Is it worth paying extra at coffee houses?


Is it really worth the time and trouble to frequent places such as The Beanery, or are they known to take short cuts and sell an inferior product? If I knew I was getting the best of beans/grinding/etc the higher prices would not stop me.


I dare say there are coffee houses that do serve inferior beans. But overall, you can expect the coffee you drink in gourmet specialty coffee houses to be as good as it gets.

The huge chains like Starbucks live or die according to the quality of the coffee they serve.

And many other coffee houses are part of smaller, regional chains. As with Starbucks, but on a much smaller scale, they typically roast their own beans.

Each chain will usually have a coffee buyer and in-house roaster. If these two people are passionate about coffee, they will not only get top-quality beans, but will also roast them to maximize their inherent qualities. Some beans are well suited to a light roast, others to a medium roast and so on.

Also, keep in mind that with most coffee houses the beans will be very fresh, and roasted on the day they are ground and used.

As I said, there are certainly a few duds out there. But the entire craze for gourmet coffee that has exploded over the last couple of decades is based on the superior quality of coffee that people enjoy when they visit a coffee house.

For more information about the various elements involved in brewing great coffee, read our page on how to make coffee.

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Why is the flavor of my coffee inconsistent?

by James
(Imperial Beach, CA)


The coffee that I make in my drip coffee maker is very inconsistent in flavor. Sometimes it's wonderful, and others it is horribly bitter. I buy whole beans and grind them in a good burr grinder. I use one table spoon of grinds per cup. Could it be I just need a new coffee maker (it a Black and Decker, fairly cheap).


That's quite a puzzle. If you use the same coffee, grind it at the same setting with your burr grinder and then use the same quantities of grinds and water each time you make coffee...there's no obvious reason why your coffee should be inconsistent in taste.

One thing you didn't mention is how long you leave the coffee in the carafe. I'm assuming your brewer has a glass carafe which sits on a hotplate to keep the coffee hot.

One thing is for sure. If you leave coffee on a hotplate for more than 30 minutes or so, it does start to take on a bitter flavour. Hence the popularity of thermal carafe coffee makers.

The only other thing I can think of is that your coffee maker might need descaling. If the water lines are being narrowed by a build up of scale, then it will take longer for the water to get through. This means that some of the water will be spending more time in contact with the coffee grinds before the full brewing process is complete – which can also lead to that slightly bitter taste. I can't see this making a huge difference, but it could make a small one.

If you do decide to get a new brewer, read our page on choosing the best coffee maker.

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Why does my percolated coffee taste so bad?

by Milton Mercado
(Chicago,IL. USA)


I have just bought a stove top percolator and I would like to know if I use coffee beans or grounds?

I tried it out for the first time, but I used coffee grounds and it tasted like #@*%! I don't know if I did some thing wrong and can use some help please.


This is our second question related to percolated coffee tasting bad.

It's worth mentioning, in spite of the fact that you just bought this brewer, using a percolator is not the best way to brew a quality cup of gourmet coffee. Using a French press or drip brewer will usually make you a much better brew. The percolation process tends to over-brew the coffee, giving you a slightly bitter taste.

To get the best of your coffee percolator, let's look at the fundamentals.

First, use medium ground coffee. Either buy your coffee ground, or buy beans and grind them with your home grinder.

Then you need to measure both the amount of water you use, and the amount of coffee you add.

For every 6 ounces of water you use, you need to add two flat tablespoons of ground coffee. So if you add enough water to the percolator for four 6-ounce cups of coffee, you'll need eight tablespoons of coffee, and so on.

Next, to avoid the bitter taste, take the percolator off the heat as soon as the coffee is brewed. Don't leave it on the stove top. If you do, each cup of coffee will taste increasingly bad.

If things don't work out with your percolator, you can buy a French press for about ten bucks. You can still boil your water on the stove, in a kettle. And then add the near-boiling water to the coffee grinds in your French press. It's a great way to make excellent coffee.

You can find out more about the various different brewing processes by reading our page on choosing the best coffee maker.

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Do I actually need a coffee maker?


Is medium roast, ground coffee suitable for just adding hot water and milk to, or do you have to have a French press or other equipment?


Yes, you need to use some kind of coffee maker with your ground coffee. If you don't, you'll have the very unpleasant experience of feeling your mouth filling with bits of ground coffee when you take that first sip.

You can buy a drip brewer, which is the most popular coffee maker. Or, as you suggest, a French press. You can even make great coffee with a plastic filter cone from your local dollar store.

Each of these methods will make you a good cup of coffee.

That said, there is one exception. If you make Turkish coffee, you don't use a filter at all. Just hot water, ground coffee and sugar, if you want it.

The trick with Turkish coffee is that the coffee is ground very, very fine – almost like talcum powder. As a result, the coffee grinds all sink to the bottom. And even if you do swallow some, the grinds are so fine you won't notice.

Learn more about the different coffee makers on our choosing the best coffee maker page.

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