Making coffee is one of the easiest things in the world, and yet people are forever finding more and more complicated ways to do it. We live in an advanced coffee culture, where coffee is the most popular drink on the planet, and people get used to things like cappuccinos and lattes and start wondering how to do them at home. A trap some people fall into is buying the instant versions of coffee shop drinks, which inevitably taste inferior, instead of just making the drinks themselves at home.

The most important thing to realise about coffee-making is that, no matter what you might think, there is no variety of coffee-shop coffee that is really very difficult to make, despite the fancy names. An americano is just a normal coffee: coffee, hot water and milk on the side. A cappuccino is coffee, milk, and frothed milk, usually with chocolate sprinkles on top. A latte is milky coffee in a glass, and a mocha is the same thing with chocolate. A macchiato is coffee with frothed milk on top. Each fancy word basically means coffee, milk and froth in some combination (plus, occasionally, chocolate), with everything else being pretty much a matter of presentation.

The coffee in each drink is made by an espresso machine, and a basic espresso machine is really all you need to start making coffee at home: once you can put beans in the top and get espresso out the bottom, there aren’t really any other features you need. This simple fact means that there’s not much difference between the cheapest and the most expensive coffee machines if you know what you’re doing. To make your coffee stronger, you just put in more espresso; to make the different drinks, you use different quantities of the different ingredients.