How Do Professionals Taste Coffee?

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With the rise of specialty coffee shops and increasingly sophisticated roasters, people are paying closer attention to the nuances of their favorite beverage. For many, a great cup of coffee is synonymous with drinking black. When you order a latte or an espresso from your favorite cafֳe, however, you may not know exactly what you’re getting. Do they use milk that comes from local cows? Is that an espresso shot or several vials? How do professionals taste coffee?
The answer may seem obvious, but in most establishments it gets overlooked coffee should be brewed using specific water parameters and techniques. As a result, some cafֳes don’t brew consistently great coffee. However, there are certain guidelines professional baristas follow to achieve the perfect cup of java. Let’s take a look at how they taste coffee.

What determines a great cup of coffee?

The roast level of coffee beans is one of the first things that determines a great cup of coffee. The lighter the roast, the less flavor extraction will happen. Additionally, darker roasts can have a bitter taste. Color also plays an important factor in coffee’s flavor profile. If you want coffee with a lot of body and that doesn’t end up tasting burnt, you should opt for a dark roast. Other factors include:
Brewing method
Grind size
Water quality
Barista skills
Temperature and pressure
What is your definition of “great”? If it is having your favorite type of milk and espresso shot, then going to a specialty coffeeshop may not be the best idea for you. If, however, you are looking for something with more depth and complexity than what most cafֳ©s offer, then visiting a specialty shop may be the way to go.

Coffee Water Basics

The water that coffee is brewed with makes a big difference in the taste of your drink. There are many variables to consider, including the type of water, whether it comes from a municipal supply or from rainwater, and how clean the source is. Coffee lovers typically prefer using filtered tap water over distilled water because it has a higher mineral content and fewer impurities. However, there are other factors to consider as well. Some baristas prefer using cold-brewed coffee because it’s easier on the stomach and contains less acidity than cold brew made with hot water.

Guide to Buying Coffee Beans

Coffee beans come from different regions and climates. For example, the beans from Ethiopia or Central American are often roasted longer than those from Brazil or Africa. These differences in roasting can change the taste of the coffee beans. To get the best tasting coffee, you should buy beans that have been roasted by a reputable roaster. Buying fair trade coffee is a great way to ensure that you’re getting good quality coffee at an affordable price.
The next step is to grind your beans. If you don’t grind your own beans, be careful with your selection because some cafֳ©s use pre-ground beans rather than freshly ground ones. This will change the flavor of your beverage and make it difficult for you to control what goes into it. The last factor is water temperature and time of brew. Coffee should be brewed at approximately 195 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes or less, as this will produce optimal results in terms of taste and aroma.
In order to get a high level of satisfaction from your drink, it’s important to follow these guidelines for buying coffee beans and grinding them yourself before drinking them out of any type of brewing device (iPads are not included here).

Get That Freshness!

The first step in coffee brewing is to get your water properly heated up. Pro baristas recommend using a thermometer to ensure that the water reaches 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will help extract the oils and flavors of your coffee beans. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use a cooking skill like the triple test to determine whether the water is hot enough:
1) Add two tablespoons of white sugar into the water
2) Stir until all of the sugar dissolves
3) Drop in two green tea bags or a couple drops of green tea leaves
If all three tests turn out positive, then you know you have proper brewing temperature!
Once your water is at an appropriate temperature, it’s time for some pre-infusion. Professional baristas brew their coffee before it even hits the filter because this method produces more flavor than traditional methods. To do this, they pour about 15 ounces (or one full cup) of freshly ground coffee into a metal filter funnel. The metal filter allows for slow release and retention of flavor during the entire process as opposed to traditional paper filters which absorb oils and flavors too quickly. The reason for this is because paper filters are held together by heat and pressure, while metal filters dissolve slowly during brewing which allows more time for extraction.

The Equipment

The entire process starts with the coffee bean. First, it is ground and then a certain amount of water is added to create a concentrate. This concentrate is then mixed with hot water and left to sit for about 30 seconds. When you order your coffee, your barista will pour this mixture over the coffee grounds and let it sit for another 10-20 seconds before removing the side of the machine, creating a cup of coffee. This allows for an even extraction throughout the grounds.
After these steps, the temperature of the water is tested for both its acidity level and pH levels, making sure that it meets certain parameters. The type of equipment used also plays a role in how the flavor changes as well as how quickly they serve your beverage. There are two types of machines commonly used by professionals: E61 and E71 espresso machines that use different methods to extract flavor from roasted beans; and steam wands which heat water at varying temperatures in order to ensure that extracts are consistent.
Baristas also use specialized tools called ristretto cups which filter out all but ten percent of particles under one micron in diameter so as not to inhibit extraction. These small particles filter through into scoops or tiny spoons called scoops which contain specific amounts of pressure required to push out those microscopic particles into your cup–and thus into your mouth!
With these steps taken care of, the next step is tasting–or smelling if you’re using an aroma

Milked or Straight Up?

When you order a coffee, you have the option of choosing it with milk or not. Many people think that if they don’t want milk in their drink, they should opt for straight up. However, that isn’t the case. A professional barista always brews coffee without milk to create a more clean and balanced taste.
Milk is an excellent component to coffee, but they aren’t necessary for creating a great cup. Milk can alter the flavor profile of coffee and may also ruin it in some cases. Without milk, however, your coffee will be much more delicate and nuanced the flavors will be bolder and more pronounced. This becomes important when you make decisions about how your drink is prepared. As a result of this change in texture, many cafes choose to brew espresso shots over lattes because espresso is less diluted by milk than a latte would be.
Finally, professional baristas use only water from their local city or region because the water helps create specific flavors in the brews such as body or acidity. The water used for espresso shots doesn’t come from your local area it comes from somewhere across town or even across the country to get distilled down into water that has been processed by machines at high pressure before being poured over beans every morning (not recommended).

