5 Ways To Make Your Office Coffee Not Taste Like $#!%

A delicious coffee, yesterday

90degrees’ Digital Development Manager/coffee fanatic Paul Brickles is here to rescue your workday from minging mochas and crappy cappuccinos

I work as a Digital Development Manager at 90degrees, a creative communications agency in Manchester. We pride ourselves on our passion and creativity, much of it driven by endless cups of caffeinated beverages. I’m a massive tea fan, and we certainly drink copious amounts of it, but as any web developer will tell you, tea only gets you so far. When there’s a fiendish problem that needs solving ASAP – and there’s no gin to hand – coffee is invariably the answer.

Unfortunately, the coffee at 90degrees often only provides an answer to the question, “What is this dreary pond-water you’ve given me?”

So in the week in which Manchester hosts a UK Barista Championships heat, I figured it was high time that 90degrees upped its coffee game. And if you also want to improve your workday brews, here are are a few pointers, compiled with the help of Hannah Davies of the Specialty Coffee Association and Ricardo Gandara of Takk Manchester. Together, they’re the dynamic duo behind Manchester Coffee Festival.

1. Only Buy The Good Stuff

First thing, ditch the instant. Granted, those poor beans have endured a traumatic journey to reach that Gold Blend jar, but they taste awful, so in the bin they go.

Pre-ground coffee is a big step up from instant, but whole beans have a much lower surface-to-air ratio, and so stay fresher for longer, meaning you get the best flavour from the product. Also, with oxidation beginning as soon as coffee is ground, the subtle volatile aromatic compounds and oils in the coffee will dissipate after around 10 minutes. Grinding-to-order captures those compounds in your cup, greatly enhancing the taste.

And for the best whole beans, buy direct from a roaster. (In Manchester we’re lucky to have a number of great roasters – such as ManCoCo and Passion Fruit Coffee – right on our doorstep.)

2. Invest in Some Proper Equipment (Or Get The Office Manager To, Anyway)

Now you’ve gone to the trouble of sourcing top-quality ingredients for your brew, how should you make it? Well, those beans won’t grind themselves, so you’ll need to invest in a burr grinder. These can be hand-driven (time-consuming, but good for the ‘guns’) or electric. Avoid blade grinders, as these give an uneven grind and can create heat, leading to a bitter taste. Hannah and Ricardo recommended a Wlifa Grinder as a great value, great quality machine that would sit well in an office.

After that, it’s as simple as a brewing in a French press – AKA a cafetiere – or the ingenious Aeropress, for those selfish single-cup brew rounds.

And if you want to really geek out, download the Filtru app – developed right here in Manchester – to ensure that your brewing is as precise as can be.

3. The Tap is Not Your Friend

Avoiding tap water can really make the difference. For hardcore coffee geeks, hunting out the correct pH value and mineral content can become an obsession.

But without going overboard, simply using filtered will give you astonishing results in flavour gain (this goes for tea-brewing, too!).

4. George Clooney is Not Your Friend Either (Sadly)

Many offices have moved on from instant coffee and embraced the coffee-pod machine. Now, you may have read through the suggestions above and decided that turning your busy office kitchen into a coffee technician’s science lab isn’t the way forward. Fair enough, but that needn’t mean you settle for those middle-of-the-road pods that Mr Clooney likes to bang on about.

Pod coffee is an exciting new frontier in the specialty-coffee industry. Among the pioneers currently working to revolutionise the humble pod are London’s brilliantly named Department for Coffee and Social Affairs, who are soon opening venues in Manchester. If you want to up your coffee game and have a pod machine, these guys will see you right.

5. If All Else Fails, Takeaway the Right Way

I get it, you’re busy. Plus, you like your milk to be textured in a certain way and, let’s be honest, nipping out to get a takeaway coffee offers a welcome break from your desk. But, just be mindful of the fact that not all coffee shops are created equal.

Avoid the big chains – I’ll wager that none of them will have a representative at the UK Barista Championships – and walk that extra couple of minutes to find somewhere that buys good quality, well-roasted beans, takes time preparing your beverage, and does the bean justice following the long journey its taken. Don’t want to spend time and effort making good coffee? Then find somebody who will.

Paul is the coffee-powered Digital Development Manager at 90degrees

The Manchester heats of the UK Barista Championships will be held at Ancoats Coffee Co on 20 May 2017

The fourth annual Manchester Coffee Festival will take place at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester on 4-5 November 2017

Follow 90degrees on Twitter for tweets more invigorating than a triple espresso

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