Coffee Talk: How to Find Great Coffee

December 1, 2013 Updated: April 16, 2015

I see coffee as an everyday luxury, fresh roasted coffee brewed the way you like it either at home or at your local shop. But what to do when you move to a new neighborhood or travel abroad? 

Unfortunately odds are stacked against you stumbling upon a great spot and unfortunately if on vacation you probably won’t get much help from your concierge—I am always stunned how little concierges know about specialty coffee and can understand the frustration of hotel guests communicating their desire for an independent coffee shop, only to be directed to the nearest chain.

You need to do your homework or at least have a trained eye for what to look for to avoid being disappointed. Paying good money for bad coffee can quickly get very irritating. 

Tip 1. Do it Like the Pros

When traveling, locate a great coffee shop and then find a good hotel in close proximity. Good coffee everyday and good tips from the baristas for the rest of your stay. You scored big time!

Tip 2. Equipment 

You may have noticed that the better shops invest in great equipment. Espresso machine manufacturers such as La Marzocco, Synesso, Kees Van Der Westen are the usual suspects. 

If you spot a place with the above, there’s a good chance you have stumbled on a place that will measure up to your expectations. 

Now you have found a candidate, it’s time to observe before deciding what to drink.

If the barista is taking pride in his or her work, tamping the coffee, cleaning the porter filter of old grinds after each shot, purging the group head between shots to clean the dispersion screen then order your favorite espresso drink, If this is not the case, a filter style drink may be safer, or consider ordering a herbal tea. 

Here are a few of my favorite apps to help you find great coffee on your next trip:

Beanhunter is a site for sharing great coffee experiences and help you discover independent cafes.
Monocle is a lifestyle magazine that hones in on quality establishments.
New York’s Best Coffee is an app that has a great insiders guide for specialty coffee shops in NY.

I wish you success on finding great coffee.

Adam Craig is an Australian whose new venture, Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters, recently opened in Amsterdam, Netherlands.