You’re not entirely sure why you love coffee, but you do. Everywhere you go, you order coffee. But in many places that serve it, it doesn’t taste good. So to prevent yourself from spending money on bad coffee, take note of these “coffee crimes.”
Coffee Crime #1: Sitting pots
Coffeemakers are a wonderful invention. Elegantly designed, the underpowered plastic machine flash-heats water, shuttles it to an internal shower screen, then lets it drip onto the coffee. But there is one misfit to the entire machine: the heating pan at the bottom of the carafe.
The heating pan can keep the coffee hot from five minutes to five hours, so some establishments just let the coffee sit there. But if coffee is left on it for a long time, it would taste so sour it would make you cringe. The dissolved sweet acids (like those in apples) would’ve had degraded to flatness.
So in a restaurant, if you spot coffee sitting in a pot on a heating pan, you can bet the coffee has been there for some time already, so it doesn’t taste good. Coffee is meant to be brewed and consumed fresh, as apples are best freshly sliced.
COFFEE CRIME #2: Pre-ground coffee
Coffee, after grinding, loses its freshness fast. Is there a grinder in the restaurant? Try to spot it. Ideally, you should see or hear the barista grind the coffee before scooping it into a coffee machine. But if there isn’t any grinding, then your coffee isn’t of the best quality.
There is a world of difference between just-ground coffee and coffee ground 15 minutes ago. While there is a slew of patents for the packaging and preservation of pre-ground coffee, this is not something a restaurant can offer its customers when the can has been opened. Whether industry standard or home standard, there is only one standard to coffee and that is to be freshly ground, freshly brewed, and delicious. If apples are best freshly sliced, you don’t slice them all at once, right?
COFFEE CRIME #3: Shiny and oily beans
If you have the chance, take a good look at the coffee beans in the grinder. Are they shiny or oily? If they are, it means that the beans are a fairly recent dark roast or an old rancid batch!
Coffee beans are popularly brought up to a dark roast—a point at which its oils begin to seep out onto the surface, giving a shiny appearance. Its taste would be toasty, bold, and bitter, which is the popular partner to cream. But the oils betray the dark roast coffee. Oxidation and microbial contamination thanks to the oils make a bad cup.
COFFEE CRIME #4: Runny espresso
Of all the coffee crimes possible, runny espresso is the WORST. Espresso is the building block of excellent lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos. So when it’s carelessly prepared, the quality of all those other drinks drop.
So keep an eye on the espresso flow. A good espresso starts with slow, succulent droplets, followed by a breath-taking ooze. It doesn’t taste bitter at all, but wildly complex like a Picasso.
What if the espresso flowed quickly, like an open tap? It would be sour. Thin. Displeasing. Your latte? Botched. For sure, it would not be as good as those chocolatey lattes. A runny espresso is symptomatic of unskilled coffee practice within the establishment, and is the final nail on a bad cup’s coffin. If you see a runny espresso, you’re better off canceling your order.
Congratulations, CG! You’re now a coffee detective. You have finally solved the mysteries of bad coffee. You no longer have to painfully slurp a cup of sour, rancid coffee, which no one really likes anyway. You and I should only drink good coffee, which is freshly ground, freshly brewed, and excellently prepared.