P Pat Cotter

Why Does Café Coffee Taste So Good?

Mar 14, 2022 · beans · cafes · coffee · culture · espresso
Why Does Café Coffee Taste So Good?

The holy grail for many home espresso enthusiasts is developing that perfect shot or milk drink from their favorite café at home. We're here to tell you, it's really hard to do! So what's the secret to how they make it so good at the local coffee shop? As you might guess, it's a lot more than one thing.

The Beans

As you might expect, a lot of it has to do with the beans. While cafes strive to use the best coffee beans for espresso, a lot of it comes down to developing workflow and technique around those beans. When a café brings in coffee, it does so with an eye towards how it will fit with their equipment. A shop that specializes in espresso drinks and pour over might be less inclined to bring in a bean that's especially good for press or cold brew coffee. So how can you adapt this to your home coffee setup? The same way as the pros do it! Check out our coffee pages for recommended brew methods on most of the coffees we carry. Roaster websites are a great way to get details on the sorts of coffees that will work for different brew methods. Once you have a bean that you like that's good for the way you brew, you just need to practice getting the right flavor from it!

The Equipment

Another key factor in the coffee shop equation is their equipment. Higher cost coffee equipment is complicated, and not always just "more money equals better espresso," but it is an important factor. The best espresso machines for cafés will offer reliability and the ability to handle high volume. They do still operate on the highest end of performance, as well. Do you need to spend the often tens of thousands of dollars on equipment that cafés do to get a comparable shot? No. However, entry level espresso machines and coffee makers might not make the cut. For some prosumer options that operate with a performance comparable to commercial machines, check out brands like Rocket Espresso, Diletta, La Marzocco, and Eureka. This isn't to say that you can't get great espresso from less expensive machines, but in order to get precise flavors out of your beans you do need precise equipment. Unpressurized baskets and reliable pumps/boilers, stepless grind adjustments, and precision measurements will help you get closer to that coffee chop performance.

The People

We saved the most important piece of the puzzle for last: The people! It's common to think of working in a coffee shop as an easy or simple job, but the truth is that baristas work incredibly hard. Most coffee focused businesses provide extensive training for staff that is reinforced by a high degree of repetition. Making dozens and dozens of drinks every day helps improve the fundamentals of coffee making. It's no wonder that there are competitions for baristas! So while hiring a personal barista to work a morning shift in your kitchen may not be in your budget, practicing hard will help. We frequently see newer users struggling to make satisfying shots up to their standards when they're new to the process. Truthfully, it can take you lots and lots of shots to really hone in on the process. We don't say this to be discouraging, quite the opposite! You just need to practice, practice, practice and you'll be making drinks that taste delicious. Keep at it, and you really will be able to bring the café home!

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