“Your coffee tastes really good, how can we do that?”
We are sometimes asked by business owners for advice on how to improve the quality of their product and there is no short answer but to get you started in the right direction here are what we think are three key points.
1. Adequate, regularly cleaned and maintained equipment. By adequate we mean powerful enough to keep the water coming through at the set temperature during times of peak demand, if you draw water faster than the machine can heat it then the temperature of the water coming into contact with the coffee drops and the quality will suffer badly.
A small restaurant will be fine with a basic single boiler machine but a large busy takeaway coffee shop will need a much more heavy duty, multi boiler, multi head setup. Grinders are similar except for the fact that if you use them too hard they heat up rather than cool down, what this does is heat the coffee before it gets to the hot water which again impacts the taste. While we are on the subject of grinders, an on-demand rather than dosing grinder is preferable for several reasons.
Regular maintainance is important (and also a legal requirement) for these high pressure bits of kit and regular cleaning is not only good practice from a hygiene point of view but also prolongs the life of your equipment.
2. Fresh, suitably roasted, good quality beans. Coffee (like any other foodstuff) tastes better when fresh – pretty straightforward. Bean selection is beyond the scope of this article but you should talk to your supplier and ask about where the beans came from although the taste is a pretty good indicator of quality assuming they have been prepared well. Certifications such as organic, rainforest, and fairtrade vary so much that it is worth educating yourself about them.
When we talk about the degree of roast we are basically saying how dark they are, the southern mediterranian way of roasting is almost or actually black with the oils on the surface of the bean, we feel that is too far and roast to a lighter degree to keep the oils in the bean until the time comes for them to be made into your cup of coffee. At the end of the day this comes down to personal taste but the speciality coffee market rarely uses such dark roasts.
3. Well trained and motivated staff. The best beans and equipment mean nothing without skilled use. Your staff must be capable of reliably extracting coffee to fairly tight tolerances all day, recognise when settings need to be changed, and be capable and confident to adjust variables such as grind, tamp, and dose as necessary all while keeping up with demand. It’s not an easy job and that is where the motivation comes in – well trained staff who feel valued and are proud to serve quality products will strive to keep the quality up on a busy day.
We hope this answers a few questions and hopefully it has raised some more, get in touch and we can answer those too.