For many of us, coffee isn’t just a quick caffeine hit to help you kickstart the day, it’s a vital life source. Whether you get your coffee fix from your local barista or you make it at home, a good cup of the black (or brown) stuff can literally serve as a mood booster, a crisis solver or a hangover, er, cure-er.
But while the process of making a cup of coffee may seem straight forward. Hot water + beans = Coffee. Simples! There are actually many factors at play when it comes to making the perfect cup of joe.
And it turns out there are a fair few coffee traps we might all be falling into. Well step forward the Coffee experts who are here to reveal how to make the perfect cuppa. Make ours a flat white…
You’re not storing it right
We’re not sure where it originated, but for years we’ve believed that storing our coffee in the fridge is the right way to do things. But turns out that’s not the case. While keeping coffee somewhere cold will slow down the ageing process, keeping it in a moist environment will speed it up.
“It’s best to store beans or ground coffee in an airtight container, at room temperature – not in the fridge or freezer.”
And there’s another important reason your coffee shouldn’t be kept in the fridge. “Coffee is an absorber of odour; this means it’s a great de-odouriser for putting in your fridge or at the bottom of bins to rid them of unwanted smells, but it will adopt the fragrances of the surrounding environment,” explains Thomas Haigh, Head of Coffee at Tate Coffee.
“Say, for example, you have a packet of blue cheese, or mackerel in your fridge; over time your coffee, if exposed, will start to adopt these odours and unpleasantly will begin to smell and taste like cheesy fish,” he continues. Enough said!
You’re not paying attention to the roasting date
Many of us make the mistake of paying attention to the use by date on the coffee, but according to top baristas it’s the roast by date that counts.
“The ‘roast date’ on a bag of retail coffee indicates the exact day in which the coffee has been changed from its green bean, raw state to that of roasted coffee,” explains Thomas. “This is vital for anyone who wants to get the best out of their brew as, during the roasting process, hundreds of chemical reactions occur and volatiles are created to create the fresh, aromatic, sweet characteristics we all love.”
With a ‘use-by’ date, rather than a roast date, it’s impossible to tell exactly when your coffee was roasted and, therefore, when is the optimum timeframe to brew.
Thomas says that coffee can not only be too old, which means the compounds can taste stale, but it can also be too fresh, which can cause the brew to be too bitter. He believes coffee tastes better after a couple of days resting, while espresso tastes best after around 10 days resting.
“Personally I find that coffee tastes best when brewed within a month of the roast date, however we have found that coffee flavour and aroma lasts well up to 2 months,” he explains.
You’re making it too hot
Though its tempting to make your coffee scalding hot, in fact coffee has an optimum temperature for richness and comfort and if it’s too hot, not only do you risk burning your mouth, but the taste might be affected.
“Temperature wise, anything too hot risks over-extraction of the coffee and, therefore, creates bitter flavours,” explains Thomas. “As a rule of thumb I aim for a water temperature of 93 degrees C or, when I’m at home, I turn my kettle off just before boil and allow to stand for 1 minute before brewing.”
You’re not using the right water
Yeah, tap water ain’t gonna cut it. “Water is the most important ingredient when it comes to brewing coffee; as it makes up around 98% of the total brew,” explains Thomas. “Tap water generally has a very high mineral content, variable PH levels and undesirable compounds which can reduce the potential solubility and create off flavours in the brew, as well as building up limescale in your equipment.”
Thomas suggests we look to using filtered or bottled water instead, as this has a desirable TDS level and mineral content to bring out the best flavours.
You’re not using the right amount
While it’s tempting to make your coffee stretch, Jonny says this could mean you end up with a bitter, unbalanced cup. “Aim to use a ratio of 5-6g of coffee per 100ml of water,” he says.
You’re not using the right grind
For different types of brewing method you need to choose the right grind. “For Espresso you need a fine grind as the brewing time is very short, 20-40 seconds, however for French Press you need a course grind as the recommend brewing time is 3-4 minutes! Filter coffee should fit somewhere in the middle,” explains Jonny.
You’re not cleaning your equipment enough
“Coffee beans contain oils which can build up in containers or grinders, make sure to clean these regularly to ensure you’re getting the freshest taste,” explains Jonny.
You’re not thinking of it like wine
“Coffee is not just coffee and is as diverse in flavour and aroma as the world of wine,” explains Dave Cutler, Head of Innovation at Lavazza. “In fact there are over twice the aromatics found in coffee as there is in our grape-based friend.”
Dave says there are many things that can impact coffee’s flavour including the species and variety to its origin and region. “The way the coffee is processed as well as roasted all impact on the final cup and that’s before it’s left in the hands of a barista, who can prepare it in numerous different ways,” he continues.
Coffee experts suggest experimenting with different coffees and processes to find what taste profile suits you. “Coffee has a huge variety of complex flavours including floral, fruity, nutty, chocolaty, spicy and herbal notes,” explains Jonny.
“Variety is the spice of life so try coffees from different countries and prepared in different ways. Most of all; enjoy the journey,” adds Dave Cutler.
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