Tuesday, June 12, 2012

7 not-so-Deadly Sins

I love a simple breakfast, but the key to a simple breakfast is quality over quantity. I'm loving the 7 Seeds and Grains bread from Coles. Your local bakery should carry something similar and if they don't they should, because it transforms the humble marmalade toast to marvelous toast.

...but man cannot live on bread alone and a good woman needs a good coffee, which brings me to the deadly sins. All coffees are not created equal and if you can't make a decent coffee for yourself, you shouldn't be paying someone else to make you a bad one.

I'm just a little bit fussy about my coffee, but as one of my more simple pleasures in life, I want it to be good. Contrary to the popular belief that a good coffee is a hit or miss affair, there are a few things that you can do to avoid being that unsuspecting customer.

Surf watch
When you walk into a cafe, note the coffees of the other diners. Lattes and macchiatos are your best indicators of good pouring techniques. You can't do latte art with surf froth and even if the milk is good, it's hard to work with a old shot of espresso.

Hopper check
The hopper is the vessel holding the beans before they fall into the grinder. The hopper is easy to wipe down before re-filling with beans, but if it's not clean, chances are that the espresso machine heads aren't being cleaned either. Even in a busy cafe, those group heads should get a quick clean at least once for every kilo of beans in order to maintain a nice pour.

Super clean
Coffee making is messy work, so it doesn't take long for a busy cafe to make a bit of mess. However, some cafe owners like to show off how pristine their machine is by lying their shiny group heads out on the tray. I don't see shiny, I see cold. Those group heads need to be staying warm in the machine, ready to make the next shot. If the group heads are lying out cold on the tray, let someone else push in front of you while you wait for the second pour, it will be a better coffee.

Sweeten me up
I don't take sugar myself, but if a barista asks me if I want sugar, it's a good sign. Coffee tastes better when the sugar is mixed into the shot before the milk is added. It makes it harder for the barista to impress you with latte art, but it indicates that they care about the taste as well.

Timing is everything
A good pour takes 20 to 30 seconds to come out of the machine, any quicker and you're not getting all the flavour that you should out of the beans, any longer and the coffee tastes burnt. A good barista can see a good pour, but timers are a good back-up and if you're nervous about your shot, set your stopwatch from when they press that button till when the shot stops flowing into your cup.

Local flavour
Don't get me started on all the imports that I love, but when it comes to coffee, buy local. Roasted coffee beans have a shelf life and for Australian coffee drinkers, that means buy Australian. I'll drink an Italian roast when I'm in Italy, but I'll turn down that same roast after it's been sitting on a ship for months. You can jazz up old beans with vanilla or caramel, but if you want your coffee to taste like coffee, choose a local roast.

Milk-crate coffee
I've sat on milk-crates sipping on lattes while the totally refurbished cafe next door slowly went bust. Bad service ruins the taste of an otherwise good coffee. I'll happily sit on a milk-crate chatting with friends rather than put up with bad attitude.  The customer doesn't always know best, but a good business is smart enough to let the customer think they do. When it comes down to it, it's not only about the coffee, it's the simple pleasure of having something made for you exactly the way you want it. A good coffee can be the perfect start to the day.

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