Lisa Schölzel

Senior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

instagram.com/whatscookinglisa/

For a long time, I was faithful to my Bialetti coffee maker. I savored the wonderful scent of freshly brewed coffee, pouring a large serving into my favorite cup, stretching it with a little hot water and topping it off with a generous dash of milk—uncomplicated and simple—just the right amount of steps I can manage while half asleep. Then I’d slip back into bed, read a few pages, and I'd be ready for everything the day has to offer.

These days, I've switched to a small entry-level portafilter machine. The simple steps that I took while half asleep have remained (no weighing the beans, sometimes using pre-ground beans—shame on me!) and my colleague Nora has a similar philosophy:

"For me, the first coffee is more about the feeling of having a cozy moment than about perfecting the coffee itself. After a year in Italy, there are of course certain expectations."
Nora, Team Lead People & Organization

My fellow editor Lisa-Kristin is a bit more patient with her coffee brewing. She shared her routine with us (see Instagram for a step-by-step guide) and influenced me to finally invest in a nice pour over filter and gooseneck kettle:

"While I'm still working towards having my own portafilter machine, I'm currently making my coffee with an unspectacular pour over filter that produces spectacular coffee (haha). For this, I heat water in a gooseneck kettle and thermometer. I put the paper filter in the filter. As soon as the water is at approx. 197°F/92°C, I pour a little water into the filter to preheat and neutralize the taste of the paper. Then I add about 13 g of ground coffee for 200 ml of water in the filter and, very importantly, add a pinch of salt for taste. Then I pour a small amount of water into the filter for "blooming". I wait half a minute then pour in the remaining water in slow circular motions for even extraction. Et voilà! It’s a classic and good method."
Lisa-Kristin, Partnerships Editor

I knew beforehand that coffee is a broad field. There are so many ways to brew our morning cup of joe, which is why I turned to my colleagues and their morning routines. How do they have their first morning coffee? What equipment and preparation steps are non-negotiable? Do they have a tip for where to find really good coffee beans? The answers were long and there were many.
Of course, we’re not here to tell you how your perfect cup of coffee should be made, look or taste. Think of this article as inspiration to try something new and maybe jot down some tips and tricks you’d like to try and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Espresso

"My perfect cup of coffee is actually an espresso made with a portafilter machine. If I use one of my favorite Ethiopian beans, the espresso tastes very floral and lemony with bright acidity and a delicate tea-like texture. If I use one of my favorite Kenyan beans, the espresso tastes like juicy red currants with vibrant acidity and syrupy texture."
– Lukas, Strategic Partnerships Lead

"I need a good cup of coffee at least once a day. For me, good means a strong Americano or cappuccino that has an intense and creamy taste without too much acidity (but it can be slightly bitter). Without this ritual, I cannot function! If I’ve had a good cup of coffee in the morning, then I’m content with having average coffee throughout the day, something I only drink only for the caffeine. I use a Quickmill espresso machine with a built-in grinder. For this I need dark-roasted beans, preferably from Italy, a frother, and fresh organic whole milk."
Andreas, Community Manager

"I use a Bialetti Moka Express and, since Christmas, the matching milk frother. It’s the easiest way to create the perfect foam! My favorite way to make coffee is a classic cappuccino and my new lockdown hobby is working on my latte art."
Nora, Team Lead People & Organization

"Fun fact: I don't actually drink coffee in the morning or start my day with it, just maybe on the weekend for a late brunch. I usually have a (double) espresso around lunchtime and after lunch or in the afternoon. I only need my Bialetti coffee machine for the stovetop and (really) good ground espresso. I make my milk with a Nespresso milk frother."
Kirsten, Team Lead Cross-Channel Communications

Filter coffee

"At home, I only drink filter coffee made from light-roasted beans. Personally, I find the variety of flavors from light-roasted coffee more interesting than that of dark-roasted beans. For me, a perfect cup of coffee is not earthy and bitter, it tastes more like dark fruits, chocolate, or citrus fruits. As a brew station, I use a Hario V60 drip station, but that doesn't really matter in the end."
– Arjan, Front-end engineer

