Judge a Cafe by Its Cover

Julius Kensan
21st February 2014
Here's a definitive guide to gauge the quality of a cup of coffee from a cafe without tasting it.

Coffee is a complex subject with tastes that vary with the application of different beans and methods of preparation. It can be overwhelming especially for those who are enthusiastic about coffee but lack the knowledge to determine whether a cup of coffee is up to standard.

Good news is, there are actually a few simple tips to determine the quality of the coffee simply by observing the café. After an interview with Indonesia’s best barista Doddy Samsura last month, Samsura gave a couple of clues to equip one with the knowledge to judge a cup of coffee without drinking it.


1. Coffee Origin.

A good café should provide detailed information on the coffee beans. Other than its region, the information should also include the processing method and its elevation.

“We need to know the origin and the elevation as well. The higher the altitude, the harder it is for the coffee plant to survive. And when it does, the plant will produce high quality coffee beans,” Samsura explains.

So even if it’s Arabica coffee beans but were cultivated in low elevation, chances are the taste will not be as comparable than the ones, which are planted in higher elevation. Still, if there is no information of the coffee to be found, a capable barista must be able to provide patrons with answers regarding the details of the coffee beans. To put it simply, the knowledge on the coffee beans reflects the quality of the cup of coffee.


2.  Coffee Grinder

A good café should grind their coffee beans for coffee powder, not by using processed coffee powder. This is because the shelf life of processed coffee powder can last up to two years whereas coffee powder grinded from the grinder machine only last up to around six minutes or less. As such, a café that owns grinder machines serves better quality coffee than those who don’t.

The texture of coffee powder should also be as uniformly fine as possible. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, “when it comes to coffee grinder, the bigger the better.”


3. Water Filters

A cup of coffee consists 98% amount of water. This is why water plays a crucial part in the making of a cup of coffee. However, having clean water is not the reason for the presence of water filters.

“Surprisingly, minerals that exist in the water help to bind the taste of the coffee. At the same time, too much minerals is bad for the coffee as well,” Samsura remarks.

That’s why with water filters, it help to maintain the amount of minerals needed for a quality cup of coffee. Nevertheless, just because a café doesn’t have any water filters in sight, that doesn’t mean the coffee will turn out less than stellar. “Packaged mineral water such as Equil, also contains just the right amount of minerals for a good cup of coffee.”


All in all, Samsura stressed that the above three points should only serve as a definitive guide for all the coffee enthusiasts out there who are looking to expand their knowledge on the said subject. So when in doubt, always approach the barista behind the counter for more detailed information.