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Five ludicrously common coffee mistakes (and how not to make them)

by Adam Jenkins on April 26, 2018

Mistakes. We all make them.

Some are small - like going to meet your new girl/boyfriend’s parents and only realizing when you get there that you’re completely nude except for your socks. Some are much bigger, like going out to buy a coffee grinder and coming home with a bladed one rather than a conical burr grinder. CALAMITY.

This is precisely the sort of mistake we must all aim to eradicate. (I’m sure we can all agree there’s absolutely nothing big or clever about under or overexposed coffee).

We’ve put together this completely unexhaustive but helpful list of extremely common cock-ups to avoid. So, in no particular order, let’s get down to it with our first mistake:

#1 Doing things in no particular order

Five ludicrously common coffee mistakes and how not to make them losing your head

Losing your head when brewing is probably the best way to end up in a good old-fashioned pickle. Be methodical. Get your equipment out before getting going. I think we can all agree there’s nothing very dignified about a person tearing around a kitchen frantically opening and slamming the same cupboards screaming “but it was here yesterday!!”. Well it’s not there today, is it!? Plan ahead, have things to hand. Enjoy lovely coffee in a composed, unflustered condition.

#2 Taking a dangerously sharp knife to it

Taking a sharp knife to it

This refers to using a bladed grinder. If you were reading carefully, there’s a chance you’ll recall this very thing was used as an example in the opening paragraph.

Anyway, to brew coffee that all brews at the same rate you need individual grains that are a uniform size. Random sized pieces will make your brew either sour or bitter. Perfectly ok if you’re trying to grow a prize-winning lemon at the county fair but a definite balls-up in the coffee game.

A burr grinder forces the coffee between two sharp edges set a fixed distance apart. That means the grounds need to be that size before they fall through and all come out a similar size. So grind fresh and buy burred.

#3 Buying huge bags of coffee to save time and money

Five ludicrously common coffee mistakes and how not to make them - supermarket

Supermarkets want us to buy ‘value packs’ because it saves them time and effort that I won’t bore you with but probably has something to do with barcodes. Bulk-buying is a real godsend when it comes to family staples like laundry detergent, toilet roll, gravel and crude oil. But coffee does not belong in this category. If it’s stored right, after roasting it peaks in quality after about 7-14 days and starts going downhill after that.

So buy little and often. Ideally from a local roaster who you can ask questions and who you will eventually get to know and share a joke with and possibly even spend some time with in social situations and before you really know it, one thing leads to another and you’ve had one too many espresso Martini’s and everything’s all warm and fuzzy and your eyes lock and...wait. Just don’t buy loads of coffee at once, ok?

Oh, and keep it somewhere suitable. Like one of our canisters that let CO2 escape and keep nasty stuff like air and moisture out. Air and moisture actually hate you will make your coffee to taste like crap if you give them half a chance.

#4 Guessing weights and measures

Five ludicrously common coffee mistakes and how not to make them - piglet

We all know how hard it is to guess the weight of something. Cast your mind back to that time when you tried to guess the weight of a micro-piglet at the local farmers market. And you got it right. And you took the micro-piglet home except it wasn’t a micro-piglet it was just a normal pig. And it grew and grew and grew and then you had to move out because it started hogging the sofa, stealing the TV remote and eating all your breakfast cereal.

Ok, that was a bad example, anyone can get lucky with a farmyard animal once in a while. The point is, guessing the weight of coffee is even harder than guessing the weight of piglets. So refer to a brewing chart, and get yourself a nice, sexy, accurate set of scales that are designed for the job. Your taste buds will definitely thank you for it.

#5 Boiling water

Five ludicrously common coffee mistakes and how not to make them - lobster

In some ways, coffee is like lobsters. The last thing coffee and lobsters both want is to be thrown heartlessly into boiling water. But sadly this is exactly what happens thousands of times every single day.

Whereas lobsters scream to let you know how much they don’t appreciate it, coffee doesn’t have that option. What it will do is punish you from beyond the grave with a cup of scorched, burnt-tasting rubbish. If coffee could talk, it would tell you to brew it between 195 F (91 C) and 205 F (96 C) to get the best out of it. (Of course, it might alternatively say to just leave it alone on the tree it grew on in Bolivia - it was quite happy there, thanks).

Hint: Our gooseneck kettles have built-in thermometers to make getting optimal temperature, dream coffee a breeze.

So there we have it. Five calamitous coffee mistakes successfully swerved. Speak soon!

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