When it comes to coffee, the misperception that can often be made, that it is just a hot drink! Have you wondered why a Latte taste different from a Cappuccino? Why it is that you might have noticed a different taste compared to the last time when you had a perfect cup on the previous day. This all has to do with the science and consistency behind coffee.
Let me use this opportunity to express on the nature and the dynamics behind coffee.
Don’t make the assumption that coffee is just how it is made at home, adding a few substances together. No, the coffee you buy at your favourite café is a bit more complex than just adding hot water and milk into a cup.
I had the experience of opening a coffee shop with my friend, this in result made me do a lot of research relating to coffee, below I will explain to you based on the theory as well as the physical understanding, and why you need to know your coffee like you know your ABC.
Don’t be fooled
One should not just look at the fancy latte art and nice foam but more specifically at what went into making the cup of coffee you are having. The barista who prepares it has a very important role, he needs to get the right temperature, dose, and distribution. If a shot is out of the parameters of extraction, this then results in what we often call, a bad coffee day.
Have you paid careful attention, when a barista prepares your cup of coffee? If not, I would recommend you to do that from now.
How it’s made
This is what usually happens, your barista freshly grinds the beans from a grinder, the coarser or finer coffee determines how the shot will be extracted. If the barista gets this wrong it will be inconsistent aka bad coffee.
He cleans out the portafilter, dose the coffee into it than lastly makes sure it is distributed evenly. If it’s not evenly, cracks form in the dose and the shot runs through too quickly, resulting in you not getting the most of that dose, but rather hot water mixed with some coffee.
Why is it important to carefully be aware of this?
This process all forms the basis of your Latte, Cappuccino or any other of your favourite cups you often enjoy.
During the coffee shop set-up experience, when I installed the machine and finally had the liberty of trying it out, my main aim was that I had to find the consistency. After many trials and experiments, I have discovered the following.
After my experience
At first, I didn’t understand why temperature plays an important role in making coffee. Trust me, if it’s the wrong temperature, you might as well throw that cup away. Some cafés are precautious and end up using a thermometer because they understand the term overheating. If you receive your cup from your favourite café and it is hot, to the point that it is burning your hand. You might want to look for a new favourite spot…
Hot coffee is the reason why your coffee tastes bitter because steaming milk over the temperature limits the sweetness of the milk.
Which brings me to my last observation. The reason why coffees taste different?
Although all coffee has an expresso as a basis, what brings out the different flavours and tastes is how the milk was steamed. The smooth creamy textured without visible bubbles at a pleasant temperature is the desired milk you want with your coffee. Milk has different composition i.e. Flat White has micro-foam whilst Latte is foamier.
Once again, this process involves a complex science, however, what you need to carefully watch out for is the bubbles. If your cup consists out of a lot of bubbles, this will be a bitter taste. There is nothing as frustrating as having bitter coffee, no matter how much sugar you add, the sugar can ultimately never fix bitter coffee.
Each cup whether it is a Latte, Flat white, Cappuccino or Mocha, it all has a unique taste to it because of the temperature of the milk, the texture as well as the composition, thanks to science this all results in different flavours.
Be coffee smart
The next time you visit your spot, take careful note at what the barista do, the temperature of your cup as well as the taste, if you can pay careful attention to this you can easily pick up whether the coffee you drink is consistent or whether the barista is just not getting the recipe right.
From most of the cafés I visited, my attention to carefully examining the process as well as the taste has allowed me to know over the years when it is time for me to find a new café.
There is nothing as unpleasant as drinking a bad cup and not understanding why it’s like that. So many people think it is just about drinking a hot beverage but let me get it clear that there is a lot of science and careful barista skill that goes into every cup you drink, to specifically make it enjoyable for you.
Read more about my experiences: Coffee shop start-up