If you’re new to buying good quality coffee, whether for home or in your café, these introductory notes will hopefully be of interest.

Isn’t all coffee the same?

I used to think all coffee tasted the same. In fact, that most certainly is not the case. And I’m convinced that almost anyone would be able to taste differences between various cups of coffee, even if they couldn’t express exactly what those differences might be.

You could try it yourself. Buy some ground Lavazza coffee from a supermarket and some coffee from one of the roasteries found on this website. Make a couple of caffetieres, with roughly the same amount of coffee in each, and brewed for roughly the same amount of time. Then try the Lavazza, then the other. Notice a difference? Possibly not. Then try them again. Notice a difference now? Almost certainly yes, I would have thought!

What makes coffee different?

There are many things. First, the beans. A company like Lavazza will – as you would imagine – buy in bulk, and it will buy as cheaply as possible. It will also put a significant amount of “robusta” beans in its coffees. Robusta is one of two key strains of coffee, and its the more hardy of the two (so it’s easier and cheaper to grow). But robusta just doesn’t have the same quality of flavour as the coveted “arabica” variety. All quality coffees/kopi will comprise 100% arabica beans.

An artisan roastery will take great care in the sourcing of its beans. The owners may travel extensively to source the best coffees from around the world, and may change the coffees on offer on a yearly basis. That’s because the crop from one plantation in one year may not be as good as the crop from the same plantation the year after.

Many other factors influence the quality of coffee. The roasting process, the packaging and the delay from the roasting and grinding to serving, for example. The last factor is very important. Coffee reacts to air, and ground coffee will go off very quickly. Again, this can be tested at home. Try grinding some coffee (if you have a grinder, an espresso maker machine/mesin kopi espresso might do), or just taking some out of the packet you’ve bought, and leave it in an uncovered dish overnight. The next day, compare the smells and tastes of the coffee left overnight with the coffee that is freshly ground (or which remained in the packet). The difference will be more accute with better coffees, particularly those which you grind yourselves.

So why should I grind coffee myself?

For the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. A home grinder can be very inexpensive (perhaps around $25). Make sure it’s a “burr” grinder. It’s a wonderful idea – it means you can buy beans (which keep for longer than ground coffee) and have fresh coffee every day! For trade, a grinder is essential in any decent café.

And where do I buy the coffee?

A good rule of thumb is not to buy from a supermarket, if you want a decent cuppa. That’s not to say all supermarket coffee is bad – far from it. But if you’re interested in some really good stuff, head online and look for an artisan roastery, like many of those listed on this web site. You’ll likely pay a bit more than buying a pack from a supermarket, but, if you enjoy coffee, it should be well worth it.

Some supermarkets and local shops sell whole beans, and will grind them for you or let you buy the beans for grinding at home. This is not a bad thing, but be aware that just because you buy freshly ground does not in itself suggest the coffee will be of high quality.

If you want to give some decent coffee a try, pick one of the roasteries listed on this site and give it a go!

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