How to Improve Your Coffee Taste: Secrets from Baristas


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o a marvelous, magical, delicious potion! Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating just a little, but these tips definitely make for a better cup of Joe! You deserve great coffee taste, and following these guidelines ensures you get it.

Buy The Beans You Love

Understanding the differences between coffees is a large part of knowing what beans to buy. (And you should always buy beans for freshness and flavor — don’t give in to the convenience of ground coffee.) Broadly speaking, there are two types of coffee beans available today — Robusta and Arabica. Arabica, experts agree, is the finer coffee, as the flavor is more complex. But the coffee taste is affected by several factors, including which plant is used, how it’s harvested and how it’s processed. Our point is: you should sample several coffees and decide which one is for you, based on the taste, strength, and boldness.

When sampling different coffee, ask yourself whether you prefer light or dark? A strong taste or mild? If you enjoy a smooth coffee taste, opt for dry, lightly colored beans. These have been roasted for less time, and that produced a less bitter taste. But if you like your coffee taste with a jolt, opt for beans that are roasted longer. They’re usually darker looking, and once brewed they often gleam with oils.

One more thing to consider is how much caffeine you want to drink each day. Lightly roasted beans actually contain more caffeine than dark beans — sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But that’s correct — the darker the roasted bean, the less caffeine it contains, so take that into account when deciding which beans to buy.

It’s vital that you not use your beans the day they are roasted — wait at least four days, maybe even a week. Of course, the smell of just-roasted beans is incredibly tempting, but baristas say you should wait for them to smooth out, so the coffee taste can mellow out. Waiting lets your beans reach their best potential, and therefore give you the best cup of coffee imaginable. So even if they smell delicious — and they do — resist! For at least four days. Store them and wait until they’ve reached their full potential for flavor and richness.

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Speaking of Storing Coffee Beans

As soon as beans are roasted the flavor begins to decline, so it’s vital that you store your beans properly. Keeping them in a jar or other canister with an airtight seal is best, and keep them away from light and heat.

Store the airtight canister in the pantry or some other cool, dark place. Cabinets near the oven or windows are usually too hot, as they get sun at some point each day. A shelf out of sight, preferably in a pantry, is the ticket for keeping coffee beans their freshest.

If you buy your beans at the bulk food store, you can put them in the fridge, but never for more than a week or two, tops. Think of this as a last resort; use the fridge only if you’ve bought a bulk load of beans and won’t use them in the next few days. But don’t forget — 14 days is the maximum for refrigeration, or they will lose that vibrant, rich coffee taste that you love. Ideally, you should buy just enough beans for a week and then restock. That way, you’ll always get the smooth, marvelous coffee taste you love.

Choosing The Right Grind & Brewing Method

How you grind your coffee is the first determining factor in its flavor. The correct sized grounds give you the best flavor, making your grinder an important part of your coffee experience. Grinds control coffee taste and make the beans work for you. Ideally, you should grind coffee just before using it, as this doesn’t just affect flavors, it affects the aroma as well. And part of a great cup of coffee is the way it smells, right?

Every type of grinder must have its own type of coffee. If you’d like more information on this, check out our blog post, “How To Choose The Right Coffee Grind Size of Your Coffee.”

In summary, however, use these guidelines:

  • Extra coarse coffee is right for Cold Brew/Cowboy;
  • Coarse grind is right for a French press;
  • Medium coarse is right for a Chemax or Cafe Solo;
  • Medium is right for all drip pots;
  • Medium fine grind is right for pour-over pots & Aeropress;
  • Fine is right for espresso and Moka pots;
  • Extra fine is right for Turkish coffee.

These are guidelines only, and remember that even a small difference between coffee makers can alter the coffee’s taste substantially. Try different beans and different grinds, even different makers if you can, until you hit on the perfect coffee that gets you the flavor you’re looking for.

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Inconsistency Can Be An Issue

Folks who are wild about coffee care a great deal about grinders. If you’re spending a lot to get fresh, fabulous beans, you want to make certain you’re using the best grinder.

