner barista and make knockout coffee at home that tastes and looks just as good as any guru can make in their expensive state of the art kitchen. Yes we can.

And the really good news? To become a great home barista doesn’t take long to achieve and you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment. Yes, you need a coffee maker and milk frother as a minimum along with some good quality coffee beans but there is no reason why you shouldn’t be making barista coffee at home.

Just follow our step-by-step guide and before you know it you’ll be cranking out coffees to make all those franchised baristas and YouTubers green with envy.

This is a long read so settle back with a cup of coffee and a biscuit and enjoy.

process of making brewing americano with a barista coffee machine

Choosing the equipment for your home barista set up

If you want to make excellent quality barista coffee at home instead of queuing at a high street coffee shop then you must be prepared with the correct equipment. There’s a reason that coffee shops produce some of the finest beverages and while some of it is to do with the skills of the barista, it’s also a lot to do with their equipment.

Of course, you’re not going to have a £20K Starbucks style coffee machine in your home (unless you’re a pro footballer) but there are versions of barista equipment any home coffee lover can have in their kitchen.

Grinder

All of the best baristas know that a good grinder is the first step in creating delicious coffee-based drinks. While you can buy pre-ground coffee pretty much anywhere, the taste is far superior when it is freshly ground. In order to replicate a barista style coffee, you’ll need to be ready with your grinder.

Depending on how you are going to brew the coffee, you might want to grind it to different consistencies. The great thing about many modern coffee grinders is that they can be adjusted to allow you to do this.

grinding coffee beans at home

While there are many different types of grinders, the two main types are the burr grinder and the blade grinder. The burr grinder relies on two abrasive surfaces to grind the coffee beans while the blade grinder, you guessed it, uses a blade. Generally speaking, you will get a more uniform and consistent grind with the burr grinder.

Electric grinders are fast and easy to use. But if you’re looking for a more authentic grind a hand operated grinder will be for you. And they look so much better too.

Scales

Many kitchens have a decent set of scales lying around but you want to make sure that the ones you use for coffee making are accurate and reliable. If you want the best taste and consistency, then you will need to ensure the ratio of coffee to water is spot on.

Since different beans vary in terms of density, there is no way of knowing the perfect amount without weighing them first.

But this is one area where old school should be left behind. Forget manual scales. Yes, they look cool but digital scales are far more accurate and will save you plenty of time.

Thermometer

Aspirations to become the best home barista among your friends and family? A consistent temperature is one of the keys to making a good cup of coffee.

milk frother Thermometer

This is made possible by using a thermometer. You may have been told that boiling water burns coffee. While this is not strictly the case, it certainly is far too hot to make the perfect brew.

You see, boiling water is too intense for the coffee ground and may cause an extraction that is too much too soon, leaving you with a much more bitter beverage.

But you won’t have to worry too much about this if you’re using an automatic coffee maker. The temperature will be controlled for you.

But if you’re making a frothy coffee the temperature of the milk is very important. And a thermometer is a vital, but often overlooked, piece of equipment. Look for a temperature of between 65 to 75 degrees for the perfect foam.

Coffee maker

There are many different types of coffee maker and it is largely down to personal choice as to which one you use. Below are some brief details on the different kinds and what they work well for.

  • An espresso maker is perhaps one of the most well-known types of coffee machine. These appliances have what is known as a puck of coffee grounds and hot water is forced through this at very high pressure to make a short, strong coffee. The best espresso makers leave a thin layer of crema (micro foam) on top of the coffee.
  • A filter machine allows for much more intricate flavours to come through when the coffee is brewed. Water comes through the coffee grounds which are placed in a filter, allowing the liquid to travel through. This is a slower process than an espresso machine. These machines may use paper filters, which are disposable or mesh filters which can be washed and reused.
  • The barista style coffee machine is an all-in-one appliance that has everything you need to make the perfect cup of coffee. While they may be more expensive, they often also feature things like a tamper, built-in grinder and milk frother for a more convenient way to make coffee. That said, these machines may take some getting used to.
  • The French press is a manual coffee maker that is simple to use and yet produces a strong, flavourful cup of coffee. These devices allow the coffee too steep before the user pushes a plunger through the liquid to remove the grounds. However, generally, some fines are left behind which is what gives the coffee its strong taste.
  • A moka pot is the traditional way of brewing coffee on the stove or hob. Tricky to get right these pots nevertheless make a good strong coffee akin to an espresso. They are available in different sizes from two to nine cup capacities. Personally, I use a small two cup pot.
  • If you want a true barista experience a pod machine is off limits. Yes, they are very convenient and say a lot of messing around. But that’s not the point here. So, would-be baristas should lock away their pod machines. We’re looking for something much more authentic.

