There is a lot of tech behind good coffee. All too often we hear that someone bought XYZ coffee machine and it makes crap coffee.
Well, it may not be the machine – there is a lot of tech behind good coffee. In this brief guide, we cover water hardness, bean types (and capsules), cup size and the tech behind good milk coffee – anyone can make a decent cup of black joe.
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The tech behind good coffee
What you make
Obviously, if you are an instant powder coffee lover – Nescafe 43, Moccona, International Roast, Bushels, Robert Timms or heaven forbid home brand, Maxwell House or Pablo and like it – stop reading. You are not drinking real coffee, but coffee extract (freeze or spray-dried) often added to flavoured fillers and chemicals.
How you make it
In the US, dripolator coffee is still by far and away the most popular coffee type. Essentially hot water drips through fine coffee grounds in a filter paper. It produces a decent black coffee, and that is passable with milk – American coffee. There is no tech here – a hotplate and a pot – but the longer coffee sits in the pot on the hotplate – the more bitter it gets as it stews.
Next step up is those Pod machines. Depending on pod price (not so much the pedigree) they will have either coffee grounds (ground beans), coffee extract or even coffee powder and all sort of fillers, flavours and extenders. Coffee Pods are convenient, consistent and hugely expensive. In no way do they make as good a coffee as freshly ground beans. And in no way are Pod machines as complex or powerful as proper coffee makers – pod, hot water, cup and maybe frothed milk.
Italians love using an ‘Express’ coffee pot (percolator). A cup or so of water (depends on the size) goes into a bottom screw off pot, as it boils the steam is forced up through ground coffee and ends up in the top pot. Fresh, strong, aromatic and full of flavour – black coffee.
Plunger coffee is popular. Boiling water is poured into a jug, and a plunger pushes coffee grinds down into it. It can make good coffee but invariably the water is too hot, and it ends up too bitter. Hint – don’t quite boil the water – 80-90°
There are many other types of coffee maker – drip, pressed, french etc.
But the truth is that the tech (call it art and science) behind good coffee really only comes from Barista made coffee and selected coffee machines.
Q: What have you learnt so far?
A: it is pretty easy to make a decent cup of black joe and optionally add low-or-high-fat milk, soy, almond or more to it.
So why do people pay baristas $4 or more, several times a day for real coffee?
Water has a huge impact
If your water supply is ‘wrong’, e.g. too hard, chlorine, calcium, sodium, dissolved solids or pH value, it will make the coffee taste ‘off’.
The perceived acidity of coffee corresponds to the amount of acid extracted from the coffee bean, minus the amount of alkalinity from the water. If you get the water right, it makes the bean’s job easier.
Most coffee makers come with a disposable paper Aquadur strip (pH testing) that reveals ‘pH’. That is only one factor, and even if pH (Alkalinity or Acidity) is spot on there may be other issues that you need to identify.
Baristas and coffee purists need a ‘pool water test kit’ to check for chlorine, calcium and salt as well.