Cold Coffee-Who Woulda Thought
“What is the last thing that your patrons taste/drink before leaving a restaurant ?” And if you do not believe me go out there and watch. Nearly everybody will toss back that last cold cup of coffee before leaving their table, therefore it is vitally important that your coffee tastes wonderful hot, warm or cold.
Now how can you be sure that your coffee tastes good.
STEP ONE : CLEAN the EQUIPMENT
Cleanliness is more important than godliness, therefore ensure that you not only clean your bowls every night (there must be a joke in that line somewhere), and your coffee supplier can give you urn cleaner to really clean them occasionally, or run them through the dishwasher. DO NOT FORGET THE BREW BASKET. This will be dirtier than everything else, so once again ensure that there is no oily residue, plus clean the showerhead, and the area around it. If you have an urn or dual system, ask your coffee supplier to come in and train/educate your staff on how to properly clean the equipment.
STEP TWO: CALIBRATE the EQUIPMENT
Many times I go into a restaurant to find the brewer is short-potting (no this is not a gardening term), and the remedy can be very simple. Adjust the timer or float mechanism. BUT, maybe the equipment is short potting because the water line (including the filter/strainer) or machine or showerhead is clogged with lime, or some other gunk. Cleaning and maybe de-liming is necessary. Remember that if your brew time is too long, your resulting (revolting) coffee will be bitter, with a burnt after-taste. It’s rather like drinking coal tar – although I must admit I cannot remember the last time I knocked back a shot of coal tar.
Also, ensure that the water coming out of the showerhead is at the correct temperature, too cold and you will underextract, too hot and we start going down the coal-tar path again. A simple thing to check (use an oral thermometer, not a r…… one), and then adjust the temperature on the thermostat as necessary.
STEP THREE : WATER
A cup of coffee is 98% (approx) water, so if your water tastes lousy, your coffee will taste lousy. So test your faucet water by comparing it to the taste of a bottle of filtered water. And if necessary, put in a proper water filtration system. Remember your ice, soda, and cooking will all taste better.
STEP FOUR : YOUR COFFEE/COFFEE SUPPLIER
The people responsible at your coffee roaster will cup (taste) coffees through the temperature range, right down to room temperature – specifically to address the question at the top of this page, and to ensure that the coffee tastes good even when its been sitting for a while in your coffee cup. The coffee cupper (and by the way the best tea tasters, coffee cuppers, and wine sommeliers are all women, this is because physiologically God built a woman’s mouth differently to a man, and women have much better taste buds than men ) will cup and blend the coffee so that the taste profile always remains the same. People do not want surprises when they first wake up, least of all in their coffee cup at 7am, therefore the job of cupping and blending is one of the most difficult in the world. Mind you, most people don’t want a surprise in their martinis about 12 hours later, so once again tasting and blending is vital.
Having determined that your coffee supplier/roaster (hopefully one and the same company) can roast and blend coffee well, lets look at packaging, and the whole bean versus fractional pack/ground coffee debate.
Your coffee supplier is loaning you brewing equipment, and if you want to do a whole bean programme (no that is not a spelling mistake), they will lend you a portion control/doser grinder. Now the grinder they lend you will be a proper commercial grinder, costing about $700. But just consider that your roaster uses a grinder where the blades alone cost upwards of $15,000, and your roaster is checking the degree of grind several times a day with very expensive and sophisticated equipment. Therefore what chance do you have with a $700 grinder of achieving a consistent grind? And just remember that your brewed coffee quality will vary enormously with the vagaries of heat and humidity playing havoc with the coffee particle size coming out of your grinder. Or you can buy fractional packs, which have been nitrogen flushed to remove oxygen and preserve freshness.
A doctorate in nuclear engineering is not required to understand that fractional packs will always produce a better, and more consistent brew than a whole bean programme. The difference between local/regional coffee roasters is not in the roasting. Anyone can set themselves up as roaster. Even you. Buy some green beans and toss them into your hot air popcorn popper, and Voila you have air-roasted some coffee. And provided you didn’t cremate them, they probably smell wonderful. No, the difference in coffee roasters is how they buy the coffee, where they buy their coffee, how they blend the coffee, and most importantly (and this is really where the women are separated from the girls/ politically correct phraseology) how they pack the coffee.
Coffee’s enemies are heat, oxygen, light and humidity. Therefore coffee that does not arrive in your restaurant in foil/film wrapped, hermetically sealed bags will lose its freshness within a day or two. BUT, packing equipment is very expensive to buy and run, and this where the difference lies between a roaster dedicated to ensuring freshness in your patron’s coffee cup, and one who does not have what it takes.
And now dear readers to summarize :
Correctly clean and calibrated coffee brewers (try saying that after drinking a couple of martinis)
Clear, pure, and great tasting water.
Good fresh coffee, from a hermetically sealed portion/fractional pack.
Follow these simple rules and your clients will leave with a smile instead of a grimace.