BeanScene Magazine

Mocopan Coffee on how to flavour troubleshoot

From the June 2017 issue.
Mocopan Coffee on how to flavour troubleshoot

Mocopan Coffee’s Jared Chapman shares his top 10 recovery tips when customers notice flavour inconsistencies.

By Jared Chapman, National Team Leader for Mocopan Coffee.

It’s Monday morning, in the middle of your busy period. A regular customer comes up to the counter to thank you for their coffee, the same as they do every day. But then comes a comment you don’t want to hear: “Thanks for the coffee. It wasn’t quite as good today as usual, though.”

Not good. You thank the customer for their honest feedback and tell them you’ll make some adjustments to make sure it’s tasting great again. But where do you start? There are so many elements and variables that can affect the way the coffee tastes.

I am going to break down the troubleshooting process I go through from start to finish whenever I am asked this question by a café owner or barista. I won’t get too scientific but rather just focus on the basics. If you’ve been following my BeanScene articles, this will be a nice way to tie together a lot of the things I’ve discussed in the past.

First things first. If you have received feedback from a customer, you need to figure out if this is just a one off or whether there is something bigger going wrong. Easy done – just taste the coffee. If you are happy with the flavour, chances are that something has gone wrong through the process, perhaps a shortcut taken in the frenzy of service.

Stand back and watch the baristas at work and ensure they are following all of the necessary basics: wiping the basket thoroughly, purging the group head, good coffee distribution, tamping evenly, and so on. Make sure they are also paying attention to their shots. Even the most thorough baristas will have the occasional shot that channels (when the water creates a “hole” through the coffee puck), but they should be able to see this in the extraction (paler, more watery, or faster than usual), and ensure it isn’t served to customers.

If, when you taste the coffee, it isn’t tasting right, here are some simple checks to troubleshoot the issue.

Barista processes – start at the same place as if it tasted good. Check the barista’s processes as I’ve mentioned above. Pay particular attention to any shortcuts during peak period mayhem.

Extractions – you should be supplied a recipe for the coffee you are working with from your coffee supplier. If not, ask them for it. Recipes are more like guidelines rather than hard and fast rules, and may change slightly from day to day. You should check your extractions to ensure they are close to the recipe for dose (amount of coffee going into the handle), yield (amount of liquid espresso extracted), and extraction time. If not, you’ll need to adjust your grinder or coffee machine.

Machine cleanliness – I spoke about this at length in the April edition of BeanScene, but cleanliness is absolutely key to coffee tasting great, and is possibly the most common issue I see in cafés. Your daily clean is extremely important but don’t underestimate the impact of the clean-as-you-go tasks such as purging the group head after every shot, and water backflushing after each busy period.

Grinder cleanliness – coffee oils are both your friend and your enemy. Fresh, they add body and flavour to your coffee. But if they are stale, you will definitely notice. Be sure to clean the oils from your hopper regularly during service. At the end of the day, give the hopper a good clean and learn how to flush any old coffee from the blades too.

Coffee freshness – freshness is critical. Again, your supplier should give you some guidelines as to how old the coffee should be to taste its best. This could be anywhere from a few days to a month depending on a host of variables. Check that your coffee is in the window they’ve provided. You should also be aiming to limit the time the beans spend in the hopper. If they’ve started to go stale, check the beans for a woody or ashy smell, which can be a giveaway.

Milk storage – this is another one that I see in a lot of cafés. If your espresso is tasting great but your milk coffees are not as delicious, it may be because your milk has been left out of the fridge for too long. It actually takes less time than you think for the flavour to be affected, well before the milk is actually off. Oh, and of course do check the use-by date.

Milk texturing – be sure that the milk being served up is silky smooth, at the correct temperature, and your jugs are being emptied and rinsed between coffees. All of these things can significantly affect the flavour of the finished coffee.

Pump pressure – this can vary from machine to machine, with some of the newer high-end coffee machines having some very technical functions, but generally speaking you want your coffee extracted around nine bars of pressure, give or take one bar. Your coffee supplier should also have a recommendation on this.

Extraction temperature – this is a very important element in the pursuit of better coffee, and one which people underestimate significantly. Again, it will depend on the coffee you’re using as to what temperature it should be extracted at. A very loose rule is 91 to 95°C. However, keep in mind coffee will taste very different at 91°C than it will at 95°C.

Water filter – if you have a standard water filter under the bench, it should have a replacement date on it. Once the filter has reached its capacity, it will become less effective and this can certainly have a big impact on flavour. If you have particularly hard water (lots of minerals) you will need to change your filter more often.

The next time you have an issue with your coffee flavour, get out this checklist and follow the 10 steps to rule out possible causes. Beyond this list, the help of a technician or your coffee supplier may be required so you can continue to serve delicious coffees.

This article appears in the June 2017 editin of BeanScene. To subscribe, visit

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