Once or month or so, myself and a handful of other coffee bloggers are working together to write about a certain topic. This month’s theme is coffee shops:
What would your dream cafe have? What makes a good coffee shop?
smdlr: “it [wasn't] all just a dream” rapped biggie smalls
Snob Coffery: The 4 Habits of Highly Awesome Coffee Shops
Daily Demitasee: 10 Things to Look for in a Great Cafe’
Boise Coffee: 5 Things that make good coffee shops great
A Table In The Corner Of The Cafe: The Coffeehouse as Cultural Hub: What Makes a Cafe Great?
Several of the other coffee bloggers are baristas or from inside of the coffee industry, so they have some really amazing ideas what would make an awesome coffee shop. I’ve never professionally brewed a cup of coffee, but I do have some experience checking out coffee shops. I want to share with you some of the signs that I look for when I’m trying to determine if a coffee shop is going to brew up a good cup that I can enjoy or a bad one that will make me want to spit it out.
Before I even hit the front door, there’s a number of signs that I look for before walking into the shop.
The positive signs can start several blocks away when there’s a hint of something in the air. It’s the smell of coffee roasting, a pleasant aroma that gets stronger closer to the roaster and always brings a smile to my face.
Not every coffee shop roasts their own coffee and even those that do, they don’t roast their coffee 24-7. That’s when I literally check for signs on the window of the shop. I look for signs that announce that they roast their own coffee or highlight the coffee roasters that they carry. Those are two types of signs that I like to see.
There’s also some signs that I don’t want to see. There’s signs with typos like expresso (it’s espresso) or Columbia (the country where coffee is grown is Colombia). I’m the king of typos, but those are the kind of errors that give me the impression that they don’t care or know much about their beans, which could usually translates into them not knowing how to properly brew them or where they came from. They’re red flags in my book.
When I venture inside, my eyes race around the room looking for positive signs. Is there a roasting machine in sight? If not, do they show bags that represent the coffees that they carry? Is there a sign on the wall that lists the coffees that they carry or where they come from?
If there’s no visible signs, I don’t start to freak out…yet. Hopefully, there’s a helpful barista that knows about the coffees they use, that can tell me about the origins of the beans and a little bit about what they taste like. If the barista doesn’t know, or doesn’t show any signs of caring, I start to get worried.
When I get closer to the counter, my eyes wander to the equipment. I hope to spot a clean work area, a spotless espresso machine and a coffee grinder that looks like it’s cleaned at least on a regular basis.
I’ll never forget the scene at a now out of business coffee shop. The coffee shop had a comfortable, friendly atmosphere, but the barista scooped pre-ground coffee out of a giant metal tin, scooping it like it was a shovel, spilling it all over the counter and not paying attention to how much coffee went into the portafilter. It wasn’t much of a surprise that my drink was subpar and I ended up hiding the flavors with extra milk and loads of sugar.
Of course, all good signs might still lead to a bad cup of coffee, but I haven’t found a good cup of coffee in a shop that filled with warning signs.
What do you look for when you’re checking out a new cafe or coffee shop?