I never knew much about coffee growing up. My mom drank instant decaf. My Grandparents drank dark Cuban syrup. My university made cheap sweet cappuccino. My work place made burnt coffee machine motor oil. Yet through all of this, coffee still symbolized the high life of Parisian cafes, or the intellectual underground sitting around discussing the meaning of life, or even just sitting back and taking a small break from the rush of life. Why would something that tasted so gross have all these images?
It wasn’t until we moved to Edinburgh and floated from hotel to hostel to dorm to flat to find a place to live that we regular hung out at Starbucks. Kerry and I had taken dates to coffee shops before, but for some reason we started to wonder “what is the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?” or “why doesn’t this coffee taste burnt?” We also noticed our friends here did not use coffee machines but French presses instead. What was the difference? What is a good cup of coffee supposed to taste like?
It is questions like these that made use do some serious research. We learned a lot and I would suggest you do the research for yourself too, but I will summarize our conclusions.
A good cup of coffee should have flavor in the beans themselves. You shouldn’t have to add syrup to get flavor unless you want to just play around. There are roasts from all over the world with unique flavors and some blends of coffee are excellent as well… if you don’t ruin them. The “correct” coffee type or blend is really up to taste. Some are sweeter than others. Some have a more chocolate taste. Some are lighter. Some are darker. But ruined coffee is just bitter and burnt.
Most coffee is either burned by water that is too hot, burnt by a hot plate on a coffee machine, or over extracted by a french press. (I can’t say much about espresso because I haven’t developed the taste for it yet) The best cup of coffee I have had so far is from a couple of tablespoons of freshly ground coffee beans placed into a french press with water just under boiling temperature for 3.5 minutes. Pour and serve. That’s it. Add milk and sugar if you want, but this is true coffee with flavor. Once you’ve tasted it, you’ll understand what the romance is all about!