Here at olive, we know a thing or two when it comes to coffee, with our expert Celeste Wong on hand with all the tips you need. There are a few fundamentals that can quickly take your home brewing to the next level. Celeste says: “It’s better to grind fresh, so keeping your coffee in whole beans is best and will help it last longer.” The best way to keep whole beans fresh is to store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
For more tips and tricks, read Celeste’s guide on how to become an overnight coffee expert. Or, read on for our top recommendations to kit out your home coffee bar.
How to make your own coffee bar at home
Making your own coffee bar can be as simple or elaborate as you want. If you’re devoted to your morning brew and want your kitchen to become a regular destination for friends and family to get their caffeine fix, you could make a built-in cabinet to form part of your coffee bar.
If you’d like to spend a little more time on your morning routine and be mindful about your coffee-making habits, you can make your own coffee bar in a corner of your kitchen. If you’re limited on space, there are lots of solutions, from rolling bar carts, to mounted shelving and even hooks to store your mugs.
Whether you’re going big or sticking to a small scale, there are some basics that you’ll need to create your coffee bar. Depending on your chosen coffee-making method, you’ll need access to either mains electricity (for things like coffee machines and kettles) or a hob if you prefer a moka pot.
A sink is another important feature to have nearby as, alongside coffee beans or pods, water is the most important ingredient for making your brew. There are ways around this, like filling a jug with water, or choosing a coffee machine with a large water tank capacity so you don’t need to fill it as regularly.
You’ll also need a fridge on hand (or at least nearby) for keeping plant-based or dairy milk for your coffees. A bin is also handy if you’re using an espresso or bean-to-cup coffee machine, to dispose of used coffee grounds.
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What items should be in a coffee bar?
Bean-to-cup coffee machine
Depending on your coffee preferences, a bean-to-cup coffee machine is most likely to get you a barista experience in your own home. That being said, these machines work best for those who care more about the final result than the process, so if you prefer to be meticulous about every step in your coffee bar, this probably isn’t for you.
Bean-to-cup machines offer automation at every stage for the process, so you can start with coffee beans and the machine will do the grinding, dosing, tamping and brewing for you. These machines are typically the priciest type of coffee machine available, as they include so many technological elements.
For your home coffee bar, we’d recommend a machine with maximum versatility, like the DeLonghi Eletta Explore, which has options for customising the temperature and grind for your espresso, depending on your preference. We were also impressed by the cold brew technology of the machine, which makes perfectly refreshing iced drinks.
For our top-rated models, read our guide to the best bean-to-cup coffee machines.
Dreaming of rich, caramel-coloured espresso with a thick, hazelnutty crema? The best way to achieve this in your home is with an espresso machine. The perfect espresso also forms the foundation for coffee-house classics, like cappuccinos and lattes, which you’ll need to entertain the masses at your own coffee bar.
Espresso machines will have differing levels of technology, but whichever model you opt for, the process will likely be hands-on for tamping the ground coffee and loading and unloading the portafilter. If this seems a bit daunting, most machines will come with a step-by-step guide to get the best espresso, with tips on how to avoid over or under extraction.
The SMEG ECF01 espresso machine is a great option if you’re looking for a mid-range machine with impressive functionality. It has a simple three-button interface for start/pause, single and double espresso, but there are far more customisable options on water temperature and coffee quantity. We found it produced a dark espresso, rich in flavour, with a velvety crema.
Coffee pod machine
If you want to focus on entertaining and spending time with your friends, you’ll probably want a mess- and hassle-free coffee-making method for your coffee bar. A coffee pod machine is a great way to ensure you’re getting a high-quality espresso without needing to grind, tamp or doss the coffee.
The footprints of these machines are compact, making it a perfect option if you’re planning a coffee bar in your living room or bedroom. Some of them also have steaming wands, so you can produce a versatile set of drinks.
Grind might be best known for its coffee shops, but the Grind One coffee pod machine really impressed us on test. The sleek, paired-back gadget is compatible with Nespresso classic pods and has some unusual features, like a cup warmer, which set it apart from the crowd.
To learn more about these models, check out our guide to the best coffee pod machines. Looking for a discount? We’ve got you covered with the best Nespresso offers available right now.
If you’re investing in a coffee pod machine, it’s important to also select some capsules. The environmental impact of frequently using these pods can be great, as many of them have a plastic or aluminium exterior that can be difficult to recycle. If you want to be a little kinder to the environment, our coffee expert Celeste Wong has created a guide to the best eco-friendly coffee pods, with a selection of the highest-quality pods that are compostable, biodegradable or easy to recycle.
