Why You Should Order Plain Black Coffee At A New Café

If you're a coffee lover who has either moved somewhere new, are visiting an unfamiliar city, or even looking to change up your regular routine by checking out that new café around the corner, there is an excellent litmus test you can use to determine whether the establishment in question is one worth visiting. Here's the test: order a cup of plain black coffee. This is the simplest drink you can order from a café, and it is one that can tell you a lot about the establishment's priorities. 

Unlike in Europe, where espresso is the foundation of the café, plain drip coffee is the concrete that holds the American coffee shop together. There's a reason Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks have a competitive monopoly on coffee in the United States. So, if that café is all glitz and glamor — i.e. focusing solely on fancier espresso-based drinks — there is a chance they are ignoring what is arguably going to be their best seller. If the house coffee is of lesser quality than the espresso, you can tell where the shop's priorities lie. 

However, if the drip is good, it shows that the café puts as much care and attention into the seemingly menial stuff as it does to the more technically involved drinks. But what does this look like? How exactly can you tell if the regular coffee is going to be any good?

How to tell if the drip coffee is any good

It really all begins with sourcing. Where does the café's coffee come from? Nearly all cafés will source their coffee from a wholesale coffee roaster. We say "nearly all" because some places are both roaster and café in one. Should this be the case, you're likely in for a good cup of drip coffee. Why? Because a roaster wants, first and foremost, to stay in business. Therefore, they are going to work out a house blend that keeps both individual and wholesale customers happy. 

A standard café will likely treat their beans like a commodity, whether from domestic or foreign wholesalers. Don't be afraid to ask where the coffee was roasted before you buy a cup. Chances are, if they source locally, the café has a good relationship with their wholesaler and cares a lot about all the coffee products they purchase. 

Another way to tell if the drip is good is to ask when it was brewed. While some cafés will leave their drip coffee unattended for hours at a time, coffee really tastes best within the first hour of brewing. So, if the café is in the habit of smaller batches with more frequency, the likelihood of consistency and strength of flavor will increase. Plus, if they're putting in the effort to brew the stuff every hour, they demonstrate that they care about all their coffee products, not just the fancy ones.