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Ground coffee is NOT instant ... and other misconceptions

Updated: Jul 12

We've been receiving a lot of questions recently around coffee - and so in this "issue" we’re going to answer some of them. We've mentioned this before but part of our ethos is to educate everyone* on the complicated, nuanced  and somewhat over-elaborate world of coffee and the best, easiest way to enjoy it. We're prepared to die on this particular hill and we hope this to be another step along that road to enlightenment.

When we started our "journey" in this world, we too were overwhelmed with the complexity that coffee nerds sometimes like to present as normal.  We'd like you to regard us as your guide as we walk hand-in-hand through the world of coffee.  And remember every journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step … OK, OK, enough of the oblique Confucian references .. Let's go through a series of common questions.


Can I Drink Ground Coffee as Instant Coffee?


You should not pour ground coffee into a cup, pour boiling water up to the top, and add milk and sugar.   If you do that you'll get a mouthful of gritty coffee grinds.  It won't taste very much of coffee and it will be very unpleasant.  The good news is that the inside of your mouth will get a great exfoliation.  Whether the inside of your mouth needs to be exfoliated is another matter.  We doubt it and we'd recommend not doing it.

Not instant coffee
DO NOT ADD HOT WATER! Disappointment guaranteed.

Instant coffee is many things.  One of those things might be that it does contain some kind of coffee flavouring.  But the many other things that it has will be chicory, preservatives, stabilisers, emulsifiers and a gazillion other things to make this concoction dissolve instantly in hot water.  Do not get us wrong here - "Instant coffee" has its place.  It has powered the student population through exam time for years.  It deserves its place in the pantheons of food and drink.   But then so does Sunblest sliced white bread.  And Butterscotch Angel Delight.  You see where we're going here …


So, to enjoy freshly ground coffee - take 15 grams of ground coffee.  Put those 15 grams into a V60 coffee filter paper.  Pour 250 ml of hot water over the grounds and wait until the water has filtered through the ground coffee into your cup and enjoy.  You can then put the remaining wet grinds left in the filter paper in your food bin, garden, composter or even use them as an exfoliant with soap and water during your normal morning ablutions. Check out our V60 crash course recipe here!


So, to recap - if you're going to order ground coffee - or grind your own roasted coffee - before you drink it you need to filter it.  The above V60 method above is the simplest - you can order your V60, coffee and papers here. There are other ways to get a good brew through filtering -which we'll get into in another post - but just remember this - ground coffee is not instant coffee so do not treat it like instant coffee.


Are Coffee Beans Nuts?


Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant.  They actually look a bit like small cherries when they ripen on the coffee plant.  And like cherries they have a soft outer fleshy bit and an inner "stone".  It’s the "stone" that is the coffee bean or we should say beans since there are normally 2 of them. Its these beans that are roasted and then drunk as coffee.  So, if we get really pedantic, coffee beans are not really "beans" either - they should be seeds - but we'll let that one slide for now. Our point is that coffee beans are not nuts and therefore people with nut allergies can drink coffee with abandon.  Maybe not with abandon - but certainly with the knowledge that they run no risk of an anaphylactic shock. Even when we say that a certain coffee roast might have hazelnut top notes and a praline finish … that’s just the tasting notes. We'll go into that in our third question.

Mio Coffee Farm Brazil
Coffee cherries growing on coffee tree at Mio coffee farm, Brazil

Do the Tasting Notes Mean That the Coffee Contains Those Items?


To riff on the comments of the previous question about the tasting notes.  We try not to get carried away in our tasting sessions but sometimes we cannot help it.  Take yesterday. We were tasting the anaerobic Rwandan that has recently landed.  The raspberry notes we got were so prevalent that we first thought that we were drinking from a mug that someone had used before - with some kind of lip salve on.  But no - it was the coffee.  Lovely raspberry taste and aroma underlying the coffee. However, there were no raspberries harmed in the making of that coffee.


Various regions, coffee varieties, soil types, climate types, weather activity, roasting profiles, storage conditions, and brewing methods and not least your own palate - all play a role in promoting, or depressing, the various tastes, aromas, finish, mouth feel of a particular coffee.  In Costa Rica a few years ago at a farm tasting - there were 8 of us.  2 of us got a strong taste of - wait for it - smoked haddock - with a particular coffee.  The rest thought the 2 of us were mad. 

Extra dark roasted coffee
In many cases, extra dark roasted coffee has a shiny surface from rancid fats sitting there. These can develop the nasty fishy smell!


We could, and probably will at some point, write a blog about the various taste profiles and groupings there are but in the meantime rest assured that the tasting notes are just what we feel you should get with a well-prepared cup of coffee from our blends and single origins.  You may well disagree.  We would love it if you disagree.  Let us know your own thoughts and comments.  Although if you get smoked haddock, do make sure you're drinking from a clean cup … But our point here is this - do not think that we add anything to the coffee to make it taste different. Coffee beans are just that. Beans. The beans contain a multitude of aromatic compounds, each of which has different tastes and aromas. It's how the beans are grown, processed, roasted and brewed that allow the different natural compounds to express their various flavour profiles. But they are just coffee beans. Nothing else.



 Does an expensive coffee machine mean better coffee?


No. It's one of life's enduring mysteries that our Italian friends are universally recognised as creating the most beautiful, efficient, and best coffee machines in the world.  You've all seen those chrome laden beauties in any half-decent coffee shop.  They are like 1950's Cadillacs distilled to their essence on a counter top.  (Google "1950 Cadillac" kidz - you'll see what we mean)  And yet despite their renown in coffee machines - Italians cannot roast coffee for toffee.  


We all know what an "Italian roast" means.  Dark, brooding, strong, drunk by someone in a  white, open necked shirt, a pastel coloured sweater over the shoulders, perhaps a tennis racquet in one hand and a tiny, white, coffee cup in the other.  Yes - like instant coffee, Angel delight, etc - the "Italian coffee" deserves its place in the pantheon of blah blah blah … see above.  But by roasting coffee to its dark, oily, pungent remains - all you get is an oily, dark, pungent coffee.  All of its nuances and complexities are roasted away.  Sure, there are times when you want to try and look like George Clooney - but those times are few and far between these days and let's face it - the coffee is the least of our problems in that direction. See our blog on which roast should I choose depending on your preferences


However we do not need to spend 1000 pounds on a coffee machine.  The reason why cafes have expensive machines are 2 reasons. One - these machines are designed to create a lot of pressure to push the water through the ground coffee and two, it is thus much quicker to create shots of coffee which go into flat whites, lattes and/or espressos.

We'd argue that you do not need to spend anything more than 50 pounds on a V60 Hario and a regular supply of filter paper and ground coffee.  So, do not listen to George Clooney - nor anyone else trying to convince you to shell out lots of money on a "counter top Cadillac" and replumbing your kitchen. Get yourself a Hario V60, a month of filter papers and order 250g of decent filter grade ground coffee and off you go. 

V60 brewing
Armada Blend on V60, a Cannon staple for pour over brewing :)


So, there you are. We hope we've answered a few of the basic misconceptions we've seen recently in the coffee buying public. There are many more and we'll revisit this topic soon in another post. 

Happy coffee drinking!

*when we say everyone we mean as many people as we can

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