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  • Coffee Snobs Home Truths

    After comments in another thread about the quality of advice offered at times I figured it was time we created a list of "Coffee Snobs Home (Barista) Truths" which is the sort of standard FAQs that you often see on other forums advising new people to read before posting the usual questions we get. Perhaps these could be placed in a sticky and Andy puts a link to these in his autogreeting message.

    OK I also know that these are also often not read so someone will ask that question anyway but I thought it might also be useful to hone some of the advice offered so at least its consistent. Even so, it might assist the lurkers who are afraid to ask. I must say that CS is one of the friendliest forums I have ever participated in. Fire extinguishers rarely get a work out - very civilized. Anyway, here goes, feel free to add or correct anything I contribute


    What sort of machine should I buy?
    First you need to tell us a few facts to help us such as your budget, coffee preferences (short or long black, latte, cappuccino, etc), how much coffee you consume daily.

    However, if you are new to the world of coffee, we suggest you spend some time looking through some of the Brewing Equipment threads to get an idea of what others have bought and their experiences.

    If you are still confused then your best bet is to look at the list of sponsors on the left. Many sponsors have a range of coffee equipment set up in their shops. You could look at a range of options and possibly even try out a few. Our sponsors are very experienced and knowledgeable and only too happy to help. And guess what? You may even get a CoffeeSnobs discount on your first purchase.

    How much should I spend on a good espresso maker?
    This is up to you. Espresso machines can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. Having an expensive machine is no guarantee of superior coffee making. You can also get very nice coffee from plunger or filter coffee.

    However, we all agree that your most important purchase could be a coffee grinder. Freshly ground coffee from a good qulaity grinder is more likely to provide a great cup of coffee than using pre-ground coffee.

    What sort of grinder should I buy?

    If you are considering upgrading your current coffee making equipment then a good grinder should be your first consideration as this may improve the coffee produced from your current brewing equipment. Generally speaking buy the best grinder you can afford! Have a look in the Grinder forum for ideas.

    It should be a good quality burr grinder, not the blade kind that may also be used for grinding spice. The type of grinder you buy also depends on how much coffee you intend to make. High volumes of coffee need a grinder that will be able to cope with the work. Our sponsors (listed on the left) will be able to provide you with the correct advice on a range of machines at varying prices.

    Prices can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand but if you are lucky you might get a bargain from the Coffee Hardware for Sale section.

    What is the best coffee to buy?

    Everyone has different tastes so what tastes good to someone may not suit your tastebuds. However, whatever you settle on, it should be freshly roasted. Coffee beans are generally at their best for up to 3 or 4 weeks after they have been roasted. They need to stored properly too.

    Should I store my beans in the fridge or freezer?
    Not recommended. Coffee contains volatile oils which create the flavour. Not storing your beans carefully may reduce or even ruin the flavour. Store your beans in an airtight container kept in a cupboard. Beans are often sold in resealable bags that have a one-way valve. These are also OK to store your beans in. You can also buy containers which allow you to pump out the air.

    Many here roast their own beans.  What should I do when the Home Roasting Bug Bites?
    Home roasting is not for everyone, but the cost savings are substantial not to mention the opportunity of having the freshest beans always on hand for your espresso pleasure.
    Search the Home Roasting threads for ideas to get you started.
    Green Beans are available from Bean Bay.

    (thanks for the tip KK!)

  • #2
    Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

    I dont like the last line about pumping air from containers.
    The rest is all good bar a few typos.
    Example would be "Not storing your beans coffee may reduce or even ruin the flavour" from the last FAQ.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

      Originally posted by Thundergod link=1224157582/0#1 date=1224159993
      I dont like the last line about pumping air from containers.
      Seconded!!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

        Should I store my beans in the fridge or freezer?
        Not recommended. Coffee contains volatile oils which create the flavour. Not storing your beans coffee may reduce or even ruin the flavour. The best place to store your beans is in an airtight container kept in a cupboard. Beans are often sold in resealable bags that have a one-way valve. These are good to store your beans in. You can also buy containers which allow you to pump out the air.
        Once coffee is roasted some very dramatic changes have taken place structurally as well as chemically. Elements in the bean which were safely held in it green state have now become volatile. Some of these will rapidly oxidize once exposed to air. Because of this, folks have come up with all sorts of methods to try to slow the process of oxidation and staling.

