In creating this post I know I’m probably going to sound slightly like a fascist, but I’m going to approach the ‘elephant in the room’: temperature.
The coffee industry, for the last ten years or so, has been accelerating at a phenomenal rate. You may not realise this walking into your nearest chain, but people directly involved in the learning process of the coffee industry (at an independent level) are constantly looking for more information to educate the customer – one thing that is paramount in the craft of coffee. If you don’t inform the customer as you move along, then you risk alienating them, and they won’t understand why you’ve changed and why you do the things that you do.
One of the biggest problems that stunts the growth of the Coffee Industry is the Americanisation of coffee ordering. For years, as customers, we have been told various conflicting ways of consuming coffee and people have used misplaced words such as ‘strong coffee’ to explain the boldness of a brew, and words like ‘foamy’ being used to denote stretched milk. This being none of the customers fault, it’s just a lack of knowledge that’s been paraded around as loose knowledge with generic words.
The truth about coffee is that the temperature of every single component affects the way that it tastes. The process of making a coffee in itself is a course of deterioration from bean to cup, but some Baristas can limit the deterioration through proper use of equipment, knowledge and skill. Think of the most commonly ordered drink in most coffee shops: a Latte. First of all the espresso needs to be extracted in accordance within the parameters of what the Barista has deemed optimal extraction. We have been recently using Union Colombian Asprotimana which I have personally been pulling as quite a tight shot at around 91 degrees. Pulling the shot as a tight extraction at a slightly lowered temperature to me really makes it burst in your mouth and highlights the sour apple-like acidity. If you have pulled a good shot you then need to ensure that your milk is stretched to the correct temperature of 65 degrees. This is the optimal temperature for milk, as when it becomes too hot it breaks down the proteins and sugars in the milk and drastically alters the taste.
If you ever want to put this to the test try it at home – once you get past a certain temperature you will notice a custard like smell and a burnt tangy taste on your pallet. If you add this to coffee it will completely alter the flavour and require you to add sugar to it (which is why most people who ask for ‘extra hot’ often have the desire to put sugar in their drinks).
If you drink coffee as it is meant to be drank (within a few minutes to get the best out of it) you will notice a distinct sweetness within the milk, and heating it to 65 degrees highlights this sweetness. Add to that a well roasted bean extracted perfectly and you have a really distinctive drink. Feel free to swing by and put it to the test.
In conclusion, a well crafted coffee is similar to eating a good steak – to bring out the best in the ingredients it must always always be prepared correctly.