After not drinking coffee for more than 10 years, I recently rediscovered my delight for coffee after drinking an Irish coffee a few months ago.

After a recent reunion with the world of coffee, I have discovered that there are many variations on this wonderfully inspiring drink.

Apparently, there are many factors which combine to produce a good cup of coffee:

  • The quality of the coffee powder
  • The coarseness of the coffee powder
  • Water temperature
  • Water pressure
  • Time taken to brew the coffee

Instant Coffee

I have never been particularly fond of instant coffee as the flavour is pretty uninspiring.

Filter / cafetiere coffee

I had a Bodum cafetiere 10 or more years ago, and this was good for making big mugs of reasonably good tasting coffee. The coffee had a good flavour. Using this method of preparation, the coffee needed around 4 minutes of brewing time.

Senseo system

Philips and Douwe Egberts have collaborated to produce a partnership where Philips manufactures fairly cheap electronic coffee makers circa 60+ euros price range under the name “Senseo”, and Douwe Egberts make bags of “coffee pods”, which are individual single-shot cofee-bags like tea bags, but containing coffee powder. These give reasonably good flavour. Each coffee bag costs around 10 to 15 eurocents, about 6 to 10 pence UK Sterling. The pressure used to brew the coffee is around 3 bar.

Nespresso system

Nestle patented a system in the 1970’s detailing how to produce great tasting coffee under high pressure (19 bar). There are many machines that you can buy today ranging in cost from around 149 euros (100 pounds sterling) upto around 1600 euros (1100 pounds sterling) for an amazing high-end integrated and computerized Miele machine that has an electronic digital display detailing which coffee variety you have selected. The downside of this system is that you must pay around 30 eurocents (20 UK pence) for a single coffee capsule. The upside is that (1) the coffee is consistent in flavour and strength, (2) it is very quick to make, (3) preparation is a very clean process, with little mess to clean up. There appears to be two parallel systems: (1) home, and (2) professional. The capsules differ in shape between the home and professional systems, meaning that they are not transferable. The coffee is of consistently superb quality and so I recommend it, but bear in mind the tight control of the coffee capsules and the pricing.

Update — June 2008:

I’ve sold my Senseo coffee machine, and I’ve sold my Nespresso machine, as I found the choice of capsules that I liked too limiting. From the 12 capsule varieties available, I only really liked about 3 of them (Livanto, Roma and Ristretto), and these got to be a little boring after a short time.

Also, at around 0.32 euros per capsule, you are paying a heavy premium for the convenience factor with Nespresso coffee. For 2.50 euros, you can buy around 8 cups of Nespresso coffee, or for the same money you can buy 250 grams of coffee powder — so that’s around 25 to 35 cups — quite a difference.

I’ve returned to using a cafetiere, where one has an almost infinite variety of pre-ground coffee available, and also a vast variety of coffee beans available, which one can grind with a manual burr grinder, or an electric grinder. Sometimes it seems the ‘low tech’ way is best. Certainly, after re-visiting using a cafetiere, it seems the flavour is very good, but different to an espresso coffee.

One day I expect I will complement my cafetiere with an espresso machine using a barista.

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