Fancy a cup of coffee?

Previously I never liked drinking coffee as instant coffee just tastes awful. But over the last 2 years or so, my perception of coffee has completely changed, once I discovered the beauty of a nice cup of coffee. The smell of freshly ground coffee beans and the aroma emanating from the freshly brewed coffee, is enough to wake one up in the morning – not to mention the caffeine.About two years ago I researched to find the ideal bean-to-cup coffee machine. A bean-to-cup machine basically has a hopper to store freshly roasted coffee beans, and will grind the coffee beans just prior to brewing the coffee which means the freshest coffee possible.

I settled on the Delonghi ESAM4200 which is a highly reliable machine capable of brewing excellent coffee. This is a highly rated bean-to-cup machine which is very well priced, easily maintained and has not failed me thus far. It has a chute to take ground coffee as well (something I use for that evening cup of decaf. coffee).

Delonghi ESAM4200 coffee machine
Delonghi ESAM4200 coffee machine with 15-bar pressure

Once I chose the right coffee machine, next came choosing of the coffee beans. This can be fairly hit and miss unless you find a good coffee bean seller. In choosing coffee beans, you will need to experiment and find out what hits the spot for you.

Things to consider are:

1) Strength of the coffee – this refers to the amount of dissolved coffee solids per unit volume. The higher the number the ‘stronger’ it is. I have found that number 3 (medium roast) is too mild for my wife and me. Hence I have switched over to sourcing strength 4 (dark roast) coffee. Number 5 (very dark roast) would be too strong for us, although a friend and his brother tend to drink strength 6 coffee; to each their own.

2) The flavours in the coffee – this will depend on personal preference, but there are many different countries producing coffee beans and each has a different set of aromas and flavours. I have had very nice South American and African coffee in the past, each with their distinct aroma/taste. There is much enjoyment to gain from experimenting with different coffee beans, which can inject a little excitement in the beginning of the working day (and break the monotony), as you ponder what new flavours you may be experiencing in that cup of freshly brewed coffee.

3) Choose Arabica beans as this is considered higher quality and contains less caffeine and hence is less bitter than Robusta beans. Arabica beans in general cost more. Some people do develop palpitations after drinking certain coffee, and I suspect it is because of the higher caffeine content from the cheaper Robusta beans in the coffee they drank.

I have recently bought Waitress Monsooned Malabar AA coffee beans (strength 4) and Sumatra Mandeling coffee beans (strength 4) to try. It normally costs £3.29 for 227g packs, but are 2 packs for £5 currently, so I thought it was worth a try. At the moment we are drinking the Monsooned Malabar (pictured below).

Waitrose Monsooned Malabar AA coffee beans
Waitrose Monsooned Malabar AA coffee beans
Waitrose Monsooned Malabar AA coffee beans (close-up)
Waitrose Monsooned Malabar AA coffee beans (close-up)
Insulated glass holding freshly brewed coffee
Insulated glass holding freshly brewed coffee
Crema (after 5 minutes)
Crema (after 5 minutes)

The ‘froth’ or crema on top of the coffee arises from brewing the coffee with water being forced through the coffee grind under pressure, and is a sign of good pressure-brewed coffee. As you can see, the crema is still present 5 minutes down the line, as I was too busy taking the photos to be drinking the coffee.

My wife and I both think the Monsooned Malabar coffee smells earthy, is not too bitter and has a pleasant taste – strong enough. So this bean gets a thumbs up.

BTW, I have tried the more exotic and much more expensive coffee beans. The Hawaiian Kona coffee tastes less bitter and was very pleasant, but costs a lot (£16.00 for 125g). The Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is a highly rated coffee and it did live up to expectations with no bitterness and nice flavours. This also costs £16.00 for 125g)

Then there is the Kopi Luwak (or coffee seeds which have been eaten and defaecated by Civet cats in Indonesia) which is the most expensive coffee bean, as these have been ‘processed’ in the gut of the civet cat to removed the bitterness in the beans and has to be collected by hand. It is then cleaned/washed and then exported to the country, where it is then roasted prior to sale.

The processing should render the coffee beans safe for brewing coffee for consumption. My wife however refused to drink this for health and safety reasons. My oldest daughter and I did drink the brew and it was pleasant and lacking bitterness. But at £18.00 per 125g, we are unlikely to buy it again.

But that is the fun of drinking coffee, with so many different choices out there and the ability to experience tastes from many different countries, just in that morning cuppa.  That is likely the reason why Starbucks and Costa have many queueing for their morning cuppa, and spending a lot of money there. But you could easily get that experience (and probably a whole lot more) from a cup of properly home-brewed coffee. Enjoy.

Boon