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Recently I've had some amazingly bad coffee in local cafes, and this week I had the same experience with some ground coffee I bought. I used a french press for that. Watery, dark colour, bitter and hardly any coffee taste. Just to be sure I packed a moka express well and the result was awful, very dark and very bitter.

OK, I know I should be using better materials etc., but bear with me. This reminded me, not in a nice way, of long past attempts to get a second brew from filter coffee.

So is this just very poor quality raw materials roasted beyond the limit, or has the industry started to do something like extracting flavour for those capsules you see around and then roasting the heck out of the remaining grounds and selling them? Maybe this sounds a bit far fetched, but the food industry has form.

  • No offense, but I can make good coffee, and immediately made some just to check the calibration of my taste buds, Also, I know from first hand experience that some relatively honest roasters extract concentrate for vending machines and such, and discard or recycle the spent grounds. So I'm thinking pink slime level of possibility here, and it's a genuine question. – ptolemy Jun 2 '15 at 10:19
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My first thought would be stale coffee rather than commercial conspiracy but, assuming you live in North America, I don't blame you for that. The time since roasting is important and, compounding on that, the time since grinding, thence finally how you brew it.

So your questions should be:

  1. What did I do different in the way I brewed this time?
  2. How long since this coffee was roasted?
  3. How long since this coffee was ground?

Don't be afraid to ask the source when it was ground, and when it was roasted. Time from roasting to now should be measured in days (not weeks), and time from grinding to now should be hours, minutes, or even seconds!

Even if the attendant cannot answer you it illustrates the fact that they don't know and you do care. Thence maybe one day you'll find a source where the attendant both knows and cares, so shop around.

Finally, there are different beans, different roasts, and different tastes. So, once all of the above is attended to, you may still, quite reasonably, conclude that the taste of that particular roasted bean is not for you. Again, exercise your options: go elsewhere, roast your own, etc.

Welcome to the endless search for something better.

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It does seem a bit far fetched. Those capsules are dehydrated coffee, not extracted flavor. They are usually not much better than the bad experiences you are describing.

You can pretty much expect that if you are buying ground coffee, it's going to be some degree of stale. Coffee begins to stale minutes after being ground so it's rarely a wise idea to purchase ground coffee that has been sitting on a shelf an indeterminate amount of time.

As for the poor coffee from local shops, many commercial roasting companies use a very dark roast to ensure homogeneity of their product. Then the beans are stored generally much longer than one would want.

The easiest way to assure a consistently good cup of coffee is to roast at home with quality beans (so you always know you have fresh coffee) and brew at home as well so you can control the variables that lead to a cup done how you like it.

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The question is; are you going to compare a coffeehouse's newly roasted bean, perfectly ground, and freshly brewed experience, to an old previously ground product sold in stores which can't help but be anything less than disgusting? It's time to take your coffee expectations to the next level...find a local roaster, use beans within a couple weeks of roasting, purchase a burr grinder, and brew your freshly ground coffee within 30 minutes of grinding. Oh, and use filtered water. BAM!

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