How seriously does your local cafe take their coffee? They will all tell you that they do but is there a way of knowing before you've even tasted it? Is there a way you can tell when you walk in even if you've never been there before?
There are so many tell tale signs that one can look for when entering a cafe for the first time that will tell you how seriously the venue takes their coffee. Here is a list that will help...
* Check the bean hopper on the coffee grinder. If you can see oil stains throughout the inside of the hopper then this is indicative of the cleanliness of the rest of the coffee section if not the entire cafe. Like any oils, over time, they go rancid and I can tell you that the taste is somewhat disturbing. Fresh coffee passing through rancid oil is not the most appealing.
* Check which milk variety they use. Are they using a 'no name' brand milk? If so, the milk is clearly unimportant. Are they using a modified milk to assist in frothing? When steaming milk we are looking for texture not froth. You can tell a lot about the the standard of coffee being served by the brand of milk being used. Here in Melbourne, look for Jonesy's, Riverina or Pro Cal. Check out our blog on 'milk'.
* Watch the barista. Is he/she cleaning the group handle each and every time before adding fresh coffee? You wouldn't cook food in a dirty frying pan nor would you serve food on a dirty plate (or at least I hope not) so why would a barista extract fresh coffee through a dirty group handle?
* If you can get into a position to see the coffee extracting or at least see the light on the extracting button, count the time it takes to extract the coffee or until the light turns off. If you count to somewhere in the vicinity of 25-30 seconds you're at least on the right path (assuming the correct volume of coffee is being extracted). If it takes 10 seconds or you're still counting towards 1 minute, you might want to think about drinking coffee elsewhere.
* What size 'take away' cups are they using? Everyone has they're ideas on this one and believe me, I understand the argument of 'horses for courses' but let me just say that the very best cafes that serve the very best coffee won't serve coffee in 16oz buckets. Enough said.
* The discerning coffee drinker will drink coffee that is 'coffee flavoured'. Not flavoured with vanilla, hazelnut or caramel. Those flavours are used to make milk shakes and desserts. The better cafes that take their coffee seriously won't have flavours on offer.
Next time you walk into a cafe for the first time, look for these few things.