The Secret to Great Coffee – part 1

By | October 25, 2019

The Secret to Great Coffee: Part 1 - Choose good quality coffee beans
by Kenneth Dickson

If you decide to start making your own coffee at home, you'll be tempted to buy the fanciest coffee equipment on offer. Everyone always is! Just yesterday a sales assistant in Sogo offered me a 'great deal' on a grinder and coffee maker from a reputable brand. Over NT$4000!

Secret to Great Coffee

I'll share a secret with you: the secret of good coffee lies in the careful purchase of coffee beans, nothing less, nothing more. Then treat the coffee with respect when you grind it, brew it, and drink it. That's all!

The Secret to Great Coffee: Part 1 - Choose good quality coffee beans
by Kenneth Dickson

If you decide to start making your own coffee at home, you'll be tempted to buy the fanciest coffee equipment on offer. Everyone always is! Just yesterday a sales assistant in Sogo offered me a 'great deal' on a grinder and coffee maker from a reputable brand. Over NT$4000!

Secret to Great Coffee

I'll share a secret with you: the secret of good coffee lies in the careful purchase of coffee beans, nothing less, nothing more. Then treat the coffee with respect when you grind it, brew it, and drink it. That's all!

#1 Quality Chosen

It's all about the coffee. It always has been. So when you're thinking about your coffee in the morning, keep to these principles and you won't go far wrong.

Avoid buying pre-ground coffee, esp. in the supermarket. The coffee was roasted months before at a date that isn't clear to the buyer. You can determine the approximate roasting date, by checking the "sell-by-date" and the shelf-life. Shocked, aren't you? Worse news is that as soon as the coffee is roasted and ground, the coffee begins to lose flavor no matter how well it is packed. Popular and even premium ground coffees are roasted up to 18 months before consumption.

Even whole beans that are packed in the same way will fare better than ground coffee. Moreover, grinding the beans just before you use them will give you a much better cup; air, moisture and time all take their toll on the flavors of coffee. Why let them? If you grind before you drink, you'll begin to appreciate how making an effort with your coffee can really bring benefits.

Roasted vs. burned?

Many popular brands of coffee in the supermarket also roast quite dark. Dark roasted coffee beans tend to taste similar because the longer roasting time blurs the original flavor profile of the beans and will disguise the unique qualities of the beans.

This is a deliberate decision by the purveyors of coffee to brand their coffee with their own flavor profile. It's also an effective way to make the most of cheap coffee beans. So put that 3lb. can of "Arabica Blend Dark Roast Ground Coffee" back on the shelf now, please!

Regional vs. blend

Blending of coffee beans is a typical strategy of large coffee companies, because they can create coffee brands with their own unique characteristics. Blending also helps to balance one set of characteristics against another.

So, for example, you can add a fruity or citrus note by including Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee in your blend. Or you can add a bitter note, by including a little Robusta coffee, just like espresso roasters do in Italy. Most commercial coffees are made by mixing beans that have been professionally roasted, blended and marketed by the big coffee companies, like Starbucks Verona Roast, MJB or Douwe Egberts.

But once you begin to explore the finer beans, you'll notice that those characteristics can produce really good coffee. Whether you're looking at regional varietals, like Panamian Geisha, Hueheutenango from Guatemala's Highlands, or Tarrazu from Costa Rica.

Fresh vs. Roasted

But the biggest difference is the most obvious: no matter how much you pay for the coffee beans, the delay between roasting and consumption will have a significant impact on the resulting coffee. So before you buy your next batch of coffee, check the roasting date.

It's fine to leave the coffee for a few days after roasting for the fuller flavor profile to emerge. Purchasing coffee that's been roasted within a month is the ideal, but you will not be able to find such coffee in a supermarket, especially for imported roasted coffee beans.

Look for local vendors who roast their coffee regularly or daily. You'll get the best coffee at great prices from a local vendor. In Taipei, there are an increasing number of small scale, artisan roasters, as well as coffee chain stores, too.

Louisa Coffee sells regional varieties like Kenya A++, Guatemala, Colombia, Yirgacheffe, all of which are roasted within a few weeks. Cama Cafe also roasts their coffee right in the store, with similar varietals and a few local favorites. Moreway has a broader range of coffee, including Brazilian Ipanema, Malawi AA + Pamwamba, etc. Up in the city, you'll find good coffee at Fong Da Coffee, Fika Fika Coffee, and at Wilbeck's branches throughout the city.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of 3!

Profile

Kenneth Dickson started drinking cappuccino at Luvian's Coffee Shop thirty years ago, and hasn't stopped drinking, making and writing about coffee ever since. Taipei is his coffee heaven. Now he writes at PurelyCoffeeBeans. com about his love of coffee.

References

My latest coffee article has been published. If you’d like to find out the secrets to making your coffee great, check out the article on pg. 27 of the Community Center’s Centered Magazine. Enjoy! But don’t forget to make some great coffee!


To help you choose what kind of coffee beans, check out the best coffee brands page!

Signature of PurelyCoffeeBeans in calligraphic brush style