It is the Machine, Barista or the Coffee Beans?

by Bikie Jovie
(Australia)


QUESTION:


Is it the Machine, Coffee Beans or Barista that make the best cup of coffee?


ANSWER:

This feels like one of those trick questions I was asked back at school!

The answer is, all three. Sometimes.

The starting point is the beans. If the beans are of poor quality, badly roasted or stored incorrectly or for too long after being roasted, you’ll get a bad cup of coffee. Neither a great barista, nor a wonderful coffee machine can deliver a great taste if the roasted coffee beans are of low quality.

If the beans are perfect, and the coffee machine cost you only ten dollars and has a couple of chips and cracks, you can still get a terrific cup of coffee. Get the grind right and soak the grinds for the right length of time, with water at the correct temperature, and that is all it takes. By all means spend a few hundred dollars on a coffee machine if you want. But a ten dollar French press will probably make coffee that is just as good.

Now for the barista. Helpful if you want an espresso-based drink, sometimes. Not necessary if you want a regular cup of coffee.

So, if you are making coffee with a French press, you don’t need a barista. If you use a fully automatic espresso machine, you don’t need a barista. But if the espresso machine is either manual or semi-automatic, the barista can make a big difference.

To summarize, all three elements have a part to play. But you’ll never get a great cup of coffee if the coffee beans are of low quality, poorly roasted or stale.

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A tablespoon of coffee is not the same as a teaspoon of coffee

by Aaron
(Lancaster, Wisconsin)


QUESTION:

On every question where coffee ratio is mentioned, you say two level (or one heaping, which is roughly two level) tablespoons per 6oz cup, but then at least once a similar number of level teaspoons(in particular an archived question, in reference to the slightly larger mugs) at 2 to 2.5 level teaspoons.

If you are referring to average silverware(I'll refer to them as Eating and Serving, from here) spoons, well, they're horrible for measuring anything (heaped is more like 3x, and Serving is only 1.5-2 times an Eating spoon usually.)

Also because of that measure, it seems your count is affected as well. The average nearly-flat "table" spoon is really only about half a measured tablespoon, which I've found one per 6oz gets in most coffee makers very close to the strong vs. bitter threshold. Because you consistently recommend two tablespoons per cup, and two real tablespoons per cup is consistently too bitter to drink for anyone I've met, (in addition to the inaccuracy point above, 1tbsp=3tsp,) I assume you are looking at the kitchen standard "table" spoon. This is not an accurate measure, please check your numbers.


ANSWER:

You’re right, it’s meant to be two tablespoons, not teaspoons. I’ll find the errors and correct them. Thanks for the heads up.

Measuring the right amount of coffee can get confusing, particularly with different cup and mugs sizes. Not to mention people’s different preferences when it comes to the strength of their coffee.

You’ll find a more detailed explanation on the how to measure coffee page.

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Do French Presses break easily?

by Bett
(Duluth,MN USA)


QUESTION:

Hello,I just learned about French press coffee makers. I went to Amazon.com to find one & I saw many people complaining that their glass Bodum coffee press broke & some said they broke easily.

I also read reviews on a coffee press that claimed it was unbreakable (some people said it leaked & broke).Lastly, I read the reviews that were posted about a stainless steel coffee press, & some of the people stated that they were getting a lot of coffee grounds in their coffee, because of the strainer not catching all of the grounds.

Could you please give us any advice, that you may have on what coffee press would be good & dependable? We're hoping that if we find the right product, we can send a few coffee presses as gifts to friends & family too.

Thank You for your help & a helpful site!


ANSWER:

I have has and used French presses on and off for the last 30 years. I have broken one just once, and that was while I was washing it.

Sure, they are made of glass, and you have to handle them accordingly. I accidentally knocked mine against a ceramic pot in the sink and the glass shattered. During use, most French presses are protected by a steel frame of strips that protect the sides and the base.

The French press is a terrific way to make coffee. You simply have to be a little careful while handling them.

You can buy a Chambord French press at Amazon.com

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Is making espresso more expensive than making coffee?

by Gary
(Penticton, BC)


QUESTION:

I find I can no longer justify the price of dropping by at my local coffee shop and buying a cappuccino or latte. So I’m thinking of buying a home espresso machine. My question is – will it cost me more to make an espresso at home than it does to make a regular cup of coffee in my drip brewer?


ANSWER:

Gary,

Great question. The short answer is that it won’t cost you more to make your own cappuccino.

