The world of coffee can feel daunting - populated by obsessive devotees who seem to combine near-religious fanaticism with a PhD-level understanding of molecular physics. But it needn’t be so. Amir Gehl of Difference Coffee and Rick Wells of Fernandez & Wells (inventor of the mighty ‘stumpy’) are two men who truly know their beans - so ignore anything else you may have heard, and let their expert advice percolate. Here’s what you need to know.
How to buy coffee beans:
“As with everything, you get what you pay for,” says Wells. “Buy them whole, grind them yourself if you can. This will keep your beans fresh and stop them going stale for longer.”
Gehl prays caution when buying coffee.“‘Premium’, ‘luxury’, etc. are all descriptions that one should be wary of, because there are only two grades of coffee: ‘Specialty’ and ‘Commercial’. If a coffee is specialty it means that it’s 100% Arabica of Specialty Grade. Specialty grade refers to a point score of 80 or over - given by professional graders - out of 100.” Gehl advises seeking out only specialty coffee - such as the hugely popular Monmouth Coffee, used in all Fernandez & Wells’ outlets.
How to store your beans:
Experts are divided as to the best way to store beans - many advocate storing in a cool, dark space like a cupboard. But Gehl is a purist; “The best way to store beans is to freeze them. It’s the only way to stop degassing and oxidisation completely. Failing that, put them in an air-tight container and in the fridge. But try to use it within a week of opening the bag, otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of flavours.”
How to grind your beans:
“Beans extract uniformly when the grind particles are the same size,” says Gehl. “Therefore, you need a good grinder which will do that. Spending £50 will result in too many dust-like particles, called fines, which will over-extract and make the coffee bitter. If you want to grind at home, buy a Comandante grinder for £200-300. It’s a one-time only investment and it will give you a good uniform grind.”