As coffee roasters here in Bristol, we are constantly amazed at the quality of coffee that is served by cafes and restaurants in the UK. It's incredible that such large industry has such poor knowledge of coffee and how to produce it. Over-sized espresso coffee with no "crema", boiled milk, bitter aftertastes... We hear horror stories every day! A quick scout about in some of our towns and you will quickly find some awful coffees - often at sites where the pay a premium to get a brand name over their door! The following points might help you decide on your coffee supplier!
If you buy coffee beans for an espresso coffee machine make sure they are FRESH! The Italians know how important this is! small roasters everywhere in Italy!
A Blend. Rarely does one type of coffee bean make a great espresso coffee.
Your espresso machine is serviced and set-up correctly, clean and ready to go.
Make really sure that your grinder is set correctly. Why pay extra for a "premium" blend of beans if you don't know how to set-up a grinder!
The best beans in the world will taste terrible if this important piece of equipment is not doing the job right, why pay extra for better beans!
There's plenty of information on the web in this regard but we feel that your coffee supplier should be able to help you in this respect - he or she should know exactly how to get the best from their specific blends:
Ask for details such as how long should your machine take to make a typical 1 fl oz espresso? What colour should the "crema" on the espresso coffee be? what aromas should be present? What size filters should you be using for your cups/coffee blend? - on this point many UK coffee companies start to wonder themselves! If you really want to put them into a flap ask what temperature they recommend for the water coming through the espresso machines "group". Modern commercial espresso coffee machines are usually adjustable, some better than others - finding a supplier of a commercial espresso coffee machine that can do all this and more is not so easy!
Now then, "Arabica vs. Robusta"!!!!
These are the two main varieties of coffee, grown at different altitudes, different plants, different beans!
The more expensive Arabica coffees are noted for their huge range of different aromas and flavours. Robusta coffees are generally cheaper to produce but often give somewhat blander flavours with stoney aromas. We are talking in very general terms though and even a poor coffee made properly with an espresso machine would taste better than a lot of coffee that's served in UK cafes!
When you see "100% Arabica espresso coffee beans" on a packet it usually means that it contains a blend of Arabicas, it doesn't mean they will be a fantastic blend of GOOD QUALITY Arabicas!
You might find that you like 100% Robusta blends - IT'S NOT A PROBLEM! JUST DON'T PAY TOO MUCH FOR A ROBUSTA BLEND!
"Barista" this term gets pushed about alot these days, in Italy this term is used for a Barman, however, a barman that knows what he's doing! He'd be able to make you a cracking coffee, probably a fantastic cocktail too! One thing is for sure, they didn't start calling him a Barista after a two day Barista course in the UK!
Barista training is important though and if you are charging the sort of prices most UK cafes charge then you should be putting some effort into making your customers happy with their coffee! Make sure your staff receive regular, good training.