You know what’s the worst? Having to settle for bad coffee when you’re out on the road. We get it, sometimes the need for caffeine is real, so you take the plunge at a dodgy service station and then instantly regret it. We’ve been there. Read our top tips below so you can avoid those nasty, cheap coffees for good!
Is the coffee machine clean?
If you’re in a queue and have time, take a look at the coffee machine and see how clean it looks. If the milk steamer wand is covered in dry milk this is red flag number one, and you might want to question just how badly you need that coffee. Secondly, check the barista is wiping out the coffee basket between shots – the best tasting espresso will come from cleanliness between shots. Cafés that keep their machines clean take pride in the taste of their coffee (generally speaking anyway).
Cost isn’t always an indicator of quality
You might think that the more you pay for a coffee, the better it will taste, but unfortunately it’s not always that simple. As an example, a well known high-street chain has similar (if not higher) pricing than some of the best speciality coffee shops we’ve been to. The high-street chain we’re referring to certainly doesn’t buy high-quality, speciality grade coffee. If you go somewhere and there are bags of coffee on display as well as information about the coffee, that’s usually a much better indicator on quality.
Piles of ground coffee
When coffee is ground, it releases a lot of natural oils that oxidise very quickly. For the most delicious cup, you’ll want to find somewhere grinding fresh to each order. Sometimes (to save time) coffee is pre-ground and left sitting around until the next customer comes in. Luckily, this isn’t so common these days since grinder technology has come a long way!
If the milk being steamed sounds like it’s rising from the fiery depths of hell, you’re not going to have a good time drinking your flat white. When milk is steamed it should sound like a gentle tearing noise. Too deep or high-pitched means it's not being heated optimally – and trust us you’ll know the sound when you hear it.
Greasy beans/colour variance
If you can see the coffee grinder and beans sitting in the clear holder on top (known as a hopper), do some detective work and check out the beans. If it looks like a grease fest in there, take two steps back and then run for the door. Equally, if there is a lot of very light/very dark coloured beans in there this hints that the coffee is poor quality. If it looks and smells like charcoal, then that’s pretty much what you’ll get.
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