The high price of espresso-based coffee drinks in coffee shops is more to do with the atmosphere and “performance” of making your drink. Also, in a commercial setting, those shops are having to cover the cost of expensive equipment and the salaries of their baristas.

At home the cost of the coffee for your espresso is no higher than the cost of the coffee you buy for your drip brewer.

So yes, you can make a great cappuccino or latte for the same price as a regular cup of coffee.

That said, you’ll probably pay more for an espresso machine than you did for your drip brewer.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you should read a little about the espresso machine and make sure it is pump driven. Inexpensive espresso machines force the water through the tamped coffee grinds simply using “steam” pressure. Not good. You won’t get a quality espresso that way. Decent home espresso machines typically have a “15-bar pump”.

You can read more about making espresso at home on our home espresso machines page.

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How can we make our airline coffee better?

by Patrick


QUESTION:

Hi there,

Here's a perhaps offbeat question.

I work with a European regional airline and would like to improve the standard of the coffee we serve on board. Today it's Nescafe instant in little individual pre-packaged cups, to which the flight attendants add hot water from a jug. And if I'm honest: it's pretty bad.

Now we have a few constraints, alas. We can't install espresso makers. We don't have coffee brewers in our aircraft galleys, just water boilers. And most of our flights are relatively short (time for the 2 cabin crew to do a full drinks-and-snacks service for 100 passengers is perhaps 40 minutes, sometimes less).

So at the moment I can only see two possibilities:

1. We go with some sort of instant coffee :-( but perhaps make up pots of it and pour individual cups from the pot.

2. We find an alternative (e.g. cafetieres) - but we have space, weight and budget constraints so are limited in what's possible here (e.g. a little cafetiere of coffee for each passenger would be marvellous but (a) it would take too long, (b) the cafetieres would take up too much space and would weigh too much, (c) the washing up logistics would be complex and (d) they'd cost too much. You get the idea.)

As a "real coffee" aficionado I feel bad coming in here and asking for recommendations for instant coffee! But I currently avoid drinking coffee on my own airline and I'm not the only one, so any suggestions for ways we can take a step in the direction of righteousness would be really appreciated! Thanks!

Patrick


ANSWER:

Patrick, hi

That’s a heck of a good question. And a tough one given the constraints you describe.

One thing you might try is using liquid coffee concentrates.

Below I have added a link to one of these concentrates, available on Amazon. One bottle contains enough concentrate to make 32 cups of coffee, and includes a measuring cup within the body of the bottle.

For each cup of coffee required, pour one measure of cold concentrate into the cup and then add hot water to fill.

The concentrate is made from real coffee, not instant, so you get a much better tasting brew.

I hope this helps answer your question. Sounds good to me, as the bottles of concentrate wouldn’t take up much space.


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Hand made coffee from berry to cup...

by jackie
(san diego,ca)


QUESTION:

How many hands come in contact with the coffee from berry until it is served as a beverage?


ANSWER:

Quite a lot of hands!

First, the seed is planted and the growing plant is nurtured. When it grows coffee cherries, they are picked. (Not always by hand.)

These cherries are then taken to be cleaned. The fruit is separated from the coffee beans, which are the seeds. Each cherry contains two coffee beans, with their flat sides facing the centre. (Some cherries have only one bean inside. These are used to make peaberry coffee.)

Once cleaned, the green coffee beans are packed into sacks. They are then warehoused and finally shipped abroad. At least, most are shipped abroad.

The sacks of green beans are then trucked to coffee roasters who roast batches of coffee and then pack either whole roasted beans or ground coffee into bags.

The bags are then shipped to retail distribution centers, and finally to your local supermarket or coffee shop.

As for how many hands actually touch the beans, it’s hard to say. But every coffee bean that sits in your kitchen has been on quite a journey!

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french press measure

by Kat
(southern California)


QUESTION:

Hi there. Just purchased a Bodum Frech Press. I wanted a large capacity coffee maker enough for 2 morning coffee drinkers. I decided on the 8 CUP maker, so I thought it made 8 cups of coffee and I used 8 coffee scoops!!! Ohhh strong! So then I thought maybe I did something wrong and maybe they are talking 6oz cup instead of 8 oz cups, so I then cut down the coffee grounds a bit. Too strong still! So I got the box...

I am confused...

