Matt Holden

What brew are you? Illustration: Matt Golding. Click for more photos

What brew are you?

What brew are you? Illustration: Matt Golding.

In his 1977 book on coffee, historian Norman Kolpas says there are as many ways to brew coffee as there are people who say they are experts at brewing. Here are our favourites - and the personality types we reckon they suit.

Espresso machine

What does your coffee say about you?
What does your coffee say about you? Photo: Domino Postiglione

From a sub-$100 Sunbeam Piccolo all the way to a $3000-plus Giotto Rocket and beyond, there is plenty of scope for doing the traditional barista act at home. In a Good Food espresso machine test earlier this year, the Breville Dual Boiler model at about $1500 came out on top. The secret is the dual boilers: one to get the brew water temperature just right, one to provide instant steam for milk. Also popular with home barista types is the Rancilio Silvia for around $800. Look out for brass and stainless steel components (rather than zinc and plastic) for durability and temperature stability.

Barista tip Get some training. You'll learn how to judge your extraction (and how to fix it when it's poor) and also how to steam milk properly.

Who are you? You like your caffe strong and your milk frothy. You don't mind gadgets, in the kitchen and out: that's called progress. You drive something black and German or red and Italian, or one of each. You recently traded BlackBerry for Android.

Capsule

Perhaps the 21st-century equivalent of instant coffee, when hot water, a spoon and a jar of freeze-dried is too low-tech. Convenience is the main attraction: pop a capsule, press the button, don't forget to put a cup under the spout.

A recent road test concluded that ''the quality of the espresso shot from the better capsule machines is close to or better than some automatic machines''; the coffee is not cheap in price - even Aldi's 37-cent Expressi Kenya single origin capsules work out at $45-plus a kilogram (compare that with a Campos Kenya Tchakakhani AA at $58/kg); and there's the waste - all that aluminium and plastic. The inkjet printer principle applies: sell the machines and lock the customer in to buying your capsules forever.

Barista tip For the price of one of these machines, you could buy a low-end espresso machine and learn to make decent espresso with any beans you want.

Who are you? Big house, small block, busy family life. You like coffee to taste like coffee. You drive something utilitarian, if you consider an 8-seat V6 4WD in traffic utilitarian. The kids have iPods, you prefer a Kindle. Your other car is a people-mover.

Stovetop

Bialetti patented the stovetop (aka moka pot) in 1933. The principle is similar to espresso: pressurised hot (not boiling) water is forced through ground coffee. While a commercial espresso machine produces nine bars of pressure, a moka pot manages only about 1.5 - so a stovetop isn't a true espresso extraction as defined by the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano. With the right beans and grind - a moka mix of Brazil and Colombian is one way to go - a stovetop produces that sweet, dark Italian home brew that is a thing in itself.

Barista tip George Seoud from Stovetop in Carlton says start with cold water and use a medium heat to allow time for brewing: 2½ minutes for a two-cup, which needs 17 grams of coffee.

Who are you? Two possibilities: a) stainless-steel Alessi that was a wedding gift from a zia you can't remember; or b) functional aluminium Bialetti 3-cup, like the first one you bought from an op-shop in the 1980s. In both cases you like your coffee old-school. Your other car is a) a Golf or b) a bike.

Plunger

A plunger provided many of us with our first taste of ''real'' coffee at home back in the late 1970s - tres exotique. Its attraction then - no fiddling around with filter papers - remains today. The plunger, which has been around since the early 20th century, is still a very straightforward and forgiving (that's a technical barista term) way to make coffee from ground beans. That said, getting an even particle size in the grind is still important, so a decent grinder has to be part of even this simple home-brewing set-up.

Barista tip If the retro aesthetic of the Bodum is too whatever, check out the stylish Freud coffee press from Pablo & Rusty in Sydney: www.pabloandrustys.com.au/freud-coffee-press.html.

Who are you? You are pleased to see your plunger make a comeback after all these years, even if your 20-something son, who won't leave home, insists on calling it a French press (and no, he can't have it when he moves out). Good chance you work somewhere in the tertiary education sector, and your other car is a broom …

Pourover

A lovely ritual, with filter paper, grinder, coffee and one of those thin-spouted pouring kettles waving around: a must to ensure even wetting of the grounds. This is for specialty coffee purists and requires a bit of kettle technique. As it is a drip rather than an immersion brew, the extraction is quite ''gentle'' (another technical term) and the flavours usually described as delicate.

Buy light filter roasts; pourover also highlights the flavours of single origins really well. The gear choice includes V60, Kalita and Chemex.

Barista tip Ollie Mackay of Assembly in Carlton says the Kalita funnel is more forgiving, as it has a flat bottom that creates a more compact puck, making it easier to wet the grounds evenly.

Who are you? You are a 20-something with a humanities degree that hasn't landed you a job, which is why you do coffee for a living. Car? You pedal the beans home in the basket of your powder-coated retro step-through.

Aeropress

The Aeropress is a high-tech plastic plunger invented by Alan Adler of Aerobie fame in 2005. It's an immersion rather than a drip brewing method - the ground coffee sits in water, then is forced through a paper filter under pressure, so it contains fewer solids than a French press.

Aeropress's big advantage is portability - you can even take it camping as long as you can boil water, and it's a no-brainer for hotel stays. Aeropress fans describe the flavour as clean and delicate, though if you use more ground coffee and press it faster, you can get an extraction similar to a stovetop.

Barista tip Mark Free from Everyday Coffee in Collingwood uses the inverted method and says the ground coffee should have the consistency of beach sand. Check his method at: blog.everyday-coffee.com/post/52851131647/victorian-aeropress-championship.

Who are you? You, too, make coffee for a living, and use the word ''delicious'' to describe your favourite brews. You ride a bike with no gears and probably no brakes (though your Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike has plenty of both). Your other bike is a fold-up Brompton. You may also be a parent or other coffee-appreciating relative of such a person.

Siphon

The first siphon or vacuum pots were patented in Europe in the 1830s, though we are more familiar with the Japanese Hario brand version and tend to think of siphon as a Japanese way to make coffee (though Philip Marlowe used a vacuum pot in Raymond Chandler's novel The Long Goodbye). We love the siphon for its theatre: water under pressure in the bottom chamber bubbles up into the ground coffee, creating a vacuum that sucks the brew back down for serving.

Siphon brewing really highlights the differences between different origins of specialty coffee; fans describe it as ''cleaner'' and ''more tea-like'' than espresso.

Barista tip Keith Reay from Bean Drinking in Crows Nest says a siphon brew is one to enjoy with friends in a cafe: ''Sit down, experience the coffee, let someone else do it for you.''

Who are you? You fly solo in a new apartment in Docklands or East Redfern: perfect for the siphon sound-and-light show when you entertain friends.

It first caught your eye at a Tokyo JR station years before anyone was into it here. Your other car is a very expensive road bike.

What style of brew do you prefer? Get into the spirit of Matt Holden's piece and write us a short profile in the comments below based on your coffee habits.

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