Yes, friends, the time has come to dispel a lot of universally accepted topics, myths and truths about coffee around our favourite drink.
Some of them will surprise you, others you may have never heard before, some of them may not be more than an anecdote in your particular store of knowledge. But in all cases, these are premises with a very unstable argument, which deserve to be refuted in the interest of the quality of coffee and the health of all of us.
We start with our list of 8 false myths about coffee:
MYTH Nº 1: The Authentic Espresso is prepared with a 30-second extraction
In case anyone doesn’t know, the quality parameters of a genuine Italian espresso are standardised and constitute a kind of denomination of origin. Among these parameters, it is determined that espresso is the result of passing 30 millilitres of water at a certain pressure, through a certain amount of ground coffee, for 30 seconds.
Well, this is only half true. Or, rather, it is only true in some cases.
Coffee beans (and consequently ground coffee) are grown in very different countries around the world, with all kinds of different characteristics and qualities. So not all coffee beans need the same extraction to produce an optimal result.
If we want to make an espresso in the right conditions, it is much more accurate to take as a reference the three colouring phases that invariably occur during extraction, and which in each case have a specific duration. In less technical terms, let’s take a closer look at the colour of the spurt coming from the coffee dispenser into your cup:
1st Phase: when the extraction of espresso begins, the colour of the coffee is deep brown, even reddish. It is known as “ristretto” (which is an espresso variety in itself). It is a sweet and intense part of the coffee.
2nd Phase: shortly after, the coffee lightens its tone a little, approaching ochre or caramel. It is the part that is considered espresso itself and helps to balance the nuances and aromas of the ristretto.
When the second phase is over, the extraction of the espresso must be completed!
3rd Phase: yellow or blond colour. When the colour of the coffee changes from caramel to blond, the only thing we are pouring over the cup is bitter water. Yes, just like that, dirty water. You are over-extracting the coffee. And that’s not coffee anymore. You don’t want it in your cup.
We repeat: the extraction of the espresso, if you want it to be perfect, must be completed just before the spurt turns yellow. And this moment can occur at any time once a variable range of between the first 15 ml and 35 ml of coffee has been extracted. As you might expect, each type of coffee will complete these phases in a certain amount of time, and the 30-second rule is simply an approximate standard. Never 100% accurate.
MYTH Nº 2: Decaffeinated coffee is caffeine-free
Another big myth about coffee consumption, which at the same time is more or less equivalent to the other extreme of the cliché: decaffeinated coffee still has a lot of caffeine, so if you overdo it with the decaffeinated cups, you will have problems.
So no friends, neither one thing nor the other. We already talked about it in detail in this article: How much caffeine does decaffeinated coffee have?
The reality is that for a coffee to be considered officially decaffeinated, there is an industry-standard: it must have eliminated at least 97% of caffeine. It means that decaffeinated coffee can and does have caffeine. But in very small quantities.
On average, a cup of decaffeinated coffee has between 1 and 7 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of regular coffee – depending on how it is prepared – can have between 70 and 150 milligrams.
To calculate the number of cups of decaffeinated coffee you need to drink to even approach the caffeine levels of a conventional cup!
In short, the myths about decaffeinated coffee would be enough for a whole book, we assure you.
MYTH Nº 3: An espresso machine makes better coffee than a pod machine
It is one of our favourite coffee myths. For some strange reason, many users still think that coffee machines are responsible for making coffee and that an expensive coffee machine makes better coffee than a cheaper one. It is as if the extraction of coffee is a magical process that depends 100% on the coffee machine.
The reality is that coffee making, and especially the extraction of espresso, is a ritual where numerous steps and factors, both human and mechanical, intervene. The coffee machine articulates them. But the main person responsible is always the user. And if the raw material is of poor quality, if the grinding thickness is not right, if the coffee is too pressed or too loose in the filter, if any of these – and many other – factors occur, the resulting drink will be awful.
No matter how good your coffee maker is.
Capsule coffee machines only reduce this level of human intervention, with all the pros and cons that this entails. Not to mention the fact that if you use the cheapest roasted ground coffee from the supermarket on the corner with an espresso machine, the result will not be drinkable or superior to the espresso extracted with a well-used pod machine. Visit our coffee bean shop to discover the best varieties at the best price.
MYTH Nº 4: Wasting the first few millilitres of coffee works best
This is one of those hereditary practices, which may have made sense in another era, but which over the years have been dragging on and continue to be carried out unnecessarily.