Milk frother

A milk frother is one of the most important pieces of equipment for making barista style coffees that feature foamed milk. These devices allow you to create a light, airy consistency made up from hundreds of tiny bubbles.

There are different types of milk frother. If you want something affordable and compact then a handheld milk frother is a great option. These appliances are usually battery powered and produce a whisk-like action to agitate the milk and create the foam.

coffee machine or milk frother?

Alternatively, you might choose an electric milk frother which is designed to heat the milk as well as froth it. That said, they will also froth cold milk if you want to make an iced coffee. The electric milk frother is generally an automatic device that involves nothing more than choosing a setting and pushing the start button.

We have much more information on this site about milk frothers (unsurprisingly given our name) but if you want to learn more, I suggest you give this article a read. It tells you all you want to know about milk frothers and answers the questions you never thought of asking. You can find it here:

What is a milk frother, how to use it and FAQs

Pouring kettle

A pouring kettle may sometimes be called a pour-over kettle or even a gooseneck kettle. But don’t be confused by the varied terminology, they are all one of the same.

These appliances give you far greater accuracy than when using a standard tea kettle and are preferred by coffee experts around the world. By using this type of kettle, you obtain much greater control over the pour, allowing you to cover the grounds evenly and consistently. And as we have pointed out, consistency is key when making coffee at home.

Milk jug

If you are using a handheld or manual milk frother then it is a good idea to have a milk jug to keep the liquid in. For those using an electric milk frother, these come with a built-in jug so there is no need to purchase any additional equipment.

But a stainless-steel milk frothing jug is an inexpensive but really useful piece of kit that the home barista will find invaluable. And, if you want to practice latte art, a milk frothing jug is essential for you to control the pour.

Choosing your barista grade coffee

As well as having the right pieces of equipment for making your barista style coffee at home, you will also need to ensure that you have chosen the right type of coffee. Freshly ground coffee beans are by far the best choice but let’s take a look at why this is and how to choose.

With coffee it really is a case of ‘you get out what you put in’. In other words, you can the best and most expensive equipment in the world but if you use low quality beans you’ll end up with an inferior cup of coffee. Always use the best quality coffee beans you possibly can.

Which is the best type of coffee to use?

To make and enjoy barista drinks in the comfort of your own home, using coffee beans is the only way to achieve this. There are many different ground coffees on the market and while these offer convenience in that you do not need to grind them yourself, they’re never going to have the same freshness.

Why is freshness important, we hear you ask? Well, once the beans are ground, the flavour begins to release. The longer they are ground before being brewed into a tasty cup of espresso, the more flavour escapes. But more on that later.

Why coffee beans and not pods?

Again, we have to refer back to freshness. When you use a coffee pod, the ground coffee inside has already released a lot of its flavour. That said, the packaging is usually tightly sealed but just think about how much freshness was lost before the coffee went into the pod. Moreover, these pods can go stale quickly which will affect the overall taste of your drink.

What’s more, if you use coffee pods, there is the consideration of the huge amounts of plastic you will be throwing away. There’s been a lot of upheaval online about this and the fact the pods are not environmentally friendly. Fresh coffee beans come in minimal, and sometimes eco-friendly packaging so you’re helping the planet too.

Having said that, pods are super convenient and very easy to use. If you’re looking to save time there are a lot of advantages to using a pod coffee machine. But if you’re looking for the barista experience (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t) you have to use freshly ground coffee beans.

Different types of coffee beans

If you thought that choosing the right kind of coffee was important, your next challenge is to choose the right coffee beans. In the main, there are two types of coffee beans; Robusta and arabica.

Robusta beans have a more bitter flavour and are much stronger. These beans are sometimes used to make instant coffee or for espresso and they have a considerably higher caffeine content.

Arabica beans, on the other hand, are a little more expensive but provide the coffee lover with a smoother, richer taste. The taste is far more complex and generally a lot sweeter than Robusta beans. You will find this type of coffee is excellent for a simple black coffee.

The vast majority of beans you will find are arabica and you should always choose these.

Why must coffee beans be fresh?

