The internet is full of equipment manufacturers, consultants, industry associations, roaster/wholesalers and baristas talking about what it takes to start a coffee program. The goal of this series is to break down the key elements as simply as possible so that you can decide where your money is best spent.
Espresso is relatively simple to make but difficult to make great. Making great espresso starts with your coffee roaster and ends with how you train your staff. The first in our series of articles will delve into the most important purchase you will make and it’s not the espresso machine… it’s all about the coffee.
Part 1: Buying Coffee in Plain English
Here is where the road to great espresso begins. Not all coffee is created equal. Coffee comes from countries around the equator where the elevation is high enough and the weather is temperate enough for coffee plants to flourish. A lot of the coffee you see being sold as espresso is grown outside of these ideal conditions which produces unwanted flavors. Coffee roasters that buy this cheaper, poorly produced coffee will burn the coffee beans while they roast it to mask these undesirable flavors. This is a large reason why espresso has the reputation of being bitter and overly strong.
The good news is espresso can be made to taste sweet and balanced if the raw green coffee is of a high quality. Safehouse looks for coffees that were grown well by farmers that care for their plants. We take into consideration the elevation as well as the towns or provinces that the coffee is grown in while selecting the raw components of our espresso blend that we call PERIODIC. PERIODIC is made up of a base component with deep chocolaty flavors from Central America and a top end component that adds sweetness and acidity, generally from Ethiopia. When a creamy chocolaty coffee is blended with a sweet acidic coffee, the finished espresso will taste balanced and strong without being bitter or burnt. You can see why starting with great coffees is the only way to begin building a successful espresso program. Your future customers are going to taste the difference on the first sip.
After we select the correct coffees it is time to roast them in such a way that properly brewing the espresso is possible. While most roasting language refers to coffee as “light” or “dark”, we look at roasting a little differently. We know that coffee that is roasted “dark” is because the raw ingredient was of lower quality. PERIODIC is made up of high quality coffees and the best way to roast high quality coffees is to heat the coffee bean evenly all the way to the center like you would a nice chicken breast without burning the outside. This roasting method results in coffees that are thick and creamy as espresso without any bitter or burned flavors. Burning the outside while under cooking the inside results in bitterness without strength; a terrible combination. Many roasting companies tend to fail in roasting because it is difficult to source really great raw ingredients and even more difficult to properly train their roasting staff. Safehouse spends the time and attention in roasting because it is in our DNA to take every measure possible to ensure your espresso investment isn’t endangered by inconsistent, poorly roasted coffee.
Now that we have begun our journey to great espresso, let’s continue to the most important piece of equipment you will need to purchase and it is not the espresso machine… it’s the espresso grinder.
continue to part 2