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Aside – the three rules of good coffee

Posted by Preston on 2009-04-15

I’ll admit, I’m not a barista. Needless to say working in IT and coming from Australia I have a healthy respect for Good Coffee, and it occurred to me the other day there’s 3 simple rules to follow in order to have good, proper coffee:

  1. Does not have sugar in it.
  2. Is not measured by the gallon.
  3. Comes fresh from the bean.

The first rule is probably the most important – if you need to add sugar to the coffee (e.g., because it tastes bitter), then you’ve got bad coffee, or at least substandard coffee. The flavour of coffee should stand on its own, without any need for sugar based products. If you have to add some syrup or sugar to it, then you should look elsewhere for better tasting coffee.

The next rule is something inherently understood by anyone who has had the pleasure of either a macchiato or a ristretto. Usually whenever I’ve had a “big” coffee – e.g., anything bigger than a long-black in size, it’s typically diluted with either a lot of hot water or a lot of hot milk – and then usually with a whole lot of sugar as well. Good coffee is not about whether you get a big volume of liquid for the money you pay, but whether you get a good quality of liquid for the money you pay. To paraphrase Bill Bryson – I’d rather pay $8 AU for a good espresso than $2 AU for a half-litre monstrosity that tastes about as strong and solid as mop-water.

The final rule is about freshness. Don’t get me started on instant coffee, though I’ll at least grant that it’s portable, and thus fulfills some use in extreme circumstances. Otherwise though, this rule means: don’t buy pre-ground, and only grind when you’re about to use.

A final rule that should be obvious in what I’ve stated above – drip filter does not constitute coffee. If it doesn’t come out of a real honest to goodness espresso machine, it’s broken before it even hits the cup.

Does all this make me a coffee snob? Probably yes, but for good reasons.


4 Responses to “Aside – the three rules of good coffee”

  1. David Magda said

    > … goodness espresso machine …

    What about French presses or moka pots?

    • Preston said

      Good point; if anything I was more refuting the notion that good coffee can come from a drip-filter :-)

  2. Johannes said

    Wow I love a cup of espresso. 2-4 a day, if the day is slow and relaxing, maybe none if it’s an exciting day as it can get when you’re a backup admin. I don’t need coffe when the pump is working hard already ;-)

    Hey: have you checked out handpresso – the espresso machine for the hiker.



    • Preston said

      Wow, thanks for the tip … that looks awesome … I have to say whenever I work from home if there’s a blackout what drives me nuts most is not being able to make a decent coffee if I want one … I’m definitely going to have to get one of those!

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