Don’t Forget the Sugar or Honey

A good cafֳ© knows that black coffee is only half the story. A well-made latte or cappuccino requires a little bit of sweetener, whether it’s honey, sugar, syrup, or any other liquid sweetener like maple syrup.
The sweetness adds more depth to the coffee’s flavor and makes it more enjoyable for the drinker. If you notice that your coffee tastes too strong, adding a few tablespoons of sugar can help balance out the flavors in your cup of joe. Furthermore, honey makes an excellent complement to many types of specialty coffees. It enhances and adds depth to the flavors in espresso shots and lattes by adding a rich flavor profile and making them more complex.
In addition to adding sweetness and complexity to your cup of joe, honey also has antibacterial properties that help prevent bacteria growth within cups and machines. This means your drink will stay fresh longer if you use honey!


“The best way to figure out what your coffee order should be is to ask for help.”
Never been good at making coffee? It’s not your fault. We all have our own personal level of coffee expertise, and it’s not always easy to know when you’re getting a good cup of coffee. Professionals, who know what they’re doing, can taste the difference between a good, bad and great cup of coffee. While all coffee has an individual taste, there are some basic guidelines that can help you get the perfect cup of joe. Start by understanding the basics of coffee water to find out what makes a great cup of coffee.


What are the water parameters that should be used for brewing coffee?

The water used in brewing coffee is important for two main reasons: first, it will affect the final taste of your coffee drink, and second the acidity of your coffee can be affected by certain water quality parameters.

Water is one of the most important components in coffee making. It’s the Liquid that you are allowing to slowly dissolve Coffee Grounds in a process known as extraction. As such, it’s absolutely critical that you use high-quality water for brewing coffee. A good starting point is to use purified water distilled or even bottled where possible. However, you may need to compromise on purity if using municipal water is all you have access to. Regardless of purity, make sure that the water you use for brewing coffee is fresh. The smaller oxygen molecule molecules within water can greatly affect extraction results. If your water starts off with large oxygen molecules then they will continue to grow during brewing and affect the taste and acidity of your coffee (as well as potentially impart off-flavors).

What are the benefits of using specific water parameters for brewing coffee?

As it turns out, coffee is sensitive to both temperature and pH. If water is too hot, it can negatively affect the taste and quality of your coffee. As for pH, coffee cherries are not waxy and do not universally have a sharp pH value. Interestingly enough, acidic coffees generally have a higher acid value (pH) than basic coffees. Now that you understand what pH and hot water are, the next thing to understand is what pH range is optimal for coffee brewing.

According to Alex Hofmeister of Blue Bottle Coffee: To us, at Blue Bottle Coffee, the ideal brewing range is between pH 5 and 8. This allows us to brew coffees with a balanced cup, with a medium-light body, acidity that comes from the roasted cherry essence and slight fruit sweetness balanced with a mild aftertaste memory from the acidity.

When brewing espresso at home or in your office space, a lower pH of around 56 is best for ensuring proper extraction of flavours. When brewing a French press brew at home or in your office space, you can go as low as 45 as long as you use filters that allow for proper water filtration. The high range of brewing ranges for other brewing methods may vary slightly depending on specific equipment used.

What are the consequences of not using specific water parameters for brewing coffee?

Because coffee is such a unique beverage, brewing it requires special attention to water chemistry. Your local water report can be more of a hindrance than help when it comes to brewing your best cup of coffee. The most important thing to remember is that you want good, clean water that is free of chemicals and impurities.

With this in mind, let’s talk parameters. There are plenty, but the most important are:

Water hardness, or salinity To develop the best flavor out of your coffee grounds and your water, you need to use a water with the proper hardness and mineral content for brewing. Water hardness takes into account both the amount of dissolved minerals in the water and their degree of combined binding capacity that is, how much they can hold at once. Hardness is measured in ppt ( Parts Per Hundred ), and you want distilled or pure spring water if you can get it. If not, try to stick with bottled spring water with no additives.

Water temperature Coffee beans contain some heat-sensitive compounds called esters that break down during roasting. The more acidic your brewing water is (pH scale 07), the easier it will be for these compounds to break down into flavor-scrambling acids. Water’s temperature also affects coffee’s extraction rate; hotter brews have a faster extraction rate than lower-temperature ones do, so choose your pot accordingly.

Water source Buy locally sourced bottled spring or purified tap water from somewhere like Whole Foods or your local grocery store. It doesn’t need to be Bottled Water 101 quality (softeners, disinfectants), but it should be free of chlorine, fluoride, and all other additives that could alter the taste of your coffee. If none of this sounds appealing to you and you live in San Francisco, there’s an even more exciting option: buy some bottled spring water from any store on the San Francisco city supply list (including Whole Foods). Having entire shelves dedicated to bottled spring water is almost as great as having access to a whole shelf of raw milk cheese (which happens a few stores down). You can get drinking quality spring water just by living in San Francisco!

Agnes Purdy

Agnes Purdy

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