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How we best supermarket coffee

When new people sign up for Pact deliveries our Customer Champion team tend to get a lot of questions about how we do things here. Most people are used to supermarket coffee, so entering the wonderful world of Pact Coffee deliveries inevitably leads to comparisons…

Supermarkets are excellent places for stocking your cupboards fast and with minimal effort. They’re also good for working on upper body strength, developing skill at steering uncooperative wheeled objects and building resistance to bruising on knees and calves (as a direct result of said unco operative wheeled objects). But are they a great place to buy great coffee? We don’t think so. But since we’re kind of biased, we’ll justify that with three things supermarkets do, that Pact Coffee doesn’t…

1. THEY DARK ROAST THEIR COFFEE.

We deliberately roast our beans lighter than the industry average. We do this to retain the individuality of our coffees. When we say ‘individuality’ we mean the more subtle flavours that can be both revealed and also hidden by the roasting process. Anyone roasting coffee faces two options:

They can heavily roast the beans, replacing their natural flavours with smoky or spicy notes. This is generally how supermarket or high street chain coffee is roasted. They opt for a dark, oily bean that is easy to reproduce, making sure the coffee tastes the same whatever international branch you happen to find yourself in. Think of it in terms of toast; lightly toasted bread can taste very different depending on the loaf, the recipe it was baked using and the batch it was baked in. Burnt toast always tastes like burnt toast.

They can lightly roast their beans, like we do at Pact. This maintains the natural flavours of the coffee, while adding some lovely light roast notes too – producing the matt, lighter coloured bean. A great example is a Honduran coffee we recently had on our menu , Finca La Montana. By lightly roasting this coffee, we think we managed to retain its distinctly fruity notes but also added a lovely toffee sweetness through the roasting process

2. THEY RATE THEIR COFFEE ON STRENGTH

This scale is actually a bit of a blunt instrument when considering the lovely depth of flavour that a coffee can have. How ‘strong’ a coffee tastes also depends massively on how the coffee is brewed.

When supermarkets refer to ‘strength’ they are actually talking about how light or dark the coffee is roasted. For a supermarket coffees this tends to be at the dark end of the scale. Pact Coffees, however, tend to sit in the middle of the scale.

As a result of this we sometimes get emails requesting a ‘stronger’ coffee. For people who are after something a little more punchy, and use a drip, Aeropress or cafetiere to brew their coffee, we usually recommend trying one of the following:

Increase your brew time.\ Allow your cafetiere or aeropress to sit for a little while longer than you usually would. For a V60 let your coffee bloom (that’s the bit where it bubbles at the start) for a bit longer than usual too.

Reduce your grind size.\ This is a great way to boost the ‘strength’ of a coffee made with a cafetiere or a V60 but not for an Aeropress. Be careful though, you should only reduce the grind size by a small amount (i.e. from coarse to slightly less coarse) or your equipment won’t like it!

Change your coffee to water ratio.\ Our golden rule is to use 60g – about four heaped tablespoons or 12 heaped teaspoons – per litre of water. But you can experiment with that to find out what suits your tastes.

This ratio is a great starting point but it’s a good idea to experiment with this stuff.

There’s a fine line between brewing the coffee for longer to make the taste more impactful and overdoing it and making it taste bad. As with lots of things coffee-related, trial and error is the best way of finding what works for you.

3. THEIR FRESH ISN’T THAT FRESH

The ‘use by date’ on your average bag of supermarket coffee can make for relatively interesting reading. It usually allows for a year from the month it’s roasted, which means supermarket coffee can easily sit around for months before you plop it in your trolley.

And it isn’t just supermarket own-brand coffees that fall into that camp. Some big-name roasters will bag up coffee and actually store it for a while once it’s been roasted, before eventually sending it out to the shops. The idea is to generate consistency in flavour. As Will, our Head of Coffee, puts it, “as far as they’re concerned, if one bag is going to taste stale it’s best that it all tastes stale.” (He gets pretty passionate about these things).

What’s your take on supermarket coffee?Tweet us @pactcoffee to get involved.