We often get asked how to make a good coffee. There is a wide variation on opinion as to what a good coffee actually is.
However there are some priorities that you should pay attention to if you are serious about the quality of your coffee.
For good coffee we recommend you focus on the following priorities (in order of importance)…
I’ve listed these in priority order, so the highest ones have a bigger impact on coffee flavour.
- Freshness of the Roast
- The Grind
- Bean choice
- Coffee machine
- milk and milk foamer
Freshness of the roast, anything over 1 week old even if packaged well or frozen will be noticeably less flavorsome than freshly roasted coffee.
Coffee contains oils and most of the aromas that make a great coffee are lost very quickly after roasting.
Your first experience of a freshly roasted bean will testify to the additional complexity and flavor profile from fresh beans.
The grind is the next most important thing. The grinder should produce consistent sized coffee grinds.
Cheaper grinders create fine powder particles which create mud in the cup and block the coffee machine filters. Coarse grinds produce less flavor than finer ones.
A ceramic blade grinder will minimize the loss of oils and aroma through heat.
The grind also needs to be matched to your brewing device. If you put a course grind in a high pressure espresso maker, you’ll lost a lot of the taste and get quite a diluted extract.
If you put a very fine grind in a cafetiere you’ll end up with an over extracted bitter coffee with lots of sludge.
We recommend you experiment, even doing side by side comparisons until you hit upon your preferred grind.
A simple change of bean origin or roast can also require a different grind.
Whatever you choose make sure the grind size is consistent and you’ll only get that uniform grind size from a good quality coffee grinder.
Bean choice, blend and roast really alters the flavor of your cofee.
As this is subjective we all have different tastes but you can’t make a good coffee if you have the wrong type of bean or roast.
It is good to try as many different roast types and regions until you find one that suits you.
Learn what you like and buy your coffee to suit your taste.
You’ll also find that you may prefer a milder roast in the afternoon and a strong French roast for your morning cup.
I usually have about 4 to 6 different beans on the go to suit my daily coffee needs and that of the family.
It’s all about the Barista
Your Barista, the skill of the person pulling the coffee shot, knowing how to time it, avoid scorching the grinds and extracting the flavor fully is truly an art.
The more coffees you make and the more you experiment and compare and contrast the more you’ll understand the nuances of coffee brewing.
Practice, Practice, Practice – there really is no substitute. Work out what you did differently to improve or ruin the cup and learn from there.
The more structured you are the more quickly you’ll pick up the skills of being a great Barista.
Your brew machine
Interestingly the coffee machine or your brew method, doesn’t greatly impact the coffee flavor when compared with the previous items on this page.
When all other factors are equal a drip coffee will have a very similar taste to an espresso machine or stove top Mokka Pot.
You’ll probably get more or less grit, and perhaps more or less oils, but if diluted to Americano or with added milk or milk substitute there is not much of a difference.
We have had really nice coffee from a budget stove top coffee maker and bad coffee from a professional grade espresso machine. Generally speaking you want high pressure and low temperatures when extracting your shot.
The milk frother
Finally your choice of milk and milk frother will impact the final flavor and texture.
Choose semi skimmed milk for most drinks but many prefer the taste of full fat milk and we would argue the full fat milks are better for you.
Milk should never be scorched or caramelized or you’ll have a nasty sweet base note to your drink.
So don’t overheat the milk or you’ll destroy the flavor of your coffee.
It surprises many people to discover the impact and priorities of each of these items but most experts will agree on these rankings.
There is of course still much debate in the world of coffee, just as there is in the world of art or fine wines.
Don’t rely on the opinions of others, you really need to find your own way, and discover coffee for yourself and keep seeking that perfect cup.
On a side note, the paper filters actually reduce many of the harmful components of coffee and provide a crisp clean taste.
For this reason you’ll appreciate the pour over, drip and Aeropress coffee makers.