Beans go through a lot on their way to your cup, and every one of those things has an effect on how your coffee ultimately tastes. Are the beans grown in a valley or on a hillside? In the shade or in the sun? At a high or low altitude? And after they’re picked (by hand or machine?), how are they sorted? And how are they shipped? By plane or by boat? And once they arrive, how are they stored, in jute bags or grain pro bags?
But it’s the very last thing that ever happens to them that may have the greatest effect on what you taste. Put even the most perfect beans into the wrong grinder and they very quickly become just OK.
Most of us know the basic ways you can have your coffee ground. Coarse for French press, medium for drip, and fine grind for espresso, and a finer grind still for Turkish or Greek coffee. But how those beans are ground is just as important as how finely they’re ground.
The two basic methods are blade and burr. Crema owner Geoff Polci has a definite preference, and has been known to refer to beans that have been run through blade grinders – which produce notoriously inconsistent grinds — as mashed rather than ground.
“The most important thing about a grinder is that the particle size is consistent,” he says. But blades aren’t the only problem. Even burrs – revolving abrasive elements that crush the beans – get dull and should be replaced. At Crema, the titanium burrs used in the espresso grinders are replaced every four months. Evenly ground beans mean evenly extracted coffee, making the most of the coffee in your cup.
A different grinder, one with hardened steel burrs, is used for the pour-overs in the Junction & also for the Clover machines.
Crema coffee is ground to order, to preserve as much of the gases trapped in the beans as possible. It’s these gases, when emulsified, that create the crema for which the company is named – that toffee-coloured foam on the top of a well-pulled espresso. Those gases, wrapped in the coffee’s oils forming the crema’s tiny bubbles, are able to stay on the tongue and can release some of the coffee’s best flavours as much as a half hour after you’ve finished drinking.