Brew better with these killer coffee-making tips
Meet our barista
His first and last piece of advice: “It’s all personal: a matter of personal taste. My wife and I disagree on the best way to make a cup of coffee, and that’s okay. Even baristas disagree on the perfect way to get a perfect cup of coffee, but your own taste buds are the ultimate judge.”
In this introductory article, we'll start with Bayer's first-step recommendations: starting off with the right coffee selection. After all, no matter how perfectly you store your coffee or prepare it (which we'll cover in part #2 of our barista interview), it will be nearly impossible to get a great cup of coffee if you haven't purchased the right beans.
How to select the right coffee beans
Rather than go into great detail on the different varieties – which could violate Bayer's taste preference theorem noted above, we'll start with this word of advice: “It’s easy to get sidetracked in your coffee bean selection by packaging labels, like fair trade, organic, country of origin – even the pricing. Don’t be swayed too much by all this,” Bayer cautions.
He points out that, for example, the process of getting the organic label on your product is costly enough that it fails small farmers. Their simpler methods of farming may in fact fit organic labeling requirements but they often cannot afford the organic certification process.
“Even the price can be more about marketing that quality,” Bayer asserts. “While the best tasting coffees are not likely the cheapest, coffee doesn’t have to be the most expensive choice to be great tasting.”
So then, how can the average consumer get the right bean for their home roast?
“The easiest way is to find the a good coffee roaster near you who knows this sort of thing,” Bayer says, “someone who buys the beans green – pre-roasted – and then roasts them onsite. Not only is that an assurance of freshness, but a good coffee roaster is going to be your best source of information.”
How the supplier processes the coffee can also affect flavor. “Coffee is like wine in many respects, not only in that both coffee and wine are generally acquired tastes and vary greatly in flavor and quality based on the location of the coffee plantation and the weather conditions in which it was grown, but also because the methods chosen for processing the coffee bean can dramatically affect the flavor and quality,” Bayer says.
“What few people realize is that the coffee bean is not a bean at all, but rather the pit of a fruit – sometimes referred to as the cherry of the fruit. Like other fruits, the flavor can change significantly depending several factors, including whether or not it was allowed to ripen before removing the fruit from the vine, and whether or not it was processed immediately after harvesting.”
Yes, even how the beans are harvested can affect the flavor. “For example, a small farmer may hand pick the beans, instead of using a big tree shaker that is less discriminating in filtering for the best beans,” Bayer explains.
Freshness is everything
The advantage of buying directly from a coffee supplier that roasts its coffee beans is that it has likely been fresh roasted. "In fact, many local roasteries even have a ‘roasted on’ date on their labeling," Bayer says, "which also explains why good, freshly roasted coffee beans are often more expensive; by date-labeling the coffee, the roaster may end up throwing out batches that don't sell within two or three weeks."
A matter of taste
Stay tuned for our follow-up article and interview with Chris Bayer: Storing and Brewing Techniques for the Perfect Cup of Coffee, coming soon.