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A full guide to enjoying fresh coffee

January 21, 2020

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Spiller & Tait is the knowledge that we’re able to pass on to our community. We’ve answered hundreds of questions over the years and are always happy to help if anyone reaches out to us.

After a busy Christmas and a good start to the new year we’ve decided to go back to basics and cover all of the aspects to enjoying fresh coffee in one article. There are many simple yet effective tips for improving the quality of your coffee. 

Why not make 2020 the year of exceptional fresh coffee?

Arguably, the most important thing when it comes to great coffee is also the very first step:

 

CHOOSING FRESH COFFEE

Similar to choosing wine, everyone has a preferred grape variety, but much like coffee, you'll need to try a substantial amount to find your favourite type. Having a bit of knowledge on your side beforehand will help.

First and foremost we always recommend buying coffee beans over ground coffee and grinding your beans just before brewing. When coffee is ground the surface area is largely increased which means the compounds which make up the flavour can escape very quickly. In fact after just 45 seconds ground coffee begins to lose flavour. 

It can be a little overwhelming at first so we would always recommend starting with fresh coffee - something you won’t find in a supermarket. You are most likely to get the freshest coffee from a supplier who roasts their own coffee, like us! Rather than a coffee ‘supplier’ look for a ‘roaster’, or at least a supplier with a very close relationship to their roaster.

Now that you know where to get your hands on fresh coffee beans it’s likely your chosen supplier will have a selection to choose from. Finding a local supplier is often difficult so you won't have the luxury of smelling the coffee but by reading the description and with a little knowledge you'll be able to make an informed decision. If you do however have the ability to smell the coffee, you’re generally safe choosing the one that smelt the best to you.

Lots of companies will have a blend they put their name to like us, a signature blend... If you’re struggling to choose, going with the signature blend is a great starting point.

If however you would like to make your own selection then there are a few things worth knowing about. When it comes to coffee there are single origin coffee beans or coffee bean blends, blends allow consistent, unique and interesting flavours, these tend to be much more popular. On the other hand, single origin beans are also worth trying to see what flavours one type of bean can produce. A quick summary of each origin can be found below.


Central America and Columbia:
Light, balanced and fruity.

Brazil:
Heavy and chocolatey.

Hawaii: 
Mild, floral and sweet.

Indonesia:
Earthy, smokey and tastes of raw cocoa.

Kenya:
Bold, and acidic.

Ethiopia:
The home of coffee plants, a large variety of flavours but usually berries and sweetness come through.

India:
Creamy with low acidity.

If you fancy playing around to see what flavors come from different beans, you can try our online tool here which gives a visual analysis: https://www.spillerandtait.co.uk/products/build-a-coffee-blend



ROAST LEVEL

The next thing you should look at is the roast level which should be easily accessible. The amount of time beans have been roasted for will have a very big effect on the finished product.

Described in terms of light to dark, the below chart describes the differences a roast level can have on the beans.



ROAST LEVEL

AKA

BEAN SURFACE

ACIDITY

FLAVOUR

Light

Cinnamon roast, half city, New England.

Dry

High

Light-bodied and somewhat sour, grassy and snappy.

Medium

Full city, American, regular, breakfast, brown.

Dry

High

A bit sweeter than light roast,  full body balanced by acid snap, aroma and complexity

Dark

High, Viennese, Italian, espresso, continental.

Slightly shiny

Medium

Somewhat spicy; complexity traded for a rich chocolatey body. Aroma is exchanged for sweetness.

Darkest

French.

Very oily

Low

Smokey; tastes of primarily the roasting rather than the inherent flavour of the bean.



GRINDING FRESH COFFEE

The first step in brewing coffee is grinding the beans. The type of grind you will need depends on the type of brew method you are using. If you are making espresso you will need a very fine grind however with a fine grind comes some challenges. To grind coffee very fine a likely by-product will be heat which can begin to deteriorate the flavours so you will need to invest in a good grinder for espresso. Espresso also requires an extremely consistent grind, something a cheaper grinder may not produce.

A burr grinder is always going to produce less heat than a blade grinder so we would recommend one wherever possible. If however you are not grinding for espresso, you would still benefit from a burr grinder, although you should be able to get away with a blade grinder.



BREWING FRESH COFFEE

Before we look at each individual brewing method, there are some simple yet effective tips to apply across all methods:

  1. Make sure everything is clean. Coffee becomes bitter the second time you brew it and if there is any coffee left on any equipment, this taste will come through.
  2. Don't reheat coffee. As above, it can become bitter, it's better to preheat your mug if you want coffee to stay warm for longer.
  3. Use cold, freshly drawn water to boil. We prefer to filter our water first too.
  4. Never use boiling water to brew. Some coffee machines are very scientific, however 20 or so seconds off the boil should be fine.
  5. We are repeating ourselves now, but it's so important; always use fresh coffee and grind the beans right before you brew.

Keeping the above basics in mind. It’s finally time to look at the brewing techniques. Depending on your method of brewing we have a different guide for each: 

-Cafetiere 

-V60 Dripper

-Aeropress

-Stove Top / Moka Pot

-Chemex

-Cold Brew

For espresso machines or bean to cup machines there is not much you can change so take in to account the earlier tips; fresh water, a clean machine and freshly ground beans. If you are using an espresso machine, you can use a tamper (or any other object) to gently press and flatten the layer of coffee before you enter it into the machine.



STORING FRESH COFFEE

With any fresh coffee, the taste is going to start deteriorating after a while. to preserve the taste as much as possible, you'll want to ensure you are storing it correctly. The things you'll want to avoid are sunlight, heat, moisture and oxygen. We often have people ask us about using the fridge or freezer, we disagree with this as you are much more likely to bring the coffee into contact with moisture this way. 

You’ll notice coffee bags have a small outlet valve on them. These are a one way C02 valve, as fresh coffee releases C02 over time it needs to be released whilst not allowing oxygen into the bag.

For the best possible freshness, a coffee container with one of these valves, stored in a cool, dry place will ensure the best possible brew.

We hope you’ve learnt something from this article, or maybe it’s reminded you of something you stopped doing. Either way we are always happy to hear from our community. If you want to know anything else at all, just reach out to us. 





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