"I love the stainless steel Kalita Wave filter! Not only is its design super sleek and beautiful (I’m a sucker for Japanese design), the dripper has horizontal grooves on its walls, resembling waves, to ensure even heating and better water flow. It’s also incredibly light, which means I can take it with me when I go camping, hiking, or even traveling if I know my destination will be a coffee desert. After grinding the coffee beans (20 g) into a fine powder, I add them to a filter, then saturate the grounds with some hot water to wake up the coffee and release some of its gases. After about 20 sec., I stir the coffee a little and begin to pour hot water (300 ml) in slow concentric circles starting from the center, moving outwards. It only takes about three minutes before I have a cup of piping hot coffee in my hands."
Mary-Linh, Food Editor

Capsule coffee machine

"A coffee capsule machine is a really quick and convenient way to make coffee throughout the day. The one we have in our flat is small, so it doesn’t take up much space and is easy to clean. Other non-negotiable equipment? A milk frother because I like lattes—and a large mug."
Keke, Junior Communication Designer

Vietnamese (iced) coffee

"When it’s warm, I alternate between cold brew and Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sữa đá). Since cold brew isn’t that popular in Germany, my sister gifted me a Hario Mizudashi cold brew pot last year, which I’m still learning how to use. Cold brew requires a bit more planning, but the reward comes in the form of a silky smooth, cold coffee that keeps me energized through the day. Vietnamese iced coffee is a household item I grew up with, so it’s inevitable we have three Vietnamese coffee filters (phin) in my current flat. To brew Vietnamese iced coffee, I fill a glass with one tbsp of sweetened condensed milk, attach the phin on top, and dump a tbsp of dark-roasted coffee grounds into it. Then I screw on the top screen to gently press the coffee grounds and, like with the Kalita, I add a splash of hot water to help the coffee bloom. When the coffee begins to drip, I add enough water to reach the top of the filter and wait for all of it to drip down, approx. 5 min. The result? A deliciously dark and sweetened iced coffee that doubles as a dessert."
Mary-Linh, Food Editor

"I loooooove Vietnamese coffee! Vietnamese iced coffee consists of special ground coffee from Vietnam (it has a stronger taste due to the higher acidity), sweetened condensed milk, and—if served in Vietnam or if it's summer—a lot of ice."
Jenni, Project Management Intern

French Press

"I put two spoons of coffee powder in my French press and pour boiling water over it. To be honest, I don't know what the right ratio of coffee to water is, I just pour until the French press is about three-quarters full. Then I let it sit for 5 minutes—another thing I guesstimate by feeling. I froth my milk using Barista Edition oat milk and my favorite Nespresso milk frother (a must-have gadget in every kitchen, in my opinion). I also usually add a teaspoon of Koawach cocoa powder and mix it with the milk foam before pouring coffee over the top. Most of the time, I have a 50/50 distribution in terms of milk to coffee ratio."
Antonia, People & Organization Intern

Our tips for better coffee

When I asked Lukas, perhaps the biggest coffee aficionado on our team, about the utensils and equipment that are non-negotiable for a perfect cup of coffee, he provided me this extensive list:

- Rocket portafilter Machine
- VST 15g portafilter basket
- a well aligned Mahlkönig EK43 grinder
- Acaia Lunar scale
- Lynn Weber blind shaker
- Kruve sieve
- a self-made distribution tool
- a leveling tool
- a tamper
- handmade ceramic mugs (by Cuze)
- homemade water, consisting of distilled water, magnesium, calcium, and buffer solutions
- potentially a refractometer, filters, and a syringe to calculate the extraction yield afterwards

What can I say? I’m thrilled about the complexity of coffee-brewing, but admittedly, had to turn to Google to understand each product. By now I’m sure you’re curious to know how Lukas makes his coffee:

"First, I weigh 17.5 g of either very lightly roasted washed Ethiopian or washed Kenyan whole beans (usually the SL28 or SL34 varieties) and grind them. After grinding, I use a fine sieve to sift out particles that are smaller than 250 μ and bigger than 600 μ in order to have uniform particle distribution. I will usually end up with approx. 15 g of evenly ground coffee, which I pour into a 15 g VST portafilter basket. I distribute the coffee grounds as evenly as possible by tapping the portafilter with a self-made distribution tool and a leveling tool. Afterwards, I tamp and clamp the portafilter into the machine. I’m looking for a yield of approx. 39 - 42 g of coffee (depending on the coffee) and a brewing time of approx. 19 - 35 sec. (depending on the coffee) with a preinfusion phase of 4 sec. (higher flow rate) and then reduce the flow rate."
Lukas, Strategic Partnerships Lead

Lukas is not alone with his precise method. A few of his must-have steps were also shared by other members of our team. Some of these include:

Weigh your beans and time everything

"Weighing and timing should go without saying. After all, we don't use the ingredients freely when baking. I always weigh my coffee beans with a small scale (18 g for 2 cups) and use a timer to brew the coffee in under 3 minutes."
Arjan, Front-end Engineer

Invest in a coffee grinder—or always buy whole beans

"My boyfriend is really into coffee, so I'm happy to benefit from his nerdery on the topic, and we have a special coffee grinder for grinding our beans. This is something I would now consider pretty essential, and from there we can make a pour over, use an aeropress, or make a simple filter coffee. It makes a difference in the taste of the coffee to have freshly ground beans, and it's important to get the ratio of beans to water right, depending on how you'll brew—so this is a step I never, ever skip."
Devan, Managing Editor Brand Content

"Last year I bought a Commandante manual grinder and can’t go without it. It doesn't matter whether it’s a manual or an automatic grinder, for me, pre-ground beans are a no-go. A barista friend once said that after 10-15 minutes, ground coffee is “dead”, due to the aromas evaporating. And no, storing the ground beans in your refrigerator won’t change that. If you have good coffee, I think you have to grind the beans yourself."
Arjan, Front-end Engineer

"I should say here that a coffee grinder is indispensable and I own one too. However, I only have a manual one, which can take ages to properly grind. That’s why I use, I confess, ground beans that I’ve already ground—so an airtight container is also essential for me."
Lisa-Kristin, Partnerships Editor

Preheating, “blooming,” and salt in the coffee?

"The first step is rinsing the paper filter in the dripper to remove any papery flavors. The second is to lightly saturate the coffee grounds before pouring in more water, a step called 'blooming.'"
Mary-Linh, Food Editor

"Preheating, or "blooming", and pouring in circular movements—there is no other way. Oh, and always add a pinch of salt—an insider tip from my grandma, which helps the aromas to develop and soften the bitter notes."
Lisa-Kristin, Partnerships Editor

Water is a big deal

"A pH level between 7-8 is ideal. If you can't get that from the tap, you can, for example, look at the water database (https://wasserdatenbank.de) to see which water from the supermarket is suitable. I rarely treat myself to this, simply for environmental reasons (plastic and such)."
Arjan, Front-end Engineer

"Don’t pour boiling water over the coffee. In my experience, this releases more bitter substances. It’s better to wait approx. 30 sec.—the temperature should be a little below the boiling point."
Jost, Working Student Brand Content

Our favorite coffee brands

Everyone seems to love specialty roasters, whether it’s right next door from where they live or taken home as a souvenir from their last trip to Italy. For Lisa-Kristin, the coffee beans worth buying are those that are "close enough to touch":

"What's most important to me is knowing the coffee in my hands wasn’t made by pressing a button on a fully automatic machine. I appreciate the craft behind this liquid gold, so I'm drawn to wherever coffee and milk are prepared by hand. I love Kaffee 9 in Markthalle Neun, which is also home to a roastery called Vote. This is where I regularly buy my espresso coffee beans (yes, you can also use them for filter coffee and it actually tastes great)."
Lisa-Kristin, Food Editor

As for the other roasteries around Berlin our team loves? Coffee Circle, Bonanza Coffee Roasters and Five Elephant are some of the names that were mentioned more than once. I should note here that these recommendations were not sponsored, but are made purely out of love! Other favorite roasteries outside the area include:
- JB Kaffee
- Man vs. Machine
- Fjord
- Flying Roasters
- Trung Nguyen for extra dark roast Vietnamese coffee
- el rojito
- Weidmann Kaffeemanufaktur
- Drop Coffee
- Gardelli
- La Cabra
- Tim Wendelboe

And if you’re out of beans and the next roastery is not in walking distance, take a cue from Elena, our Working Student on the Social Media & Community team: “Lavazza and illy espressos are perfectly fine.”

We all have different coffee preferences and morning routines. Is there something missing that you do as part of your morning coffee routine? Let us know in the comments below!

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