Showing posts with label how to select the right coffee beans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to select the right coffee beans. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to Make Better Coffee at Home

Brew better with these killer coffee-making tips


Even if you are not a skilled barista, you’d still like to have a great cup of coffee before you leave home in the morning, right? Good thing we’ve got the scoop from a seasoned barista – tips for awesome do-it-yourself coffee preparation. Now, you can easily turn your morning brew into a worlds-better cup of joe. 

Meet our barista


Idyllwild, California resident Chris Bayer is not just a longtime barista and coffee roaster. Bayer is also a fan: a true aficionado of this favorite American drink – the most popular hot beverage on the planet, in fact.

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


Not all coffees are created the same.  “Where it’s grown, the elevation of the fields, the processing of the beans, and other factors make a flavor difference, so you may need to try a few different coffees to find one that fits your taste,” Bayer says.

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


Bayer’s strongest recommendation in buying your coffee beans is to get them as fresh as possible.  “Unlike wine, coffee doesn’t age well. Once it’s been roasted, you’ll taste the difference in freshness after as little as two or three weeks.”

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."


Are there disadvantages to buying from a small local roastery?

"There are some, although I find that the advantages usually outweigh the disadvantages," Bayer says. "The obvious disadvantage is that, without mass production, you'll probably pay a bit more if you buy your beans from a local roastery. Also, consistency can be an issue. While a local, small-batch roaster’s coffee beans will be fresher than a national supplier, the local supplier cannot offer the mass production benefit of  uniformity.”

A matter of taste


Barista Chris Bayer’s first word is his final reminder as well: “Your taste buds must be the ultimate judge of a good cup of coffee. For instance, while I appreciate the local coffee shop that sells and roasts their own beans, I don’t believe it’s necessary in order to have a great cup at home.”
Stay tuned for our follow-up article and interview with Chris Bayer: Storing and Brewing Techniques for the Perfect Cup of Coffee, coming soon.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer