Why does my coffee taste different each time I make it, and how do I fix it?
Have you ever wondered how something that you eat or drink on a regular basis always tastes the same each time, even though it has to be continuously grown or processed? Take wine, for example. A vineyard has to grow their grapes each year to produce wine, but they cannot control the weather!
This means that one year it may be extra fruity due to all the good sunshine they had and the following year it may be minerally due to there being more rain, but they still manage to keep a consistent and recognisable taste, year on year.
This is all down to the consistency of their production.
At Two Chimps Coffee, we pride ourselves on professionally roasting our coffee beans perfectly each time. This ensures that not only are you getting fresh coffee, but the taste is awesome! This is important when roasting coffee for several reasons, and I’ll explain why.
We only use speciality coffee which is the highest grade of single origin Arabica bean available. We only use this because we know it’s the best. It has been carefully grown by the farmers – hand picked when the cherries are perfectly ripe. Hand processed by washing or naturally processing. Hand sorted to remove any impurities or defective beans and then graded by certified Q-Graders. As long as it scores 80/100, then it can be called speciality coffee.
We also ethically source our coffee direct from the farm with the help of an importer. This shorter chain means the farmers get more money for their crop.
Because we are using the best, the last thing we want to do is over roast the beans, which would result in giving them a burnt and bitter taste. Instead, we carefully hand roast in small batches because speciality coffee is so full of natural flavours, we want to highlight those flavours, not hide them!
We only ever roast to the first crack and then into the development time of the roast. We never roast toward 2nd crack. 1st crack is when the beans crack and pop as they enter an exothermic reaction. At 2nd crack, the coffee oils head toward the surface, and the coffee works its way towards dark and bitter flavours. We avoid this as we don’t want to burn the beans, losing all the wonderful natural flavours found within speciality coffee.
Our ethos is ‘Fresh is Best’ because we know the freshest coffee is the best coffee, and that is between three and fourteen days after it’s been roasted. We add a roast date to each bag which is so important to us as we want you to know you are receiving the freshest coffee each time. We roast by hand from experience and follow unique logs that we have created for all of our coffees, so we know that every roast of the same coffee is identical to the last.
All these things mean that we are making sure that our coffee is kept consistent, fresh and we’re carrying on the hard work put in by the farmers, to ensure the coffee tastes amazing every time.
Where we differ from that of the wine producer example above is that we never want our coffee to taste the same year on year! This is because we source directly from small farms and cooperatives and when the coffee has gone, it has gone. We then find a fresh coffee to replace it and roast it differently to bring out the flavours of it, rather than trying to make it taste like its predecessor. The notes are always similar, however, just never exactly the same.
Why doesn’t my coffee always taste the same?
So, each batch of the same coffee is roasted to the same standard, but your coffee tastes different each time you make it. The answer to why is down to variables. When you make coffee, if you make it in a different way, it will taste different. Let me explain. If you make a coffee using a paper filter, the paper filter refuses to let the oils enter the cup. This creates a clean, tealike consistency and mouthfeel. Make the same coffee in a cafetiere, and the oils among other things are allowed to enter the cup, creating a thicker, fuller-bodied cup than before. There are several other reasons why your coffee may taste different each time you make it too. Let’s look at these below.
The grind size is fundamentally one of the most important variables to get right when making a coffee, whatever device you’re using. This determines how your coffee will taste, based on the amount of time the coffee spends in contact with the water. It’s really important to know what grind size to use whether you’re using an espresso machine or a cafetiere. For example, an espresso will take only a few seconds to extract as water is forced through it, therefore, to get the correct extraction from your beans, the grind will need to be super fine.
With a cafetiere on the other hand, the coffee brews for much longer than the espresso mentioned above. As a cafetiere brews for many minutes, the grind needs to be much coarser to compensate for the additional length of time. If you grind your beans by hand, once you have found a grind you like for your favourite brew method, stick to it. If you change it each time, your coffee will taste different. Looking for ground coffee? We grind for many different brew devices, all of which are done so consistently on the day of dispatch.
Ratios of coffee to water
This is another variable that is important to get right. When it comes to making coffee, if you make it one day with one spoon of coffee, then with two spoons the following day, unless you add double the water to compensate for double the coffee, it will taste different. This is changing the ratio.
To explain further, a traditional espresso ratio is 1:2. This means that whatever weight of ground coffee goes into the basket, we want double that in liquid to come out. E.g. 18g of ground coffee in, 36g of delicious espresso out. As the coffee styles change, so does the ratio. For instance, we love filter coffee with a ratio of 1:16. This gives a much cleaner and less concentrated cup of coffee.
Don’t worry, however; you don’t have to work it out to the last gram with every device. For instance, one spoon of coffee per mug of water could be your go-to in a cafetiere; that is fine. Just be aware that changing the amount changes the ratio.
If you do want to nail it every time, weigh your desired amount of coffee, then add your desired amount of water to the weight required. As an example, add 20g of coffee to your pour-over, then, keeping your mug and pour-over on the scales, add 320ml of water.
This is the 3rd variable in ensuring you get a consistently great tasting coffee every time. I mentioned it briefly before, but espresso and AeroPress coffees are what we class as pressure coffees, as water is forced through the grinds to extract the coffee. Cafetiere & filter coffees are known to us as gravity brewed coffee devices, where the coffee sits in water for a longer amount of time to extract your coffee, and no force is needed.
Whatever device you use to brew coffee, if the beans are over-extracted, (taken too long to brew) then the coffee will taste burnt. Likewise, if the beans are under-extracted (not taken long enough to brew), then the coffee will taste sour.
With espresso, once you’ve identified which end of the scale your coffee is at, you just need to make a few tweaks to the grind size to hopefully reach the point where your ratio, taste and extraction time is spot on!
With other brew methods, you can change your brew time to suit. For instance, was your cafetiere coffee a little on the overpowering side for you? Reduce the brew time, or remove some coffee. Not intense enough? Leave it for longer, or add more.
Our final point to mention to help keep your coffee consistent is the temperature of the water used. In a nutshell, the hotter the water, the quicker the coffee will extract; but, be careful. If the water is too hot it can damage the coffee, and if it is too cold it will not extract for ages. As a rule, we suggest that you boil the kettle, and, once boiled, leave it for 30 seconds before you use it. Do this every time for boiled water at a consistent temperature.
We want to find the ‘sweet spot’ which is when the coffee has been extracted perfectly. Giving you a deliciously sweet cup of coffee with no sourness or bitterness present. By making a few small changes and ensuring all your variables are working with each other, it shouldn’t be long before you’re drinking the perfect cup of coffee every time!
Sure, this guide isn’t a fix-all; and to be honest, it cant be. Each and every one of us is different, and enjoy our coffee in different ways.
Using the tools above, you can make your coffee perfect for you and consistent every time.
All this reading making you thirsty? Head over to our shop now to buy coffee, freshly roasted coffee. Dispatched the same day if ordered before noon, with fast and free 1st class delivery. Splendid.