Coffee

10 of the worst coffee crimes ever

DON'T be bad to the bean

By Deborah James, 12 April 2017
10 of the worst coffee crimes ever

Any true coffee connoisseurs will recoil in horror at a badly made brew. 

And if there's someone who knows their beans, it's Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood. Three times winner of the UK Barista championship, co-owner of an award-winning independent roastery and author of The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting*, he would never accept a sloppy coffee. 

Make sure every cup you ever make gets the treatment it deserves with Maxwell's top tips to celebrate UK Coffee Week.

Thou shalt not have Dirty equipment

What's the biggest coffee making crime to commit? 

Dirty equipment. This happens really easily with automatic “push button” type machines where it's not easy to see. 

How often should you clean your coffee maker? 

Coffee oils go rancid and negative flavour build up happens quickly. So, ideally coffee makers should get cleaned daily after use to avoid this. 

Thou shalt not leave coffee unsealed

Where’s the worst place to store coffee? 

The worst place would be in an open transparent container on a window ledge in full view of sunlight as direct light causes beans to go stale.

Where’s the best place to store coffee?

The best would be in a vacuum sealed air tight package somewhere cool and dark. 

How long can you store ‘proper coffee’ for? 

Whole bean coffee has a much longer life than ground coffee. Ground coffee stales almost immediately.

Coffee doesn’t really “go off”, but it will lose optimal flavour. The exact optimal life for coffee is up for debate. Lighter roasts will taste better for longer than darker ones for example. In an air-tight container that is unopened I would say consuming within two months from roast is best. Nitrogen flushed bags/containers can taste amazing for six months. The real problem is exposure to oxygen. 

Thou shalt not forget that coffee is a seasonal ingredient

What's your favourite type of coffee for everyday use?

I love a complex and balanced black filter coffee made on an Aeropress (a coffee press for serious coffee lovers) as my everyday. This method is easy and has vibrancy with a full body. I would opt for a really moreish coffee like a round Kenyan, or a complex Colombian. Coffee is a seasonal crop and my 'go to' will change throughout the year as the harvests change.

Thou shalt not over brew. Or under brew

Your favourite brewing methods?

I love lots of different methods. An espresso can be a wonderful intense flavour explosion compared to a tea like filter. The key is using great coffee, good water and understanding the method to get the best results. For example a syphon gets hotter as it brews so the key is to not brew for too long. Alternatively, espresso needs to be ground much finer. It's the details that really allow each method to shine. 

What’s the perfect time to let your coffee brew for?

The truth is there is no perfect time! It's about understanding how time affects flavour. It's all to do with grind and temperature. A great cup of coffee is where you extract the right amount and the right flavours. Not enough and the coffee is sour and empty. Too much and the coffee is woody and flat. Fine grinds can be brewed really quickly, as fast as 30 seconds. Coarse grinds can brew for a much longer time, closer to 5-10 minutes. 

Temperature is the other factor. Hotter temperatures extract flavour more quickly.

Thou shalt not drink from a narrow cup

Any favourite cups to use?

I love any cup that is nice and open at the top, allowing me to get the full aroma of the coffee. 

Thou shalt not always use full-fat milk

What milk should we stick to? 

The world's best coffees are often best enjoyed black, but there are plenty of great coffees that also combine beautifully with milk. A high single origin milk can have lots of its own flavour to add to the drink. And even though it's generally considered that full-fat milk brings the best texture and flavour, sometimes a semi-skimmed option works better as it doesn't drown out the coffee.  

What do you find is the best milk to make coffee with for non-dairy drinkers?

Soya milk really does work well which is why it's so popular. Another alternative that's becoming really popular is almond milk. This milk is often less likely to “split” when combined with the coffee’s acidity. 

Thou shalt not go under 88 degrees

What is the perfect temperature to serve coffee at? 

Temperature can vary wildly depending on the method and the coffee.

Typically, a lighter roasted coffee will need a higher temperature, but not too high, or you'll get harsh flavours. 96 degrees (water will boil at 99.9 degrees) would be the highest you would want to brew and for most coffees you wouldn't want to go below 88 degrees. It's fascinating to see how different temperatures release different flavours. 

Take a look at the cold brew craze sweeping the nation. Cold brew coffee uses such low temperatures that it can take in excess of 24 hours!

Thou shalt not forget to alter water ratio

What is the optimal ratio of coffee to water? 

When all of the world's coffee is graded for quality it is brewed at a 60g per litre ratio. The idea being that the strength showcases all the nuances of the coffee. On the other hand, espresso is roughly ten times this strength.

Stock up on instant, freshly ground and whole bean coffee online, or pop into your local store

The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, to be published 7 September 2017 at www.octopusbooks.co.uk