Coffee is a habit that sucks you in – it starts with a decision to order a flat white instead of cappuccino, but it ends with expensive equipment, absurd rituals and weekend trips to your favourite roastery. Some people are scared by that addictive spiral. Living North embraces it.
We love everything about coffee, from grinders to baristas (caps off to them by the way) and independent shops to the little brown beans. We’re hooked, and we’d like you to be hooked too, hence this serious guide to serious coffee.
1 Beans means nice
If you want to make a drink that tastes nice, use good coffee. That probably means switching to buying beans, rather than ground coffee, as ground coffee goes stale five times more quickly than whole beans. Here are some tips on what to look for:
1. To buy good coffee beans, look for the roast date. Ideally they should have been roasted within a couple of days of purchase.
2. If you’re buying beans from jars or hoppers, ask how long they have been opened for before buying.
3. Ask about the provenance. Packaging and presentation are very good at fooling most of us. Find out where it came from and you’ll find out how much the roastery cares about the coffee they’re selling.
4. Store them in a freezer. They can be ground from frozen and it means they go stale more slowly. Beans can be frozen for weeks without any loss in flavour.
5. If you still want to stick to ground coffee, buy it from quality stockists such as Fenwick or Pumphrey’s, both of which are in Newcastle. If you do want to give beans a go, we’d suggest roasteries such as Ouseburn Coffee Co or Pink Lane Coffee. Enjoy!
2 Sample perfection
If you want to know what good coffee tastes like try these independents
Exposed brick walls, unfinished wooden tables and the head of a stuffed animal – a real coffee den with a great vibe. 27/28 Holmeside, Sunderland
Pink Lane Coffee
They roast their own beans here and have a regularly changing menu of speciality drinks, so there’s always something new to try. The place looks great and there are seats aplenty. 1 Pink Lane, Newcastle
In the heart of Durham, this place is always buzzing and the coffee is served perfectly. The only problem is it’s not very big yet everyone wants to squeeze inside. 21A Elvet Bridge, Durham
Flat Caps Coffee
Owner Joe Meagher competes in barista competitions and is no less ambitious when it comes to serving customers, with guest coffees and three different brew methods. 13 Ridley Place, Newcastle
Harvest Canteen & Coffee House
This place is owned by Ouseburn Coffee Co, an independent roastery that’s been gaining a reputation for excellence over the past few years. Harvest sets just as high a standard. 91 St George’s Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle
3 Ask a professional
We got some coffee tips from Joey Murphy, a barista at Pink Lane Coffee in Newcastle
Do you drink a lot of coffee?
I have two, maybe three cups a day, not too terrible.
How do you brew coffee at home?
I’ve got a manual filter. It’s a ceramic little filter cone, you put the paper filter in it and then pour the water over it and it trickles down into a jug or a cup.
What’s the most important piece of equipment to buy?
A grinder. That makes huge difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s hand-operated or electric, but make sure it’s a burr grinder, which is a lot more consistent and allows you to adjust the grind size.
A set of scales so you know exactly how much coffee you’re putting in. I weigh the coffee before I grind it – 18g of coffee per 300ml of water is the ratio I use at home. It sounds weird now that I’m talking about it!
What about a coffee machine?
Stay away from home espresso machines unless you’re spending thousands of pounds. If you want an espresso just come somewhere dedicated to making espresso.
What’s the most common mistake people make?
The temperature. People often boil a kettle and pour it straight in, but you want it a bit cooler. The water we use at Pink Lane is 92C. Thats quite a hard thing to do at home if you don’t have a thermometer, which I don’t, so I just guess and knock the kettle off early.
It can sound a bit snobby because you’re telling people how to drink something, but I always recommend people drink their coffee black.