A long black coffee is, in its most basic definition, a double espresso with extra hot water added. Long blacks get a bit of a bad rap, often described as too bitter, too harsh or too strong. The truth is that the majority of the time, the coffee has not been made in a way that retains the sweetness and flavour naturally present in the coffee.
You can make a delicious long black using any good quality, carefully roasted Arabica beans. However, single origin coffee beans are growing in popularity as the go-to for many black coffee drinkers, and for good reason. Single origin coffee refers to beans that are from one farm only (as opposed to a blend of beans from different origins). When prepared as a long black, single origin beans impart all of the characteristics from that particular growing area, without being masked by the sweetness of steamed milk.
These are our life-changing recommendations for making the best tasting long black coffee:
- Use a recipe for your espresso. A long black is just espresso and water, so make sure you have your espresso recipe perfected. If the espresso is under-extracted the long black will taste thin and sour; over-extracted will result in a harsh and astringent cup; extracted correctly will bring sweetness, balance and clarity to the espresso.
The espresso recipe we use at the roastery consists of a 1:2.5 ratio and an extraction time of 27-33 seconds for our Single Origin beans. If using one of our blends we use a 1:2 ratio and the same extraction time.
- Keep it clean. Whether this is at home or in a commercial situation, your espresso machine, handles and baskets need to be clean. When making coffee, oils and spent coffee grinds build up, and if they are not removed this will negatively affect the flavour of your coffee. Quite often metallic and bitter flavours are attributed to the coffee bean, when they are actually caused by dirty equipment. Before making a long black, we suggest you do a quick back-flush of the group head using the blind/cleaning filter and make sure the group- handles and baskets are regularly cleaned during service using hot soapy water.
- Keep it cool. This is the most important step you can take and will change the way you think about long black coffees. In most cases, the hot water that comes from the coffee machine is going to be around 95 degrees Celsius. You wouldn’t want to drink water at 95 degrees Celsius, so we don’t want to use it for our espresso, either. If you use water close to boiling for your espresso, it will lose its sweetness and end up tasting harsh, even if extracted properly to begin with. It will also make the crema dissipate very quickly, again adding to loss of sweetness and texture. At the roastery, we use and recommend water at approximately 75 degrees Celsius. The espresso will stay sweet and luscious and can be enjoyed immediately, without the risk of burning your tongue and ruining your day. The easiest way to ensure the correct water temperature is to fill your vessel half way with hot water from the machine, then add in a little chilled filtered water so the cup ends up being two thirds full. You can then pour the espresso directly on top of the water. Having a separate kettle or urn set for 75 degrees Celsius is another great way to achieve the desired water temperature. The bottom line is: make sure the water temp is cooled BEFORE pouring the espresso. You’ll never look back, trust us.
- Stir your beverage. We all love the look of that thick golden crema covering the surface of the coffee but in reality, crema is a bit misunderstood. Crema is simply an emulsified mixture of carbon dioxide microbubbles and oils that are naturally present in coffee. It is an important part of the texture and flavour of the espresso, but when tasted alone is actually very intensely bitter. If the crema is stirred and well combined with the rest of the espresso and water in your long black, you will end up with a much more rounded and balanced cup of coffee. Provided we follow all of the above steps prior to stirring, we will still end up with a beautiful creamy looking long black with all the flavour and sweetness intact.
When made properly, long blacks are delicious, and they are the drink style of choice for most of the team here at Leaf Bean Machine. Nice clean equipment, water ready first and at the correct temperature, espresso poured using the correct recipe, stirred and enjoyed with a slightly smug expression. You are now the epitome of class and refinement.
Written by Summah Grant
Barista Trainer at Leaf Bean Machine