We have put a lot of focus on the fact that coffee beans should be fresh. Coffee is just like any other foodstuff. However, when you purchase coffee beans, it is important to keep in mind that the degassing process, where carbon dioxide is lost from the beans, will begin after you open the packet and this will start reducing the freshness of the bean.

For this reason, when you buy coffee beans, you should ensure that they are packaged in such a way that prevents premature deterioration. One of the easiest things to look out for is a bag that features a valve. As the coffee beans begin releasing gases, this valve allows them out. Moreover, the valve is one-way so there is no risk of outside air getting in and affecting the quality of the beans.

You will also notice that the beans come with a ‘roast by’ date and most experts would agree that you should always aim to use the beans at least two weeks prior to this for maximum freshness.

Why you should grind your beans just before making your coffee

Once coffee beans have been roasted, the process of going stale begins immediately. This goes back to our point about ensuring correctly sealed beans for the longest lasting freshness. However, upon grinding the beans, this process is sped up even more.

If you grind your beans well in advance of making your drink, many of the oils and flavour that make coffee what it is will be lost. The closer to brewing that you can grind the beans, the fresher and tastier your beverage will be.

This is why you should never have your beans ground for you when you buy them from a specialist coffee seller. Grinders are cheap enough to buy, fun to use and will ensure your ground coffee is as fresh as it could possibly be.

How much coffee should you use?

There are different types of coffee and this will affect the right ratio to use when making your barista style coffee at home. However, many would agree there really isn’t a golden rule that you can follow. But generally speaking, you’re looking at a coffee to water ration of around 1:16 for filter machines or 1:7 for moka pots.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting and working out a ratio that caters exactly to your taste but this is a good place to start. But most automatic coffee makers will include specific instructions on the amount of coffee you should use.

What temperature is best for coffee?

When it comes to making the perfect cup of coffee, temperature is just as important as anything else. If the water is too hot, this will affect the taste of the end result but if too cold water is used, then the coffee will be under extracted.

For optimal results, you should aim to keep your coffee between 65ºc and 85ºc.

Brewing barista style coffee at home

Brewing your coffee to perfection takes a little effort and loads of experimentation but the results will be well worth it. There are several different ways that you can brew your coffee and you might choose either one depending on how strong you like your drink and the type of coffee you are looking to make.

Ways to brew your coffee

If you want a very strong, intense cup of coffee then you might choose to use the moka pot. These stove top coffee makers offer an authentic way to brew your drink and work on a pressure system driven by steam.

Some people like to serve the coffee directly from the moka pot although it is possible to add hot water for a less dense beverage. Moreover, this coffee is relatively easy to make. You only need to add water to the bottom part of the pot and coffee into the filter. Pop it on the stove and let the heat and pressure work their magic. The coffee made in a moka pot isn’t as intense as espresso because it isn’t made with the same amount of pressure but it is stronger than drip coffee.

Going in the opposite direction, literally, we have the filter machine. While the moka pot uses pressure to filter the coffee to the top of the pot, the filter machine sends water down through the coffee grounds before it drips out into a pot at the bottom.

This is a convenient way to brew your coffee as it requires very little input from the user. However, it does take slightly longer than other methods like the espresso machine. If you are making a larger batch of drinks, the jug will have the capacity to do so. Simply pop your freshly ground coffee beans into the filter, add water and press the start button. But the big disadvantage of drip machines is that if left the coffee becomes stewed and cold.

The barista style coffee machine is one of the more expensive options but it has everything you need in one place so there’s rarely any need for additional equipment. You’ll need to do everything from grinding and tamping the beans through to frothing the milk. But this allows you to develop some excellent coffee making skills.

Barista holding pitcher full of milk frothing in the cappuccinatore of coffee machine

Using the frother wand

An espresso maker uses high pressure to force water through the coffee grounds and is great for making the base of many coffee drinks. Frothy coffees such as cappuccino and latte use one or two shots of espresso as their base before the seamed and foamed milk is added. You can find out more about this on our milk frother recipes page.

You will need to measure your coffee beans and then tamp the grounds but before you use the tamper, be sure to brush off any excess grounds so they are flat in the portafilter. When tamping, be sure to press straight down; this is a good tip when doing the same job with a barista coffee machine.

Top tip: When using an espresso machine, you will want to pull an initial shot to gauge the quality of your coffee. If the machine has a pressure gauge, check this as it will tell you how, if at all, you need to dial in the machine for the next shot. If you don’t have a pressure gauge, you’ll need to rely on taste. Moreover, the time the espresso takes to extract will determine its quality. The ideal extraction time should be between 20 and 30 seconds.