        Removing the air from the container is one of the methods mentioned, but it is not effective. It does nothing to stop the chemical process of staling, but also removes the CO2 from around (and in) the beans which helps to isolate the bean from oxygen. Once the container is opened the air rushes in and the beans quickly react to the oxygen. You can test this with Illy canned whole beans which are packed under pressure of nitrogen gas. They taste pretty good the first day the can is opened, but by day three they taste like they are months old... because they are. The chemical changes of the staling process have been going on all the time since the beans were roasted, and the beans, hungry for oxygen, eat it up in a hurry.

        Another mistake is to depend on the one-way valve bags. Why are these in existence? Try this: roast some coffee, seal it in a heavy duty plastic bag (or a vac seal bag which can be sealed air-tight), and place it on a shelf for three or four days. If it doesnt explode on the shelf, you will find it inflated, ready for a football match. I once sent my brother a parcel of five batches of coffee, all sealed in individual vac-sealed bags. When the parcel arrived he told the the box was nearly spherical and ready to burst open from the pressure of the expanding bags inside. Even if heat sealed, once the bag is opened any benefit of the valve is lost because oxygen is introduced and the beans drink it up.

        The only way I have seen that can actually slow or stop the chemical process which causes coffee to stale is to place them in an air-tight container and place them in a deep freeze (the freezer of a home fridge is not cold enough). I forget the actual temperature, but it is well below freezing.

        Solutions:
        - Only have enough roasted coffee on hand for about ten days use
        - Live near a commercial roaster
        - Move next door to me
        - Home roast
        - Learn to enjoy stale coffee

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

          Well it was getting late and these werent intended to be final copy. Can I suggest that rather than debate the truth of these home truths, to provide an alternate. The removing the air part - gone, but sponsors who sell the vacuum containers might differ.

          Randy - Im sure your ideas have merit to ensure the freshest coffee is always on hand but they arent realistic (unless you are earnest about the move next door offer and can come good with a house, job, income, etc : ) but Ive removed the words "The best place to .."

          To make a coffee, would someone have to dig their bag out of the freezer, extract the beans carefully so they dont become in contact with the air, move them to the grinder (hoping they become defrosted in that time) and grind them?

          What I wrote were ideas to educate the newbie Snob who up to now has relied on pre-ground coffee purchased off a supermarket shelf. Most of us would have done that in our pre-Snob days.

          Staling is inevitable. Airtight containers or 1-way valve wont stop your beans from becoming stale but they will slow it down a little. Ive heard varying figures on how long coffee will remain fresh after roasting but the CS standard is around the 3 week mark.

          Meantime, feel free to add your own home truths

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

            flynnaus

            i like what you have written, (good to see the deleted line)

            this is relatively easy to read and understand, without going into the details, and making it more confusing

            at a beginners level this is all they really need to know, and as they progress, increase their knowledge, and yearn for better coffee then they can start digging and asking questions.

            there has been a number of times when people have asked simple questions (as answered in flynns subject) and been bombarded with technical and scientific responses :-? :-?
            this can be scary

            KISS
            keep it simple stupid

            graham

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

              Staling is inevitable. Airtight containers or 1-way valve wont stop your beans from becoming stale but they will slow it down a little. Ive heard varying figures on how long coffee will remain fresh after roasting but the CS standard is around the 3 week mark. Meantime, feel free to add your own home truths
              Three weeks!? I keep my roasted coffee in air-tight mason jar in a dark cabinet. One 300 to 310 gram batch (green weight) fills a liter jar and lasts about 7 to 10 days. At the end of about 10 days, if I have not used the coffee up, the beans are smelling stale and the taste of the espresso indicates that the beans are at the end of their life. 15 day old coffee is thrown out in my home because the taste of the espresso is undesirable. 21 day old roast? Maybe for a benign brewing method like drip, and if the coffee was dark roasted (which I never do), removing more of the volatiles that go stale most easily.

