Coffee... that deliciously bitter, steamy cup of goodness that starts many of our days. For some, it's the fuel that keeps us going, for others, it's simply a delicious indulgence. Stephanie and I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Stephanie Bonin of Banter & Coffee at Salute Coffee in downtown Sudbury to talk about this delicious "bean-infused hot water" (as my son refers to it), and we took advantage of the opportunity to pick her brain about what goes into a GREAT cup of coffee.
Here are a few tips to make your best cup of coffee...
1 - Start with a good, fresh bean.
You will want to buy your beans as close to grinding and making your coffee as possible. If you aren't using the beans right away, some folks say to store them in the freezer in an airtight container/bag. However, Stephanie disagrees! The freezer is good at taking moisture out of an environment. But we want the delicate balance of moisture in the coffee beans to stick around! Also, water condensing on icy roasted coffee when it is pulled from the freezer gets reabsorbed into the beans, making them duller tasting.
Stephanie says -
-Buy coffee that has a clear roast date on the packaging
-Try to buy within two weeks of roasting
-Buy whole beans and grind them yourself
-Store in an airtight container, in a dry and dark place
2 - The grinder makes a difference.
Believe it or not, the grinder is actually more important than the coffee machine! The delicious taste of coffee comes from the oil inside bean. An inexpensive blade grinder will do the trick, but the oscillating blades of the burr grinder will literally crush the beans, ensuring that the flavourful oil is fully extracted.
3 - Try a few different beans to find the one you like the most.
Taste is subjective. Some prefer a lighter roasted Australian blend. Others prefer a dark roasted Mexican bean. Half the fun of learning to make a great cup of coffee is sampling!
Stephanie says -
These guides have nothing to do with strength, which is really about how much coffee you use to brew a cup, but more to do with the level of bitterness you can expect to find in that particular coffee. Instead, strength guides are usually determined by the roast level of the coffee; light roasted coffees usually have lower strength ratings and dark roasted coffees have higher strength ratings.
4 - Do your homework when it comes to buying the best machine for your lifestyle.
There are so many choices! We had an automatic espresso machine and it made a perfectly fine cup of coffee - and even had a jug that steamed the milk for us. That said, I was itching for a new machine with a steaming wand so that I could control the amount of froth and thickness of the milk for my fancy lattes. When we bought our most recent manual espresso machine, we also discussed whether or not we wanted a double or a single boiler. A single boiler means that you need to complete the coffee extraction before you can use the steaming wand. This option is fine for someone who doesn't do a lot of steaming milk (often a coffee purist!) or only makes one or two coffees with steamed milk at a time. If you are doing more than that, I would recommend forking out the extra cash for the double boiler machine.
5 - Extraction time is an important factor in taste.
Extraction time refers to the amount of time it takes for the machine to "pull" a shot of espresso, and is controlled by how fine (or coarse) the grinder is grinding the beans. If extracted properly, your coffee actually shouldn't taste bitter at all!
Stephanie says -
Under extraction (running really fast) means the coffee will be sour and lacks sweetness & body. In this case, we need to slow the water down by grinding the coffee finer.
Over extraction (running really slow) results in heavy & bitter tasting coffee. We would need to increase the flow rate by grinding the coffee more coarsely.
A perfect extraction results in an espresso that is balanced, flavourful, and sweet. Take note of how you’ve made it so you can make another!
How do you drink your coffee? Black and pure, as it is intended to be? Or like me, blended with frothy milk and flavours to create an indulgent treat!
For other coffee tips, classes and more, check out the new Banter & Coffee by Stephanie Bonin.
For the full episode - including video demo - CLICK HERE.