Grinders fall into two categories: blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders are rather like blenders, as they use spinning blades to chop the coffee beans into tiny pieces. The longer you grind, the smaller the coffee becomes. They have teeth made of stainless steel or ceramic.

The coffee gets finer the longer you grind — makes sense, right? But unfortunately, the coffee can become inconsistently sized if you’re not careful. And that can affect the quality of your coffee’s taste.

You must have consistently sized grounds if you want a consistently good cup of coffee. Otherwise, the large pieces don’t perform well, while the little pieces over-perform. These variations in extraction rates — how much coffee comes drains from each piece — can mar the coffee’s taste and even make it bitter. Consequently, you’re better off with a burr grinder.

Burr coffee grinders don’t use blades, they funnel the beans down a little hill, so to speak, and grind them evenly. And evenly ground coffee means — you got it! — a great cup of coffee every single time.

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Water: Nectar of The Coffee Gods

Making great coffee demands using a burr grinder and great beans and the right coffee maker, but the water you use just might be the most important element in this wonderful process. Coffee is, after all, almost 98% water, so it needs to be pure, cold, odor-free, fresh and clear. And it shouldn’t have more than 150 parts per million ratios of minerals. Your coffee’s water should be neutral, meaning it has a pH level of 7.0, according to the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) standards.

Baristas agree that there are three types of water that are best for coffee. They are:

  1. Filtered: This is water that’s been put through a filter to reduce its minerals, odors, etc.
  2. Purified: This water has been sanitized, essentially, so that everything has been removed. And we do mean everything, even the good elements. But using a reverse osmosis system can reintroduce the good aspects if you wish, like certain minerals.
  3. Distilled: This water also removes everything, which makes it nothing but pure H20. Although you can, theoretically, use it to make coffee because it’s safe, it just doesn’t taste as good as the first two options. If you’re using an espresso maker, feel free to use distilled water because the espresso maker is pressurized. Otherwise, opt for the first two.

The right water guarantees you a cup of great coffee, one that tastes superb and each and every time.

Try It Sweet & Creamy

Okay, so some purists insist that the only true great cup of coffee is a black one, with no sugar or cream added. But not everyone can handle their coffee “straight,” right? A lot of folks say a little sweetener and a dash of cream make their coffee taste great and go down smoothly. Who are we — or you? — to argue?

Sugar is something a lot of people swear by for their coffee, claiming it eliminates all traces of bitterness. If you don’t want the extra calories, we’ve got some suggestions for you:

  • Vanilla Extract: This isn’t just for baking anymore! A dash of vanilla extract in your mug, no more than 1/4–1/2 teaspoon, gives coffee a delicious kick and a fresh flavor. Even the vanilla aroma is wonderful!
  • Cinnamon: This delicious herb can make a cup of coffee sing — and it lowers blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, too, scientists say. Just a dash in the pot or in your mug releases a wonderful odor and tastes just terrific, too. If you’ve never tried it, go ahead and live a little! You’ll be surprised by how good it is.
  • Cream Or Milk: People all over the globe add a little cream or milk to their coffee, swearing by its velvety, rich taste. Because these products contain fat, they do actually alter the chemistry of coffee and make it smoother and, some folks insist, taste much better. Try it, and decide for yourself.
  • Ice Cream: In fact, there’s a proper name for this — ‘affogato.‘ It’s an Italian term for a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over the top of it. Try it as an alternative to your traditional dessert one night — make an Americano or espresso, and drop a dollop of ice cream into your mug. It’s the ideal combination of sweetness and caffeine — delicious!
  • Salt: Some folks swear that a pinch of salt in the grinds makes the coffee smoother, less bitter and richer. Others can’t tell the difference. But baristas swear by this trick, so give it a shot!
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Is there anything worse than a bad cup of coffee in the morning? One that tastes old, or bitter, or too weak or acidic….there is a whole host of problems that can ruin your first cup of Joe. You don’t want that, right? You want a cup of smooth, deliciously strong coffee that never compromises flavour. Follow the tips we’ve outlined here, and you’re guaranteed to love that first cup of freshly brewed coffee, and every cup after that throughout your day!

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