Monday, August 19, 2013

How to tell if a coffee shop serves good coffee, part 2...

Without drinking it, obviously.

This is continuing in the 'news you can use' category, among the trivialities that have been occupying my life of late while the events of the world pass me by.

I used to go with the smallest cup size offered by the cafe. There's a tendency among bad coffee shops to serve you up enormous bathtubs full of bilge water. Of course, to get a larger cup of coffee, they simply run the water through the same set of grounds until it turns into a burnt mess. The places that offer you a small sized coffee are more likely to know what they're doing.

But this was superseded by a tip from AL - the number of milk jugs on display. Good places will never heat their milk more than once. As a result, they tend to have a lot of small milk jugs around. If you see that, it's very likely somewhere that knows what they're doing. On the other hand, I've never had a good coffee from a place that had a single giant milk jug that kept being reheated.

If the place is failing the above signals and you still need a coffee, at a minimum order the smallest size you can.

(For the previous best signal, see here)


  1. Not sure I agree with your foam art comment, as I've been fooled a few times by this one, but you are spot on with the reheated milk. I recon another easy one is how clean the coffee area is. You need to be a perfectionist to make a good coffee, and this attribute should be reflected in their work space being pretty clean and tidy even when they're flat out.

  2. Huh, I like the cleanliness one, that's probably a good diagnostic too.

    That said, I find it interesting that there's places that do good foam art but bad coffee. Not so many of those in this country, perhaps, but then again this ain't Melbourne, so standards are lower all around.

  3. I think it's very possible to get bad coffee with latte art. Being able to brew or understand the roasting process or comprehend at the very least that different things can affect the taste of the coffee that can be easily masked by foam art. However I think that it's just a matter of the training that a person receives.

    One measure that I've seen with some of the more high-end coffee bars that produce a higher quality product is places that offer "pour-overs" versus drip coffee. I think that in the land of coffee-snobbery that pour-overs are more distinguished and places that have them enact more rigorous hiring standards.

  4. True, the hipsters seem to love pour-over coffee at the moment. It's so hot right now.

    Maybe I'm just charitable towards places that do good latte art, because every time I try it myself it turns into a foamy blob. So anyone who knows how to improve on this is clearly better then me.