              When freezing coffee it is best to first bag it in three to four day parcels and freeze the bags (jars, whatever). Then remove one the evening before a batch is needed to allow them to reach room temperature before opening. This way condensation will not add moisture to the beans.

              Shelf life of three weeks for fresh-roasted coffee? That is a long time in terms of beans intended to be used for espresso. By day 6 to 8 of my home roast, I can taste the "age" and find that the coffee is about two days from being undesirable.

              One way valves do not stop the chemical process going on in the beans, nor does an air tight jar. Shortly after either of those is opened and oxygen is introduced, you have lost nearly all that you have gained. The canned Illy beans are an excellent example of this, and I am not the only one, by far, to have experienced this.

              I have a magnet out in the garage made to be wrapped around the fuel line of the car, and it is sold with the claim that it improves gas mileage. How about "deer whistles" which claim to lower the possibility of hitting deer with you car? Tests show that the sounds they emit are beyond the range of hearing in deer. Just because it can be purchased does not mean it works.

              So, worst case scenario...? My only choice is to buy a month of twos worth of coffee at a time.... What would I do? I would use Mason jars and fill each as completely as possible to displace as much air as I could. Presuming the coffee is really fresh when i bought it and is still out-gassing a bit, I would leave the lid on a little loose for the first 6 to 12 hours to allow the CO2 to build in the jar to displace a bit more O2, and then seal them tight and place in the coldest place I have (the freezer section of the fridge). I would then take a jar out the evening before I needed more coffee to allow it to reach room temperature before opening.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                Originally posted by Randy G. link=1224157582/0#6 date=1224197327
                Three weeks!? I keep my roasted coffee in air-tight mason jar in a dark cabinet. One 300 to 310 gram batch (green weight) fills a liter jar and lasts about 7 to 10 days.



                When freezing coffee it is best to first bag it in three to four day parcels and freeze the bags (jars, whatever). Then remove one the evening before a batch is needed to allow them to reach room temperature before opening. This way condensation will not add moisture to the beans.
                Sure, but as Graham said this isnt meant to be an advanced guide - just simple answers to simple questions e.g. No, it isnt OK to store your beans in the fridge.
                I never said storing in the airtight container or bag will stop it becoming stale. Your stale beans might still taste fresh to someone who has been storing their old pre-ground beans in the fridge. But Im sure you will agree that the beans will last longer in the bag/container than out of them, or left on the bench.

                Shelf life of three weeks for fresh-roasted coffee? That is a long time in terms of beans intended to be used for espresso.
                Hence the intention of this thread. To sort out the home truths . As mentioned, 3 weeks is a figure that has been quoted many times on CS. It might not apply in the Randy Glass household - fair enough - but once again these are beginner guidelines.

                I have a magnet out in the garage made to be wrapped around the fuel line of the car, and ...etc
                No need for this sort of comment. Nobody is claiming that bags or containers will keep your beans fresh indefinitely. I am happy to add your freezer method to the list but realistically, how many will have a deep freezer? I dont.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                  Good idea in principal but you have ommited a large slab of manual gear. Zass or other conical hand grinders are great on a budget. Also Aeropress, Syphon, Plunger, Drip Filter, Stovetops and Presso derserve a mention as it is the BEAN that counts . Good well ground beans in a plunger at the corect temp. make a HUGE improvement over purcolated stupormarket.

                  As you said it does not need to be exact into the nth degree of snobbishness just a how to start and some basic "Coffee Mythconceptions & Basics" (tm beanflying  : ) that are common questions.

                  Any longer than a page and you will loose people too. Should be emailed to all newbies when they join too ?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                    Youre welcome to submit an FAQ along these lines BF. I was envisaging a locked post or topic somewhere on CS but unless it gets the go-ahead from Andy and/or the mods, there proably isnt much point in pursuing along these lines.

