Few summers ago, I had a marvellous coffee experience at a beautiful Italian coffee house on Preston in Ottawa. My cappuccino was so good, I decided to buy the same coffee they used. I then went online and bought a Douwe Egbert, gold edition, for $50 a pound. Rushing with excitement, I fired up my coffee machine, ground the coffee and hit the switch button. The first sip was…well very disappointing. So what happened? Did I get bad coffee in the mail? How did the same coffee taste completely different at home? Then I did my research and discovered the 7 essential elements to the perfect cup of coffee.
To get the most out of your coffee beans and preserve that fresh roasted flavor as long as possible coffee beans must be stored in an air-tight container. Make sure the container is opaque and that it is stored at room temperature. Light can compromise the taste of your coffee, so even though you may be tempted to put them on display in a clear container, it will compromise the taste of your beans. Store them in a dark and cool location.
The percolation process is when the soluble compounds leave the coffee grounds and join the water to form coffee. Insoluble compounds and granulates stay in the coffee filter. An automatic espresso machine should not exceed 25 seconds of percolation. The shorter the percolation time is , the finer your grind should be.
Grinding coffee is an art on its own. Depending on what type of brewing method you are going to use will depend on the fineness or coarseness of your ground coffee. Generally, if your coffee is ground too coarse, the coffee can be weak and not as flavoursome.
However, the overall result will depend on percolation time. So, if you are using an automatic espresso machine such as Breville, Saeco or Delonghi, with a percolation time of 15 to 25 seconds then you need a finer grind. If you are using a percolator or French press like Presto or Bialetti for example, it is advised to use a coarser grind, otherwise your coffee will come out bitter and acidic. Make sure the beans you grind are brewed right away.
The brew temperature can greatly affect the taste of your espresso. A good espresso machine should produce stability. Hotter temperatures will result in increased body and sweetness with a greater chance of astringency and bitterness and cooler temperatures emphasise less bitterness, body and sweetness, resulting in a sour, bright shot. Even a fluctuation of a few degrees can change the taste of your coffee which makes it impossible to pull consistently good shots. There are a few important mechanisms in a high-end espresso machine which maintain heat and pressure throughout the brewing process.
Pod machines like the nespresso or Keurig are convenient but in actual fact, cannot produce quality espresso. It's easy to think that the inexpensive machines will provide you the perfect cup of espresso but because of the lack of pressure regulation, the coffee is of poor quality. The pod machines advertise “up to 15 bars of pressure!” but these machines lack pressure regulation that would maintain 9 bars of pressure throughout the whole shot (15-30 seconds). They may seem attractive and convenient but if it is great coffee you are looking for then the pod machine is not for you.
I, personally, do not like the taste of a 'chlorinated' cup of espresso and it is also not great for your espresso machine because of the minerals in the water. Filtered water, will undoubtedly, help to keep your espresso machine free of blockages, calcium build up and corrosion. I understand that using filtered water can sometimes be a little expensive but using a filtered water jug, such as the Brita is a good start. We use a 3 stage filter for all our espresso machines to ensure the water is filtered at all times.
You can improve the longevity and the taste of your espresso machine with a simple and quick clean up routine. Your tastebuds and your wallet will be thanking you with an investment of a regular five minute clean.
I will be discussing the above actors in details. Watch this space for more related posts.