Coffee is unique among artisanal beverages in that the brewer plays a significant role in its quality at the point of consumption. In contrast, drinkers buy draft beer and wine as finished products; their only consumer-controlled variable is the temperature at which they drink them.
Why is it that coffee produced by a barista at a cafe always tastes different than the same beans brewed at home?
It may be down to their years of training, but more likely it’s their ability to harness the principles of chemistry and physics.
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Even if you can optimize your brew method and apparatus to precisely mimic your favourite barista, there is still a near-certain chance that your home brew will taste different from the cafe’s.
There are three subtleties that have a tremendous impact on the coffee quality: water che...
We humans seem to like drinks that contain coffee constituents (organic acids, Maillard products, esters and heterocycles, to name a few) at 1.2 to 1.5 percent by mass (as in filter coffee), and also favour drinks containing 8 to 10 percent by mass (as in espresso).
There are two families of brewing devices within the low-concentration methods – those that fully immerse the coffee in the brewing water and those that flow the water through the coffee bed.
From a physical perspective, the major difference is that the temperature of the coffee particulate...
There are many ways, though, to achieve a drink containing 1.2 to 1.5 percent coffee. A pour-over, Turkish, Arabic, Aeropress, French press, siphon or batch brew (that is, regular drip) apparatus – each produces coffee that tastes good around these concentrations. These brew methods also boast an...
Every coffee enthusiast will rightly tell you that blade grinders are disfavored because they produce a seemingly random particle size distribution; there can be both powder and essentially whole coffee beans coexisting. The alternative, a burr grinder, features two pieces of metal with teeth tha...
Pour-overs and other flow-through systems are more complex. Unlike full immersion methods where time is controlled, flow-through brew times depend on the grind size since the grounds control the flow rate.
The water-to-coffee ratio matters, too, in the brew time. Simply grinding finer to in...
Given coffee is an acidic beverage, the acidity of your brew water can have a big effect. Brew water containing low levels of both calcium ions and bicarbonate (HCO₃⁻) – that is, soft water – will result in a highly acidic cup, sometimes described as sour. Brew water containing high levels of HC...
So don’t feel bad that your carefully brewed cup of coffee at home never stacks up to what you buy at the café. There are a lot of variables – scientific and otherwise – that must be wrangled to produce a single superlative cup. Take comfort that most of these variables are not optimized by some ...
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