Like never before, the modern Australian coffee drinker is a fickle beast. Our baristas are considered world class and our coffee culture is as demanding and judgmental as anywhere in the world. We’ve become a nation of ‘coffee connoisseurs’ with approximately 10.4 million Australians (56% of the population aged 14+) consuming coffee in an average week. For many of us, it's an immense help, getting us through the work week.
But how many of us really know our stuff when it comes to coffee?
According to Dino Demetriou, barista trainer of eight years for coffee giant Cafe2U, there are five key elements to creating the perfect espresso (given espresso is the foundation for any coffee).
Firstly you need your foundations in place, according to Demetriou:
A good blend – “there are so many things that can affect a good blend. Storage, light, heat and freshness are all factors that can compromise the quality.”
The right grinder – “if the blades in your grinder aren’t sharp it will lead to burnt coffee.”
A well-oiled espresso machine – “a maintained machine will operate at its best and go the distance. This includes regular cleaning and not jamming the machine with coffee.”
Water quality –“the better the water, the better the espresso. For example, in SA the water is slightly harsher, resulting in different coffee taste.”
A great barista – “all the aforementioned factors can be perfect, but if you don’t have a good barista it doesn’t count for much.”
“The surprising thing about coffee is that it can look incredible but taste terrible. Trust your nose rather than eyes when judging a coffee.
Demetriou revealed how to separate a great espresso from merely a good one:
Aroma – “exhale, put your nose to the cup and inhale deeply. Take time to smell the coffee and allow your nose to adjust. Smell should correlate to the taste, so if it smells burnt or rubbery, chances are what you’re sipping on won’t taste good. The coffee should smell deep, rich and pleasant.”
Sip – “after smelling the coffee, exhale and take a small sip. Let the espresso run from the front to the back of your tongue and swish it around. It may take a few sips to take in the full flavor.”
Taste – “An espresso is a very strong beverage, so for a first timer it can be an intense experience. Remember that the taste of coffee can change, and your focus should be on how it ends tasting in your mouth, although a good initial taste is important too! Try to gauge the other elements beyond the ‘coffee’ taste. Is it spicy, fruity, earthy, or a different flavor? Is it intense, subtle, delicious or awful? As the coffee glides over your tongue, different areas will be sensitive to different flavors.”
Feel – “your coffee should feel thick, heavy, luxurious and smooth, and something you want swish around in your mouth. A thin, watery coffee leaves little to be desired.”
After taste – “a good espresso should linger pleasantly on the taste buds for a good ten to twenty minutes. If your mouth tastes bitter, acidic or unpleasant, it’s time for a new barista.”