In my granddad’s day you had a choice of Tea or Coffee where milk and sugar were the only enhancements that could be added. They were indeed simple times. Granddad was happy then but does nothing but moan when visiting a coffee vendor’s stall about all the choices he has to make.
In the modern connected world we have more choice than ever, especially when it comes to coffee. At times we are presented with an overwhelming list of options and choices but the one thing we all desire is a really good coffee.
It needs to taste awesome, have that nice aroma and give you that morning buzz as the caffeine hits your bloodstream. Sadly though, most coffees sold on our streets are just good, narrowly missing out on awesome.
A large part of the barrier to getting that awesome coffee we desire are just a few common mistakes. If you know what these are and avoid them your coffee will be memorable and people will keep coming back for more!
The 3 keys to awesome coffee
The single most important key to making awesome coffee is a freshly roasted bean. By freshly roasted we mean that it was roasted less than 30 days ago and preferably within the last 2 weeks. Outside this critical window you lose 70% of the essential oils and aromas which makes coffee awesome.
Coffee does not keep or store very well. The fresher it is the better it will taste. It really is that simple and realising that it has a very short optimum window should be life changing to vendors and customers alike. Moisturiser and plastic surgery will not keep coffee fresh!
The second thing for awesome coffee is the grind. Too fine or too coarse and you will be unable to extract the full flavours. The grind depends on the coffee bean, the roast and the type of extraction process you are using. Pump driven espresso machines prefer a fine grind, whereas most water based filter and steeping methods require a more coarse grind.
A key with the grind is consistent granule size. A poor quality grinder produces fine powder along with coarse granules making it impossible to get the extraction right.
Finally, many people fall down in the extraction time, with coffee being frequently over extracted.
Extraction tips and where most people fail
The 3 phases of the coffee shot are as follows:
Phase 1) Pulls out the strong coffee flavour and creates a dark syrup. This would be referred to as a Ristretto shot if this was all you extracted. This shot contains relatively little caffeine. Around 8 seconds for a maximum 25ml shot.
Phase 2) A little longer and you are into an Espresso shot. The sweet strong taste of coffee is now balanced with some bitter/sour notes and more of the elements from the ground coffee is extracted. Around 15 Seconds giving you around 40ml.
Phase 3) The Lungo shot, where the extraction is left to run longer and you start to get more of the bitter notes and elements from the coffee and a larger caffeine hit. Around 20 seconds and 100ml.
If you pull a shot too long then you end up with a very bitter coffee with an unpleasant after taste and this is probably the most common error people make. Depending on your machine, it typically takes a maximum of 20 seconds to fully extract your shot. Experiment with different extraction durations and compare the taste, it makes quite an interesting project and really is the best way to hone your skills with your equipment and choice of bean.
Most coffees use an Espresso shot as the base but the other phases also come into play.
Choosing your bean
Arabica beans are the favoured choice and the more expensive bean, but Robusta beans add a good amount of caffeine and complexity when blended with Arabica beans. There is much debate about the best coffee beans and blend but most seem to prefer a 100% Arabica bean.
The newest coffee beverages
Keep the choice simple without limiting it. By adding milk to a basic coffee shot you can create some amazing new drink options.
We have been familiar with the Cappuccino and Latte for many years but new drink variations just keep on arriving.
The Flat White from New Zealand uses a Ristretto shot blended with micro foamed milk creating a wonderfully textured strong tasting coffee. The milk is swirled into the cup to create an awesome leaf design.
The Bombon, originally from Spain uses sweetened condensed milk in a 1:1 ratio with an Espresso shot. A Bombon is usually served in a glass where the distinct upper coffee shot and lower milk can be seen as separate layers.
The Revolute is a brand new coffee from the UK using both a Ristretto and Lungo shot for a very strong coffee taste and big caffeine hit. Micro foamed milk is then added in a swirl design, making this the perfect morning coffee.
The Cortado is another Spanish export which uses an Espresso shot and warm milk in a 1:1 ratio. A good strong coffee and quite refreshing after heavy food.
So it is possible to make truly awesome coffee that even my granddad would sit up and take notice of. He will probably still moan about all the different types of coffee but at least he’ll have a good coffee to consume during the conversation.