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Things to Look for in a Great Cup of Coffee

by Keeta B. Photography FriedChillies on Wed, March 18, 2009

Are you the sort of person who just drinks whatever is served? Do you know there are a few simple things to look for to enhance your coffee experience? Well former barista, Keeta gives you 5 tips to ensure your coffee is up to scratch

1st Coffee Commandment: All coffees are not created equal

Think all coffees are created equal? Think again. It has taken mankind many, many years to perfect the highly-regarded cup of coffee, once a humble bean that has now morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry. With so many coffee shops boasting various types of coffee, how do we know which are the best ones?

You might not be an aficionado but knowing what to expect from a good cup of coffee will certainly enhance your coffee experience. Here are 5 of our favourite tips on how to judge a cup of coffee.

The 10 second Rule
Ever seen that big coffee machine that produces shots of thick black coffee that gets poured into your coffee based drinks? It's called an espresso machine.
Espresso is made from a blend of coffees brewed under great pressure, using a large amount of coffee and a small amount of water. Espresso is dense and intense and is used as a base for most of your favourite coffee drinks like Lattes, Cappuccinos, Mochas and so on. Once an Espresso shot has been brewed, it only lasts for 10 seconds if it is not poured straight into your drink, so if you are standing in line waiting for your Latte and you see that the Barista has left your espresso shot for a long time after it is brewed and then pours it into your coffee, demand a fresh one. An expired espresso shot is definitely not worth paying for.

The Scent
A good cup of coffee gives a pleasant, satisfying scent, so trust your nose when it comes to assessing your cup of coffee. If you detect a slightly burnt, onion-y or a somewhat vegetable-y scent, that means it's probably badly brewed coffee, or has been sitting on a burner all day.

The Taste
Good coffee should always have an underlying sweetness to it. This comes from the coffee cherry's ripeness. If your coffee tastes salty instead, that's a bad sign. Salty tasting coffee is usually caused by processing defects.

The Roast
The jury is out on this one, some prefer light, some medium, some argue that coffee is not really coffee unless it is dark roasted coffee. Whatever your preference, it should never taste burnt. If you detect a burnt quality in your coffee, it may be a bad roast.

The Texture
A good cup of coffee is always rich and a little thick, never watery. It is full-bodied and satisfying down to the last drop. The last lingering taste that you should experience is a smooth, sweet after taste.

Know Your Coffee Lingo

Ever wanted to order more than a just a cappuccino but stumped by all the Italian coffee names? Here's a short list to help you keep your cool the next time you find yourself at a coffee chain counter.

Affogato (means"drowned"): Espresso served over ice-cream, or gelato, usually vanilla

Americano (means"American"): Espresso and hot water, basically strong black coffee.

Cappuccino (named after the resemblance of the frothy top to the hoods of the Italian Catholic Capuchin monks):Traditionally, one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third milk foam. Sometimes topped (upon request) with a light dusting of cocoa powder.

Doppio (means "Double") : A double shot of espresso.

Espresso con Panna (means "espresso with cream"): Espresso with whipped cream on top.

Latte (means "milk"): This term is an abbreviation of "caffellatte" (or "caffè e latte"), coffee with milk. An espresso based drink with a volume of steamed milk, served with a thin layer of foam.

Latte macchiato (means "stained milk"): Essentially an inverted cafè latte, with the espresso poured on top of the milk.

Mocha (named 'Mocha' because it is associated with the original Mocha bean that had a “chocolate-y taste) : Normally, a latte blended with chocolate.

Frappe
(means “milkshake”) : Usually called Frappacino – as in “Coffee Milkshake” – A shot of Espresso mixed with chocolate or other ingredients and blended with ice.

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