there is no greater indication of the decline of western civilization then the extension of wine-snobbery to beer and coffee. I am anxiously waiting for a post in this thread describing the best way to decant a freshly-brewed cup of joe.
I SO agree! I wrote a thread about it a while ago but I seemed to be the only one who struggles with the concept - thank God I have a fellow sage
I don't know where the concept of "good" coffee and "bad" coffee came from - one either likes it, or one doesn't. Its not like a "good car vs bad car" which you can use metrics to measure - like speed, reliability, maintenance costs etc - it is crazy to say "How can you like that bad coffee?"
Same with wine. Either I like it or I don't. To claim that there is some external reference of "goodness" is nonsense.
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Coffee is complicated stuff. The beans must be of high quality, then roasted by a skilled roaster. The roasting imparts an indelible mark on the flavor of the brew, and there are many levels of roast. The roasted coffee will degrade in flavor quickly, with a marked difference 2 weeks post roast. Then there's the grind- once ground, coffee loses flavor remarkably fast. Minutes make a difference here, seconds to the best palates. And the quality of the grind is a make-or-break part of the process, especially with espresso. A poor quality grinder will make a poor quality coffee, in spite of the best beans and a whiz-bang machine.
Tea, on the other hand, is pretty simple. A Brit I know here was upset that the water boils at a lower temperature in La Chaux de Fonds than in England. I bet we could do a double-blind test with tea brewed at both temperatures and he'd lose the bet.
Both, however, are tied to emotions. I had a cup of coffee in Germany back in '92 that I still remember. I was already well versed in the use of Moka pots and real machine espresso, but this simple cup of Jacobs brand coffee, made through a paper filter in a regular Melita brew top sticks in my mind as one of the best cups ever. I bought a bag to bring home to the U.S., but got nothing but bitter mess from it. I can only think that it was a special moment being in Germany with my two best friends, just out of school, about to start life, that made that cup so great.
But there are coffee experts with the taste buds to actually quantify the quality of different coffees and brewing methods. All will agree that a great cup can be had from drip makers, press pots, and numerous other means of extracting the guts of ground beans into water. When pro tasters assess new coffees, they don't use any brewing apparatus at all other than a grinder (and often this is a simple hand cranked grinder, at times hooked to a motor or even a cordless drill) and a kettle. The ground coffee dumped right in the cup, like Turkish, except that the grind is more like for French Press (quite coarse). The crust of grounds is broken and the aroma inhaled, then the grounds are scooped out with the spoon- a cupping spoon, it's special like- and then the coffee is tasted, using the spoon, with much slurping a spitting not unlike wine tasting.
On to the Americans...
Yanks have a reputation for weak coffee, which turns a pale tan with the introduction of a tablespoon of milk. That's a shame. A typical diner style Bunn filter brewer is capable of making terrific coffee as long as enough ground beans are used and it's not left to sit for hours simmering.
The American espresso culture has boomed, and not just because of Starbuck's and other's dope peddling of monstrous milk based concoctions. However, the rule book as written by Illy has been thrown out the window. Italian guidelines for espresso call for 7 grams of coffee for a single or ristretto, 14 grams for a double. The trend among Yank espressolites now is to cram 17-20 grams of ground beans into what amounts to a large single. The roasting techniques also tend towards lighter in contrast to the darker Italian roasts (which allows somewhat for the increased dosage). A Yank espresso freak on a pilgrimage to Italy will be just as surprised by their 'real' version as an Italian at a hardcore espresso bar in the U.S. In many parts of the world espresso fans obsess over expensive and complex machines and grinders at home, while an Italian is far more likely to have a simple Moka pot by the stove and drink his espresso at the cafe. Which is funny, because from a technical standpoint, the Moka pot is about the worst way to abuse a coffee bean... yet I and countless others love the coffee brewed in one.
Tl;dr – coffee is complicated, drink what you like.
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I've not been to a Starbucks which gives paper cups for drinking inside the store (maybe they that in the US, I don't know, but in the UK they always use mugs - they've redesigned them recently and they're lovely to hold).
When getting a takeaway I think you're expecting too much, even in trusting ol' Switzerland, to be given a proper cup to wander the streets with.
Correct, my point was more the irony about his view of "choice". In the US, I've had no choice when I was drinking in - it was paper or paper with lid on (not allowed to have it without lid in case I'm a muppet and burn myself )...
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My main problem with Starbucks is that I want a coffee, not a bucket of milk. Whatever I ask for, I never seem to get something with the right proportions.
And generally in chain coffee shops in the UK/US, when I ask for a small coffee (i.e. to avoid getting a milk bucket), I hate being asked if I actually meant "venti"/"piccolino"/"tall"/... or whatever their brand managers have decided the English or Italian word for small actually is.
Yes, Mr. English-speaking Barista: I know that you know that when I ask for a small coffee, I want the smallest of your three options, even if I don't know that today's brand codeword for small is cucaracha.
Still the best coffee ive ever had was a blue mountain in a small jamaican restaraunt in Florida... Theres more than one way to brew coffee, it doesnt make all the others bad if the 'rule book' is not followed.. I agree its a science but its all personal preference in the end..
I have friends in the US that have a family owned coffee shop, and they roast their own green beans.. That is the best and freshest way to get coffee.. Just finished up 2 lbs they sent me.. The blue mtn they sell is almost $50 a lb..
You can use the same espresso machine with the same beans in different places you won't have the same coffee simply because the water used tastes slightly different!
I used to work for the engineers that design the Nespresso coffee machines, where I learned quite a bit about coffee. You wouldn't imagine the amout of technology that goes in a simple Nespresso capsule. The water must pass through the coffee powder at the right speed, correctly impregnating itself with the aroma on the way. A few microseconds more or less make a difference. And then, in spite of all these technical efforts, the quality of the water can improve/destroy everything.
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We had a guy who would come to our work in his coffee van at 9 every morning and make coffees out the back of it. They were awesome. Hell, he was awesome. Sometimes I swear I saw four arms as he made coffees and took orders.
Anyway, he would be constantly adjusting the grind of the coffee either coarser or finer, and told us that he changed it because the moisture content of the air would change how the coffee tasted. I don't know if the theory on grind and humidity was right, but he never made me a bad coffee ever.
PS. Then the bastard left for Qatar and we were stuck with some crap coffee making person instead. I have never forgiven you for that, Graeme. Leaving selling me coffee out of a van for a job of a lifetime doing what you were actually trained to do.
I have to admit to being slightly addicted to the Starbuck's Iced Americano with a bit of milk. Watering down the espresso a bit and putting it on ice seems to intensify the "coffee" flavor for me. But I guess it would taste pretty much the same at any coffeehouse...