                    The alternative is just to settle on what are the real home truths. Many of these have been argued over( e.g. coffee storage) but it would be good to have a simple and safe answer.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                      Flynn,

                      if you are trying to set this up as a first post to read then you NEED to have manual brewers included as good alternatives. Most people coming to this site already have one or more of these and are not nessecerily looking to spend $500-3k to get better coffee straight away. 2/3 of my coffees each week are manual and in some ways they are better than machine made (happy to debate this elsewhere )!

                      Coffee storage is real simple Andys rule of 3 from memory. 3 weeks for beans in bag, 3 hours in the hopper, 3 minutes when ground. Actually thinking about it it might have been 3 years for Green?

                      Needs to be
                      Start with good fresh beans and how to keep them.
                      Grind them well with a Non Blade Grinder either Conical or Flat Burr manual or electric
                      Process - Manual options but certainly not how to use them but mentioning that water just off the boil produces the best results and the different types.
                      - Espresso Machines (what you have above is fine)
                      Roasting - as above is fine

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                        A valiant attempt; lets put some stuff out there and see what feedback we get.

                        Regarding freshness, I think that its a bit of a mistake to state what works for you and presume that it is a golden standard.  If you buy and try coffee widely, you will see that the optimum period for consumption varies.  At the extremes, I have had nitrogen flushed coffee that was five or six weeks old and performed pretty well.  I have also had coffee that pulled fairly decent espresso two days out of the roaster.  From what I have tasted, coffee roasted for non-espresso brewing doesnt benefit from resting periods in the same way as espresso does.

                        Ill take a go at rewriting the freshness paragraph and everyone can critique it to try and arrive at something thats worthy of being posted:

                        "Everyone has different tastes so what tastes good to someone may not suit your tastebuds.  

                        Whatever coffee you decide to buy, it should be fresh whole beans that you grind at home.  For espresso, roasted coffee needs to rest after it has been roasted.  Coffee that has not rested long enough can produce espresso that is thin and acidic, with crema that rapidly dissipates to half the volume that was originally extracted.  The length of this resting period varies:  

                        For home roasted coffee and coffee sold in unsealed paper bags, the resting period is generally a few days to a week.  

                        For some commercially roasted coffee sealed in bags with one way valves, a resting period of a few weeks is optimum.  

                        Coffee sealed in one way valve bags and flushed with nitrogen is rare on the Australian market, but coffee packaged using this method can sometimes rest for up to six weeks before consumption.  

                        If in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to try to consume coffee within three weeks of the day that it was roasted on and within a week of opening the packaging that it is sealed in.  Of course, this implies that you know the roast date.  Coffee sold in the supermarket often does not have a roast date on it and the logistics of stocking and running a supermarket mean that they are unlikely to stock fresh coffee.  Similarly, it is very difficult to transport coffee roasted in Italy to Australia quickly enough to sell it freshly.  You are most likely to be able to obtain freshly roasted coffee directly from coffee roasteries or by roasting your own at home.  Specialty coffee roasters are usually more than happy to answer any questions that you might have about their coffee and how fresh it is.

                        Finally, if it is at all possible, you should grind your own coffee at home.  Ground coffee has a surface area to volume ratio many orders of magnitude higher than whole coffee beans.  This means that much more of it is exposed to oxygen and air, accelerating the physical and chemical processes involved in staling.  In practical terms, this means that if you buy preground coffee it is likely to be fresh for a few days, at best. "

                        Regarding brewing methods, I love the idea of giving newbies an overview of everything that is available - comments on this are welcome:

                        "How should I brew my coffee?

                        Australia is almost unique in the world in that almost 100% of coffee beverages sold are espresso-based.  That said, there are a number of ways of brewing coffee, each of which produce a different result and have their own advantages and disadvantages.  All of these brewing methods have several things in common; it is important to use fresh coffee, to grind it yourself and to keep your equipment clean.

                        Espresso:  Espresso is the most unique of all of the brewing methods.  Water is forced over ground coffee at approximately 9 bars of pressure to produce a very small, concentrated and viscous beverage topped by a distinctive foam called crema. It is difficult to make anything similar to a milk based espresso beverage using other brewing methods because of the concentration of the espresso base and the steaming of the milk. In general, espresso requires a slightly darker roast than most other brewing methods. Espresso based beverages are arguably the most difficult to produce and certainly require the most expensive equipment.

