One of the great aspects to living in Spain (and many Mediterranean countries) is the quality of coffee served wherever you go. In fact, it is so difficult to find a bad cup of coffee in Spain that I once had a competition with a friend to find somewhere that served a truly rotten cup of coffee. Needless to say, it took well over a year before my friend and I (awash with caffeine!) finally located a small bar here that served coffee that was almost undrinkable!
So, what makes a cup of coffee in Spain so good?
Well, the surprising thing is that virtually everything has to do with the quality of coffee machine used – combined with the way that they are operated. Obviously, the type of coffee chosen is important but even the finest coffee can be ruined through a poor coffee machine – with modest coffee capable of being improved radically by a quality coffee machine with a competent operator.
With this in mind, I decided to visit one of the biggest coffee machine manufacturers in the world. After all, what they do not know about making great coffee is probably not worth knowing and I was sure that they would be able to tell me the secret to the perfect cuppa!
By chance, close to where I live is a company called who operate from Gandia in Valencia Province, Spain. They are best known for their espresso coffee machines and their brand name Expobar, which you may have seen on espresso coffee machines in bars and hotels that you have been to. I say ‘may’ because many of Crem International’s coffee machines are sold ‘white label’ meaning that other coffee roaster companies place their name (by agreement!) on Crem international’s coffee machines.
In any event, you will almost certainly have enjoyed an espresso coffee from one of Crem International’s coffee machines at some stage in your life and travels. They are sold all round the world and are renowned for their robust quality and reliability – essential pre-requisites for any bar or restaurant.
Indeed, Expobar is one of the preferred brands amongst the international catering trade, not least because the last thing a bar or hotel needs is for its coffee machine to be unreliable. What a disappointment that would be for any customer (and what a guarantee of a savage complaint!), given that a great cup of coffee is de rigueur after a meal and, for most of us, pretty important in between.
Now the interesting thing for me, whilst being shown Crem International’s factory in Gandia, was to find that each and every coffee machine manufactured by Crem International is assembled by hand! I had imagined this being done by robots and I was prepared to be assailed by the whine and thump of robots as I entered the factory. However, I could not have been more mistaken.
In fact, not only is each espresso coffee machine assembled by hand but each one is assembled by a skilled worker who builds the entire machine from beginning to end (apart from the fitting of the final stainless steel casing). I suspect that this is the secret behind the quality and market success of Expobar coffee machines.
Indeed, few things concentrate a worker’s mind (mine included!) more than creating something from start to finish and then having one’s name on all the paperwork to do with the product (or service) concerned. This is the case with each espresso coffee machine manufactured by Crem International and means that any coffee machine found to have a fault can be traced straight back to the person who assembled it!
It is therefore all the more surprising to hear that Crem International in Gandia manufacture some 80 to 100 espresso coffee machines daily with each assembly operative putting together 4/5 large espresso coffee machines per day or 5/7 small espresso machines. These, of course, are then extensively pressure tested before the final fitting stage and onward distribution around the world – with the majority of Crem´s customers coffee roasters and the food service industry.
Interestingly, the name for the coffee roaster industry and its products is HORECA, which I was curious to find out was an abbreviation of HOTEL / RESTAURANT / CAFÉ! So, if you ever hear someone talking earnestly about HORECA then you know that they are probably a coffee connoisseur or someone who works in the industry and knows what he is talking about…
‘But what,’ I hear you asking,’ is the secret to a decent cup of coffee?’
Well, I asked the same question of the managing director, Rafael Olaso Castelló, of Crem International in Gandia.
‘It is all about getting a combination of things right’, said Rafa. ‘Obviously, you need a reliable coffee machine that is easy to operate and that maintains a constant brewing temperature. It must also be a coffee machine that is sparkling clean, as any detritus at all affects the taste of a cup of coffee. However, you also need to make sure that the coffee you use is not ground too fine nor that it is too granular. You then need good quality water that does not calcify your coffee machine and milk that is fresh and preferably full fat. You must then make sure that you do not burn the coffee during the brewing stage.’
‘But what about the froth – a great, attractive, tempting froth?’
‘Ah,’ said Rafa ‘that is quite in fashion at the moment and takes a bit of practice to master!’
‘And what coffee should be used – what is best?’
Rafa raised an eyebrow at me, clearly realizing that I was no connoisseur and should probably not have been allowed anywhere near a top manufacturer of coffee machines.
‘Coffee’, Rafa stated, with great tolerance ‘is like wine. There are hundreds of different varieties available to match individual tastes and particular occasions. So, you have to find what suits you.’
‘But what,’ I insisted urgently, ‘do you like, what do you use – when you make your own coffee?’
‘Well, by choice, I will always buy 100% Arabica,’ Rafa said, thoughtfully. ‘It is a coffee that is mellow but with a light kick of caffeine. It is perfect as a soothing drink but also gently invigorates at the same time. A real pleasure.’
So, next time you order a coffee, savour the taste and recognize that probably it is from a carefully handmade coffee machine from Crem International….
Incidentally, if you want your own espresso coffee machine or are a company wishing to buy coffee machines then do drop me a line and I will put you in contact with an English speaking specialist who can help you further…