From the enthusiast to the occasional coffee drinker, we all know that no two coffees are the same. The familiar experience of grabbing a cup of burnt, watered down or just downright awful coffee from that random complimentary dispenser is disappointing. Despite living in such a caffeine-driven culture, good coffee is often hard to come by.
Julia Harston, coffee enthusiast, shared her favorite quality coffee shops in Southern California are Arcade Coffee Roasters, Work in Progress and Caffe Luxxe.
Harston said that each shop has its own unique set of pros and cons, but she said Arcade Coffee ultimately has the best coffee and atmosphere. The shop’s coffee does not have an overly sweet or bitter taste and hosts a variety of syrup flavors.
Harston appreciates not only the quality of coffee, but also the atmosphere and customer service that the shop prioritizes. Focusing on these small details creates loyal customers.
“The baristas are another wonderful thing about (Arcade),” Harston said. “They are always so kind and if you go enough, they’ll have your order memorized.”
Jayda Luce, barista and pop-up coffee cart business owner, gave some insight into the factors that play a part in the quality of coffee taste.
“If your espresso is too bitter, it will overpower your coffee and the tasting notes it has to offer,” Luce said. “If it’s too acidic, it will taste sour with your coffee.”
Luce shared that many coffee brands list their tasting notes on the bag in an attempt to give customers an expectation of what is to come.
“The tasting notes are there to give you an idea of what the coffee has a likeness to,” Luce said. “It’s a very difficult thing to process especially when tasting and if you don’t have a great sense of taste. The level of acidity or bitterness is what it’s comparing it to.”
Luce explained that notes such as pineapple, muscovado, sugar and lime will have a very acidic taste. Hibiscus notes have a floral, light and very subtle taste. Darker coffee has notes such as dark chocolate and nutmeg.
“Consistency makes quality espresso and holds the right pressure and temperature,” Luce said. “It should have a decent turnaround time between pulling, discarding and reloading an espresso puck.”
Beans also play a big part in the flavor and quality of each drink. Luce shared that she gets her beans from Succulent Coffee Roasters. She explained that the taste of coffee is largely dependent on the roast of the beans.
“Darker roasts have just been run through the roaster longer,” Luce said. “They’re going to taste very bitter and salty, whereas if you find the sweet spot it will complement your drink well and bring out the best in your espresso.”
Paying careful attention to where the beans are sourced helps to make a solid cup of joe. In addition to this, Luce relies on her vast barista experience and inquisitive nature to constantly improve her drinks. She routinely visits other coffee shops to expand her knowledge, perfect her craft and note if other unique blends are gaining traction.
Isaiah Gaucin, barista at Canabru Coffee, shared his expansive knowledge on the topic of coffee taste and quality. He currently works at Canabru Coffee in Chino, Calif., a company that sources beans from 11th Hour Coffee Roasters located in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Gaucin explained that each coffee enthusiast has their own preference, but it is universally agreed that burnt beans create a bitter taste while a lighter roast maintains a natural taste.
“The lighter the roast, the more caffeine it holds,” Gaucin said. “In contrast, the darker the roast, the less caffeine it will hold. As you apply heat to a bean, you will either cook it only enough that the flavor notes are very evident — light roast — or you will cook it longer to get a smokier flavor — dark roast.”
Factors such as weather, elevation and the cleaning methods can affect the bean flavor. Understanding this, Gaucin prefers a medium roast due to its versatility in brewing methods.
“(The) brewing process really comes down to a few key factors: a good roast, accurate grinder, hot water and a consistent filtering method,” Gaucin said.
Gaucin’s personal journey with coffee has led him to have a love for the craft and he constantly seeks to serve his customers with quality drinks.
“I came from a place of hating coffee and was taught by my former employer, a master barista, how to not just drink coffee, but how to truly appreciate coffee and its versatility,” Gaucin said. “He taught me how to differentiate between good and bad roasts, traditional coffee methods and most importantly, that my work is not done as unto my employer or even my customer base, but as unto the Lord.”
Gaucin cites Colossians 3:23 as being a verse that is inspirational as he pursues providing his customers with the best possible coffee experience.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” Colossians 3:23 (ESV) reads.