Finally, (because we’ve already agreed not to talk about pod machines) you might use a French press. You simply add the ground coffee into the bottom of the jug along with your hot water. Allow this too steep for at least four minutes. After this time, you’ll slowly lower the plunger. Any resistance you feel will tell you a lot about how finely or coarsely you ground the beans.

If the plunger glides down without any effort, the grounds are too coarse. On the other hand, if you need to really force it down, the grounds are too fine.

We would always suggest grinding your own beans, however, if you buy pre ground coffee, you will notice that there is a number on the packaging. This tells you the strength of the coffee. But these numbers also tell you how bitter and darkly roasted the coffee is. The higher the number, the darker the roast and the stronger the coffee.

If you are going to use fresh beans then the strength of your drink is less to do with the type of bean and more to do with the coffee to water ratio.

How to make great frothy coffee

If you are going to make an amazing barista style coffee at home then you’ll need more than just coffee and water. Many of the most popular coffee-based drinks feature foamed milk and this is where your milk frother comes in.

Now if you’ve opted for an electric frother, you’ll need to do no more than add the milk, select your settings and press start. But for those using a handheld milk frother, you should follow these steps:

  • Start by selecting your milk. Whole cow’s milk will give the best foam but if you want a non-dairy option then soy milk or almond milk are commonly considered to be the best substitutes. Or you can use barista blend vegan milk which foams just as well as full fat milk.
  • Begin by heating your milk (unless you are making cold coffee). This is important as warm milk tends to frother more easily. You can heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove, there’s no right or wrong way, it’s down to preference and how much time you have.
  • Once your milk is ready, pop it into a suitable jug and grab your milk frother.
  • Place the milk frother into the milk and switch it on. It’ll create a whisk-like motion and all you need to do is slowly move the frother up and down, being careful not to go right to the bottom or lift the frother out of the top.
  • Typically, it’ll take between 20 and 30 seconds to get those tiny air bubbles in and then you’re ready to pour the milk into your drink and enjoy.

Using frothed milk in your drink will give it that extra lift and will vastly improve the texture, giving you a more professional coffee at home.

A few final hints, tips and a bit of trivia

Where to buy the best coffee beans

It’s likely that you’ll try a few different coffee beans before settling on your favourite but we would advise seeking out artisan coffee makers whose heart and soul goes into the creation of the blend. There are also a lot of online services selling coffee beans, grounds and much more.

How to store coffee beans

Light, air and moisture will all cause your coffee beans to deteriorate more quickly. The best way to store them is in an airtight container that is opaque. It is also a good idea to put the container in a dark place where there is not a lot of moisture in the air.

How long do coffee beans last for?

Whole beans can be stored far longer than ground coffee. This is another good reason not to grind you beans before you’re ready to use them. But unopened packets of coffee can last for up to two years before going bad and even opened packs be fine for up to a year provided they are stored correctly. Beans will always come with a roast by date but this can be safely extended if stored unopened.

Where does coffee come from?

It may surprise you to learn that coffee is grown in more than 70 countries around the world. However, there are just four of these countries that supply as much as 70% of the global coffee supply. These countries are Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Columbia.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our step-by-step guide to making barista coffee at home. And thanks for sticking with us. We know it’s been a long read. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask. We’ll be more than happy to help. Or leave a comment at the end of the article for our helpful readers to respond to.

Best-selling barista coffee machines

Bestseller No. 1
Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875BKS, Black Sesame
  • The Sage Barista Express delivers third wave speciality coffee at home using the 4 keys formula...
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Sage Barista Express Espresso Machine - Espresso and Coffee Maker, Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, BES875UK , Brushed Stainless Steel
  • The Sage Barista Express delivers third wave speciality coffee at home using the 4 keys formula...
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Swan Retro Pump Espresso Coffee Machine, Cream, 15 Bars of Pressure, Milk Frother, 1.2L Tank, SK22110CN
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7 Pc All-in-One Espresso & Cappuccino Maker Machine Barista Bundle Set w/Built-in Steam Wand (Inc: Coffee Bean Grinder, Portafilter, Frothing Cup, Spoon w/Tamper & 2 Cups) (Black)
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De'Longhi Dedica Style, Traditional Pump Espresso Machine, Coffee and Cappuccino Maker, EC685M, Silver
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  • Adjustable milk frothing steam device for frothy cappuccino and silky smooth latte

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