The Box says:

8 CUP COFFEE MAKER
1.01 Liter
34 ozs

I admit I only saw the "8 CUP" when I picked it from the shelf... so it is my fault but is this a misprint? What measurement are they going by? Even at 6 ozs per cup times 8 cups equals more than 34 ozs...???

Thanks.

This is why I was feeling sick by using 8 scoops!!!
hah!

Kat.


ANSWER:

It doesn’t sound like you are doing too much wrong. One coffee scoop per cup of coffee should give you a good brew. If that is too strong for you, just use a little less coffee in proportion to the water.

This is all explained in more detail in my video on making coffee with a French press.

In the end, just keep making adjustments to the amount of coffee you add, and you’ll find the perfect amount.

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Is coffee picked at the same time in every country?

by Rosemary T.
(Winnipeg)


QUESTION:

I know that coffee is grown in tropical countries, but do all coffees have the same growing season? Is every crop picked at about the same time? If not, are some coffee beans fresher than others, depending on the time of year?


ANSWER:

Really good question! You’re correct in saying that coffee is grown in the tropics. All coffee is grown somewhere between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

But although this might suggest that all coffee also matures at the same time and is harvested at the same time, that isn’t the case.

And yes, knowing when a region’s coffees are harvested can help you choose coffees that are fresh. (Just be sure to buy them from a reputable store or roaster.)

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, here are the approximate arrival times for coffees from various different regions.

Coffees from Central America and East Africa arrive here in the summer. Winter brings us coffee from South America and coffees from the Pacific region are available here by early spring.

There are no absolute dates, but if you combine your knowledge of these time periods with a conversation with an honest coffee roaster, you’ll be on your way to buying the freshest beans possible.

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Small Burr Grinder?

by T C
(Glendale, AZ)


QUESTION:

O.k...I feel kinda silly telling you about this, being a coffee expert and all, but here's how I fix my coffee.

I have a single-cup coffee maker (Senseo). I LOVE coffee, but I don't drink a lot of it....and I want it to taste the way I want it to taste. (Can you tell this is going to be a long, drawn-out question...I'm good at that.)

After I received my coffee maker, I tried several different makers of coffee pods. I didn't like any of them...not strong enough, not that rich roasted flavor I wanted...lots of reasons...but none of them stacked up. I had a cup of coffee at my grandparent's house and it was GREAT! "What IS that coffee?", I asked them. And I found out it was Eight O'Clock 100% Columbian. Perfect! O.k....now what? I have a coffee maker that uses pods and I don't see any Eight O'Clock pods available. So, I found a company in Germany that sold these reusable pods I could use in my Senseo. I bought my Senseo not long after they introduced them to the market and these reuseable pods weren't available in the states (not where I could find them anyway). So I started grinding my Eight O'Clock at the store, bringing it home, and refilling my pods. WOW! PERFECT!

Now comes my problem....

I can't find a GOOD way to store my fresh-ground coffee without it going stale. I've left it in the freezer (no good...gets that "freezer taste"), I've tried about 3 or 4 glass and plastic counter-top containers...one that's supposed to be air-tight. Still no good....

SO...I decided that the best way would be to leave it in bean form, store it in my air-tight counter-top container, then burr-grind a small amount of coffee each time I need it. The problem is, I can't find a "Micro" coffee grinder that will let me grind it fine for the pods.

Does this sound like a lot of effort to get a great cup of coffee? I don't think so... But any suggestions you can make to streamline my process would be GREATLY appreciated. Or, if you could suggest a VERY small burr coffee grinder?

Thanks!


ANSWER:

TC, hi

Your process seems reasonable to me. : )

Instead of a coffee pod brewer, I have a Keurig B60. Like you, I didn’t want to be stuck just with the coffees that were available in K-Cup form. I have found a couple that I like, but also wanted to be able to use coffees I could buy as whole beans.

Step one was to get myself a My K-Cup. This enables me to use any coffee I want for use in the brewer.

Then, as you have discovered for yourself, step two was to get myself a burr grinder. And, like you, I wanted a small grinder, because I have my brewer in my office and there isn't much space available. Right now I have a Black & Decker CBM205 Coffee Bean Mill, which I bought locally. It is small, which is what I wanted, and so far it is doing just fine. I have had it for about six months. This grinder actually has terrible reviews and I am waiting for the day when it dies on me.

When and if that happens I will spend a little more and probably get myself a Capresso Infinity Grinder.

Regardless of the grinder I use, I will always be taking pretty much the same approach as you do...storing whole beans and then grinding small amounts for use when I’m about to brew.

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