In our time, there are still users who drop the first drops of coffee on the tray and let a few seconds pass before placing their cup under the dispenser.
A long time ago, this was often done because the first espresso machines had difficulty reaching the right water temperature and pressure. The process of extracting an espresso was much more artisanal than it is today.
Naturally, this is no longer necessary today.
Any espresso machine is now advanced enough to ensure that the extraction conditions are the same at both the beginning and the end of the process.
And as we have seen in debunking myth no. 1, the first few seconds of the extraction (the ristretto) are what produce the best part of the coffee.
MYTH Nº 5: If you find the right grind, it is better not to touch the grinder again
Big mistake! We all know how difficult it is to find the right grinding point and the right thickness for our coffee, but have you ever thought that the grinders can get out of adjustment with use? That it’s always good to recalibrate them periodically? And that atmospheric conditions can influence the coffee result, even if the grinding is always the same?
Yes, my friends: making espresso in cool and dry conditions is not the same as on a hot, humid day. The same grinding (the same thickness, measured with millimetric precision) can be perfect in the first case and disastrous in the second.
So an experienced user, not to mention a professional barista, will always take care to calibrate his grinder to perfection before grinding espresso coffee, regardless of whether he has repeated a similar extraction before.
Please note: this myth is dismantled just as much in independent grinders as in automatic coffee machines with a built-in grinder.
MYTH Nº 6: Tapping the filter holder helps to adjust the ground coffee
It is one of the myths that are not only false but also result in a practice that is harmful to our drinking.
I’m sure you’ve seen on videos or in cafés how the user or waiter, after pouring the ground coffee over the filter, taps it to help remove (come on, let it fall out on its own) the loose coffee beans: those that have not been pressed properly. Press the coffee, tap the filter holder again, a few beans fall out, and do a final pressing again.
In theory, this is done so as not to have loose -unpressed- beans in our filter holder and thus ensure that the water will meet a clean and flat surface like glass.
In practice, what we are doing is loading the press and creating artificial channels or passages inside the filter (yes, the part of the ground coffee that is under the surface) where the water will find less resistance than normal.
Think about it slowly and imagine that the filter holder of your coffee machine was transparent so you could see what was going on inside.
Once the coffee has been pressed, if we tap it hard enough to make the beans fall out, we will most likely sour it. The initially pressed coffee will lose its stability and open up areas where the water will find less resistance.
So, yes, indeed. With the famous tapping, we will get a perfectly flat surface and avoid loose beans, but in exchange for what? Risking a waterier espresso without waiting? Seriously, it’s not worth it.
MYTH Nº 7: Skimmed milk produces better texture when frothing
We talk about this topic extensively in this article: How to froth milk correctly.
In reality, the error occurs because two concepts that have nothing to do with each other are confused: the stability and the density/creaminess of the foam.
Skimmed milk is much easier to skim and produces a more stable foam (i.e. more durable, does not dilute after a few minutes) than whole milk, for the simple reason that it has less fat. But it is not “better foam”, far from it.
The abundant fat present in whole milk makes it more difficult to achieve a stable foam. But whole milk foam will always be creamier, tastier, and even more apparent if we scribble with the latte art.
It is because of a number of issues relating to the organic principles of each type of milk, proteins, fats, a material that is too technical and too cumbersome to develop here. It is more or less the same reason why it is easier to froth cold milk than hot milk.
MYTH Nº 8: It’s better to never turn off the coffee maker
It may seem like an exaggeration, but it is recommended practice for professional cafeterias and the hospitality sector. For the hotel and catering industry, there are more advantages than disadvantages in not continuously switching the machine on and off.
The error comes when trying to extend for domestic coffee machines, which have a different operation. No, it is not necessary to have your espresso machine switched on all the time.
However, it is advisable to switch it on about 30 minutes before you go to prepare the coffee to ensure that the whole machine reaches the optimum temperature.
Yes, we know that all manufacturers ensure that your coffee maker is ready to brew in a few minutes. But this is not true. That’s just the time it takes for the boiler or Thermoblock to heat the water.
But if you are really demanding with the preparation of your espresso, and you are looking for perfection. You need all the metal parts inside the coffee machine to reach an optimal temperature as well. Otherwise, the hot water will cool down by a few degrees as it passes through the internal pipes of the coffee maker, and the result in your cup will not be the same.
And this usually takes much longer than the little green light on your coffee maker indicates.
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