Colonna Coffee is well-known for its rare and interesting origin coffee beans, which has extended to its coffee pods. With coffee roasted in Bath, the selection of speciality pods available is large, and each are Nespresso compatible and compostable.
For bean-to-cup machines or if you’re grinding your own coffee, sourcing top-quality beans for your coffee bar is essential. When comparing beans to buying pre-ground coffee, Celeste Wong says: “Beans stay fresher for longer, and so your coffee should taste better.” There are two aspects to look out for that impact the flavour of the beans: the type, which is generally the hardy robusta and more complex arabica; and the roast, which is described as light, medium and dark, with dark roasts being the boldest and strongest-tasting.
For your coffee bar, we’d recommend a versatile bean, like those from Cornwall-based roastery Origin. Start with the San Fermin beans, which are fit for espresso and filter coffee as they are omni-roasted for versatility.
Available from Origin Coffee (from £7.80)
Explore more of our expertly tested coffee beans in our guide to the best coffee beans.
A French press is a great brew method when you’re in a hurry, or if you want to make a large pot of coffee for a crowd. Similar to filter coffee, coffee from a French press has a fuller mouthfeel compared to other brewing methods. You’ll need coarsely ground coffee in your French press, which should be a similar texture to sea salt.
If you’re looking for a French press to use on your coffee bar when entertaining, try the Royal Doulton porcelain 1.6-litre French press. On test, we liked the modern, elegant design, and were impressed by the heat retention of the ceramic body, making it really useful for catering to a crowd.
If you’re looking for more French press inspiration read our guide to how to make French press coffee, and check out the best cafetieres tested by our team.
A gooseneck kettle is a great piece of kit if you aren’t using an automatic coffee machine. Useful for French press coffee, pour-over coffee and aeropress, a basic gooseneck kettle will work much like a normal kettle, but with an elongated spout. The more premium models also include a temperature gauge or different temperature settings. Celeste Wong says: “Using a gooseneck kettle is more precise, because pouring hot water from the short spout of a normal kitchen kettle is not smooth or easy to do in a controlled manner.”
For a simple temperature-controlled model, we’d recommend the Dualit 0.8-litre pour-over kettle. This electric kettle can be adjusted by 1C for ultimate control, and we like that you can keep the water at a constant temperature for up to 5 minutes.
Available from John Lewis & Partners (£89.99)
Our coffee expert Celeste Wong has written a guide on the best gooseneck kettles, with a range of the best tried-and-tested models.
If you’re serious about your home coffee bar, a coffee grinder is a key piece of kit that can transform the flavour of your home brews. As Celeste Wong says: “Having a good, consistent grind will optimise your coffee.” Grinding from beans means a fresher flavour, as pre-ground coffee oxides more quickly and is likely to taste more stale. This is why even with your own grinder at home, it’s best to only make enough ground coffee as you’re going to use straightaway, and store the rest as beans.
A burr grinder will make for the most evenly ground coffee to use in your home coffee bar. If you’re looking for a premium option, the Kitchen Aid Burr coffee grinder has 70 grind settings to choose from, and once you discover your favourite grind texture you can save it, so next time it will happen automatically.
For options available at different price points, read our guide to the best coffee grinders.
If you’ve opted out of a coffee machine, a milk frother is a crucial piece of kit to be able to deliver the café experience in your own home. If friends and family are after foamy cappuccinos or frothy iced lattes, a milk frother is the way to go, with some models having the ability to foam hot or cold dairy and plant milks.
If you’re after drink versatility, the Smeg milk frother has six pre-set functions for making hot or cold milk, plus an option for making hot chocolate – great if someone wants a mocha at your coffee bar.
For a wider selection of models tried and tested by our expert reviews team, read our guide to the best milk frothers.
Where should coffee bars be placed in the house?
Depending on the layout of your home, you have a few options for where to put your at-home coffee bar. If you have the room, we’d recommend putting your coffee bar in the kitchen. This will make for the most seamless experience, as you’ll have access to the sink and fridge, while the bin means you can easily dispose of coffee grounds or pods.
Another great space for your coffee bar is your living room, especially if it’s close to your kitchen. If you want to use your coffee bar for entertaining, this is the ideal spot so your guests can sit comfortably while enjoying their beverages.
If it’s a personal at-home coffee bar you’re after, your bedroom could be a great spot. Perfect for getting your caffeine fix first thing in the morning, all you would need for your mini coffee bar is a tray for your cups and the equipment for your chosen coffee-brewing method. Just bear in mind that you’ll need a well-ventilated space if you’re boiling a kettle or using a coffee machine, to avoid too much moisture in the room.
Best home coffee bar recipes
Get your serves ready with Celeste Wong’s expert recipes:
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