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Do you enjoy the coffee at a restaurant more than the coffee you brew at home? Why is that and what can you do to improve your homemade coffee? Here’s what you want to know.
Restaurants often use filtered water along with higher quality beans, equipment and grinders which produce much better coffee. Also, people in restaurants often have the skills to use the high-end equipment. The atmosphere at a restaurant also helps.
Let’s dive a little bit deeper into these things and how you can implement them at home.
Why Restaurant Coffee Tastes Better
There are a few reasons why the coffee in your favorite restaurant tastes better than at home and here is what they are.
1. Water quality
This one might be a surprise but the water quality does make a difference. Coffee is 98% water so while it’s not what gives coffee it’s taste, any taste in the water does impact your coffee significantly.
In a place where you live, you probably can’t taste anything in the water because you’re used to it. However, when you go somewhere else, you’ll often taste something. Water does have a taste even if you don’t notice it. Even different brands of bottled water have different tastes.
The mineral content and Ph level of the water also have an impact on the taste of the coffee. It can get quite sciency so I’ll leave it there but it does have an impact.
Restaurants often have filtration systems installed inline so the water used there is usually quite clean.
2. Bean quality
Many restaurants will be using freshly ground beans. This alone is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee most people use at home.
On top of that, it’s likely that restaurants use pretty high quality beans. Probably not specialty coffee but restaurants have other suppliers than you probably have access to and often the ingredients for restaurants are a bit higher quality than the usual supermarket stuff. And there is a large difference in coffee beans. There are hundreds of types and qualities that are all a bit different.
Restaurants often have high-end espresso machines. These things can cost $4000 and upwards which is way more than most people have at home. Most people don’t even have espresso machines in the first place. If you’re interested in making espresso at home, click here to find my easy to use recommendations.
Restaurants often also have high quality coffee grinders which also help improve coffee quality. It might seems like something trivial but higher quality grinders do produce better tasting coffee. They grind more consistently which means a more even extraction.
Alternatively, restaurants have high end bean to cup machines make coffee at the single push of a button. These machines make high quality coffee but don’t require much skill to operate. The type they use is often quite a bit more expensive and advanced than the usual domestic coffee makers.
High end equipment has the potential to brew great coffee although you do need skills to get the best coffee out of it, which is where the next point comes in.
The right equipment and beans doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the skills to use them properly. Good restaurants have people working there that care about how the things they serve taste. They also care about giving people a good experience.
You might think that making coffee is simple but there are many details in the brewing process that have their impact on the final result. One detail might not result in a completely different cup of coffee but if you do 10 things slightly different, it definitely could.
Knowing how to use the equipment and adjust everything to get the best results is also important.
As an extension of the last point, precision is a big deal when brewing coffee. Weighing the amount of coffee and water to the gram does have its effect on the taste and texture of the final brew.
Most people at home just throw a few scoops of coffee grounds in a filter and eyeball the amount of water. This means not only that the coffee is going to be suboptimal most of the time, it’s also going to be tasting differently every time.
Of course if the restaurant is using a bean-to-cup machine, this is all done automatically but those machines definitely still do all this work, it’s just that it’s pre-programmed.
The cup the coffee is served in surprisingly makes an impact on how you taste the coffee. How a cup feels on your lips makes a difference and the shape of the cup (size of the opening, thickness of the rim, material, etc) have an impact on how the liquid is distributed around your mouth. That impacts how the coffee tastes. It also impacts the size of the sips, etc.
All of that means a the same coffee in a different cup can give you a different experience. In a restaurant, the cups are usually ceramic and have quite thick wall since thicker walls are more durable. This might be different than you have at home.
Different types of beer is served in different types of glasses and it’s for the same reason, to highlight the taste notes in the beer that the manufacturer wants to highlight.
Finally, don’t underestimate the impact the atmosphere has on your perception of taste. The atmosphere in a restaurant is very important to your experience and perception of the foods and drinks. If you’re enjoying a nice meal with your favorite people and having a good time, everything tastes better.
And the coffee after a nice dinner can be that cherry on top and it’s going to taste better than that exact same cup of coffee in the morning at home.
How You Can Improve Your Coffee At Home
So what can you do to brew better coffee at home? From the list above, I’m sure you can figure out a few changes you could make but here are some recommendations you could use to make restaurant quality coffee at home.
- Use filtered water: Brew your coffee with filtered or bottled water. It will be a big change over tap water. If you really want to go fully coffee geek, get distilled water and treat it with a tablet like third wave water. For most people that’s unnecessary though and it’s not what restaurants use. Some specialty coffeeshops might though.
- Get quality beans: The thing that gives coffee its coffee taste is the beans. Get some freshly roasted beans from a local roaster. This allows you to talk to them about what you like and they can advice you about what kind of beans to get.
- Get better equipment: Have a basic coffee maker? You can get much better coffee by getting something better. Of course it depends on your budget what is possible here but getting a good drip coffee maker or espresso machine does dramatically improve your cup.
- Use a grinder: Freshly ground beans make a difference. It does take a bit of extra time but with a good electric grinder, it’s not too much of a pain. If you don’t mind some work, a hand grinder is a good option too.
- Upgrade your skills: Unless you get a bean-to-cup machine, upgrading your barista skills along with upgrading your equipment will pay dividends.
- Measure: Figure out how much coffee you’re supposed to be using for the brew method and amount of coffee you’re brewing. A scale that’s accurate up to 0.1 grams is useful for this.
- Try different cups: Try cups or mugs with thinner or thicker walls and try to notice if one produces better results than others.
- Enjoy the moment: If you care about the taste of the coffee, enjoy it after brewing a cup. You put effort into it, don’t just pour it in your mouth as a caffeine delivery system.