I really have a problem with poorly brewed and bad tasting coffee. Most places just don't care about the basics. Below are my top things that most places just don't pay any attention to. While I am not a complete coffee snob as I do enjoy cheap coffee as much as expensive stuff, I just wish they would take care in doing it somewhat right.
- Water - Seriously, 99% of the taste is dependent on good water. Using tap water is simply unforgivable. Use filtered water, preferably double or triple filtered. If you want to taste the coffee and not the chemicals and minerals in the water then please filter it. There is nothing more disappointing than sitting down to a nice breakfast and being served tap water coffee. Disgusting.
- Temperature - This is critical. Coffee should be brewed at about 200 degrees (depending on your elevation). If it is cooler then you get a weak and underdeveloped taste, if it is too hot then you get over bitter taste. Good coffee shops and home brewers should have a liquid thermostat in use for this.
- Grind - This is dependent on the type of coffee maker you use. For example, an urn vs a drip or French press. Too course a grind gives you an under extracted flavor and too fine can clog up your machine. Consistency of the grind is important for uniform taste and a quality brew. The best grinders are conical burr grinders then wheel burr followed by the cheaper blade grinders. Generally it is worth the investment if you want a grinder that produces uniform grounds. Good coffee shops grind their beans per cup. Good restaurants will at least grind a pot at a time. Most public coffee is pre-ground and tends to be stale depending on the volume they sell.
- Filter & Extraction - This can be subjective. I enjoy coffee filtered a few different ways but most places don’t even know there are any options outside of paper. Paper to me is a last resort. Many paper filter brands seem to add a stale cardboard element to the taste. Metal filters, french presses, etc. provide a well extracted flavor but can add a harshness or even metallic flavor element. I prefer drip extraction through a high quality cloth filter. While it is messier, it truly gives the best flavor.
- Starbucks - For duping the entire world population into believing that over roasted and strong equals quality. Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.