                        Cupping: Cupping is the polar opposite of espresso in terms of simplicity, results, roast level and purpose. Cupping is used by roasters as a quality assurance technique and involves steeping ground coffee, usually of a light roast, in hot water for several minutes. The ground coffee floats to the top, forming a crust. After several minutes, the crust is broken with a spoon, releasing a puff of aroma and floating ground coffee and foam is skimmed. The cupper then slurps the coffee with a spoon as the cup cools. This technique is not used to produce coffee to drink, but, rather, as a method to ensure consistency. Nonetheless, it is very easy and requires no specialised equipment, so if you are interested in coffee, it is worthwhile giving it a go."

                        TBC

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                          Brewing methods continued ...

                          "Filter/Drip: Filter coffee produces a light bodied, clean and watery cup that tends to be higher in acidity than espresso. Depending on whether paper or mesh filters are used, the resultant brew can be crystal clear or slightly cloudy. Automated filter brewers range from cheap domestic brewers that usually have a ten cup capacity to expensive commercial brewers capable of brewing many litres. Overseas, it is reported that some domestic brewers do not adequately heat water. Manual pourover brewers are cheaply available. These are essentially a plastic or porcelain cone that holds a filter above a cup or jug. Water is poured over the brewer from a kettle and it is easy to obtain the right temperature. All filter brewers require a filter of some sort. Mesh filters must be washed and re-used, whereas paper filters must be wet before use and are disposed of after use. Filter brewing can be very cheap, quick and easy to clean up after.

                          French Press/Plunger: Plunger coffee produces a similar cup to filter, albeit often with heavier body and more sediment in the bottom of the cup and some claim that plunger coffee is more bitter than filter coffee. These apparatus are very common throughout Australia. Ground coffee is added to a vessel and topped up with hot water. The coffee is allowed to steep and a mesh filter - the plunger - is pushed to the bottom of the vessel to retain the ground coffee in the bottom whilst the beverage is poured out. Plungers are widely available at a reasonable price. The filter on the plunger accumulates ground coffee and oils surprisingly rapidly, so care should be taken to keep it clean.

                          Siphon/Clover: Siphon coffee is similar to filter, but the brewing process gives the user more control. Siphon brewers are popular in Japan and just beginning to show up in Australia. These brewers comprise a bottom globe, a top chamber, a filter, a stand and a heat source. The stand holds the bottom chamber, to which hot water is added. The filter is fitted to the top chamber and slotted into the globe. Heat is applied to the globe, creating steam and forcing the water into the top chamber, at which point ground coffee is added and the mixture is stirred. When the user removes the heat source, the globe cools, forming a vacuum that sucks the liquid from the top chamber, through the filter, leaving the user with brewed coffee in the globe and spent ground coffee in the top chamber. Youtube up a video; it will make more sense then! The siphon brewer limits the water temperature in the top chamber so that the water is unlikely to be too hot for the coffee and the user is able to control the steep time and, if desired, the brew temperature. Siphon enthusiasts often claim that siphon brewers produce the ultimate cup of brewed coffee. Siphon brewers are often expensive, are fragile, have many parts and are difficult to clean, particularly if they use a cloth filter. The alcohol stove commonly provided with siphon brewers is usually not capable of producing much heat; small aftermarket butane burners make the process much easier. The clover coffee brewer is essentially a large, automated siphon intended for commercial use in cafes. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of the clover has been acquired by starbucks and now only provides machines to that company."

                          TBC; others are welcome to pick up where I left off and to criticise and tear apart ...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                            Good to see youre working hard on your law degree there Luca hahaha.

                            Ill read it in its entirety soon, not sure Ill be tearing much apart though.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Coffee Snobs Home Truths

                              Heaps of info there Luca, could you or someone else  possibly add stovetop  to the list cause thats where I started, at the tender age of about 10.
                              Good thing about spending many of my younger years growing in and around Carlton.

                              Comment

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