Dana, a young marketing professional, just spent the weekend moving. It’s Monday morning, her alarm goes off… she hits snooze. 10 minutes later, the alarm goes off again, but this time she lunges and misses the snooze button… so now she has to get up. The one thing that is preventing Dana from slipping into a deep abyss of confusion and malaise is the thought of breathing in the intoxicating aroma and taking that first sip of the delicious coffee she is about to brew. She goes about her normal brewing routine. But this time the aroma is barely noticeable and the coffee tastes bitter and luke warm. Dana isn’t happy.
By taking a closer look at what may have caused Dana’s unfortunate predicament, we can learn how to prevent the same thing from happening to us and ensure a consistent satisfying coffee experience. Here are 3 possible culprits for Dana’s disappointing Monday morning.
#1 Poor Water Quality
Coffee is 98-99% water, so it makes sense that the quality of the water you use will have a significant impact on the coffee’s taste. Dana didn’t realize this, but the place she moved to uses municipal water, which has a heavy chlorine aftertaste. A good rule of thumb is to taste the water you will use to brew separately on its own. How it tastes will play a large role in determining the taste of your coffee. To ensure consistent use of high quality water, we recommend using filtered or purified water. Do NOT use distilled or reverse osmosis water, however, as these have had the majority of minerals stripped away; minerals that are essential to contributing to the coffee’s taste and extraction process. We also recommend brewing with fresh, cold water. Pre-heated water has lost much of the dissolved air that contributes to its taste.
#2 Old Coffee Beans
The best tasting coffee is made from freshly roasted beans. Much of coffee’s flavor is derived from its rich oils. These oils evaporate when exposed to air, so the sooner you brew your coffee after the beans have been roasted, the better your coffee will taste. Pre-ground beans also lack the full presence of the original oils, thereby reducing the quality of taste. Dana prides herself on grinding her own beans, but because of the move, she lost track of her fresh stash and was forced to purchase a bunch of loose coffee beans from the local supermarket. The dispensers in which these beans were kept are not air-proof and unfortunately, the beans were sitting there for weeks. To make sure your whole coffee beans are as fresh as can be, buy smaller quantities and keep them in an airtight container placed in a cool, dry area. Do not make the common mistake of storing your beans in the refrigerator; beans tend to absorb moisture as well as odors and tastes from nearby food.
#3 Unclean Coffee Machine
The most common and often ignored cause of inferior tasting coffee is an unclean brewer. The same oils that contribute to the beautiful rich taste of coffee leave residue and bacteria inside machines after multiple uses. If left uncleaned these oils can go rancid and result in bitter tasting brews. Soap and water will not sufficiently rid your machine of this residue; you will need to use specialty cleaning solutions designed specifically for coffee equipment. Dana knows she needs to clean her machine but she begrudgingly uses vinegar. Unfortunately, aside from the smell, aftertaste, and a lengthy process, vinegar only does part of the job. It descales, or removes limescale buildup from the machine, but does not clean it, or rid the machine of the residue left from coffee oils. (For more on the difference between descaling and cleaning, click here.) Because she dislikes the process of cleaning a coffee maker with vinegar, the last time Dana descaled her machine was about a year ago. And because she is unaware of the need to use specialty solutions to remove the oil residue, she has never truly cleaned it.
So we have learned that Dana faced a “perfect storm” of coffee missteps: her water wasn’t filtered, her beans weren’t fresh, and her coffee maker wasn’t clean. Any one of these things will cause a disappointing coffee experience, but all three?
The good news is that Dana is now aware of everything discussed in this blog. Armed with purified water, freshly roasted beans, and a clean machine, Dana now consistently brews the best tasting coffee. Mornings in her new home are now very much worth getting up for.