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Old 06-19-2003, 03:33 PM
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Why is coffee so good in Scandinavia?


burundi and I just got back from our honeymoon in Denmark and Norway. We had a wonderful time, and part of the goodness was how tasty the coffee was there. Rich and dark-tasting, slightly more bitter than I'm used to, but without the sour edge you get from drip-brewed coffee back home. It was so tasty that burundi (normally a tea-drinker) regularly resorted to it, and I was happy to drink it black.

Is coffee brewed differently in Scandinavian countries? I'm wondering if the Dutch Coffee Concentrate/Cold Water Method is ubiquitous there, and if this is what we were drinking. Does anyone know?

Daniel
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Old 06-19-2003, 04:44 PM
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Now you've got me curious, Daniel. I've never been to Scandinavia, but I used to buy Gevalia Kaffe from Sweden, and it was the best coffee. I'd buy the whole beans, grind them myself and brew it up in a drip coffeemaker, so I don't know if it's just the brewing method. When I drank that stuff I didn't add nearly as much "junk" (sweetener & whitener) as I have with other coffees. In fact, the last time I had a cup, all I put in it was skim milk (it was a latté), no sugar, and that's unheard of for me, but it was great! The only reason I stopped buying that stuff was that I've nearly cut coffee out, only drink it maybe once or twice a month.

I hope someone can enlighten us!
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Old 06-19-2003, 04:53 PM
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During my travels out there, I was told that they sometimes add salt to it - I'm not sure how widespread this is (if true), but I would agree that the coffee there is first class.
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Old 06-19-2003, 05:01 PM
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Glad you enjoyed your honeymoon (the weather has certainly been nice lately).

As for coffee, i'm really no expert. However, I do know that the most popular brands over here (Denmark) are Gevalia and Merrild. Other than that, i have no clue.

Luckily, my sister has been serving coffee at several cafés in Copenhagen during the past few years. I'll check with her tomorrow.

You got me curious
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Old 06-19-2003, 05:54 PM
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Re: Why is coffee so good in Scandinavia?


Glad you enjoyed our coffee, but I have to disappoint you, we don't brew coffee in Norway.

You didn't mention whether you drank your coffee at coffeeshops, which has more specialized coffee, or at an ordinary cafe/pub/hotel, which probably bought the coffee from the same source as my local supermarket.

Anyway, coffee in Scandinavia comes from South America and other exotic places, though the coffee companies take great pride in "using the ultimate mix of the best beans" according to the commercials. Maybe they are speaking the truth, maybe they do a great job when selecting the beans.

I always drink it black, personally. I haven't had the opportunity yet to visit America, so I don't know what you coffee is like.

And BTW, I'm pretty sure they don't add salt to the coffee products. I've never heard it mentioned before, and it's not declared on the box I just bought earlier today, something it should have if they did so.
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Old 06-19-2003, 07:04 PM
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Maybe it's the water. Aren't there a lot of bedrock and glacial lakes and other sources of great water in those parts?

In GB, they drink a lot of instant coffee from Scandinavian coffee companies. It's awful. Although I have never said that to anyone who served it to me in their home.
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Old 06-19-2003, 07:29 PM
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The taste of coffee can result from a variety of factors: the beans (how it's stored, roasted, quality of the bean itself), the quality of the water (fairly poor in most parts of the US), when the bean is ground before brewing and how much coffee:water is used in the brewing.

WAG, but in the US, the populace tends to like coffee that is fairly watered down, so some of that is adjusted for America preferece. Also, often the coffee in the US isn't french roasted (darker). In Europe, they likely use darker roasts, probably don't keep their coffee beans sitting around in warehouses for too long and use more coffee per serving of water so it tastes fuller & fresher.

My guess is that if you buy really high quality beans and grind it up right before you brew, you'll get a really nice tasting cup of coffee. I highly recommend Peet's Coffee. Follow their instructions w/ some good filtered water and you'll be happy.

And there's also that weird phenomenon that sometimes things just taste better when you're on vacation, especially on your honeymoon.

Congrats!
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Old 06-19-2003, 07:34 PM
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Another guess: that sour taste you described is probably due to either poor roasting or old coffee. I've been told that beans are good for about 7-10 days after it's roasted. After that time it starts to break down and will taste gnarly. Gnarly could = sour.
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Old 06-19-2003, 07:41 PM
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Another guess: that sour taste you described is probably due to either poor roasting or old coffee. I've been told that beans are good for about 7-10 days after it's roasted. After that time it starts to break down and will taste gnarly. Gnarly could = sour.
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Old 06-19-2003, 08:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by j.c.
Maybe it's the water. Aren't there a lot of bedrock and glacial lakes and other sources of great water in those parts?

In GB, they drink a lot of instant coffee from Scandinavian coffee companies. It's awful. Although I have never said that to anyone who served it to me in their home.
Instant coffee is not coffee. Instant coffee is poison, use the sink or a flowerpot.

The water is of very high quality in Norway and Sweden, not sure about Denmark.
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Old 06-19-2003, 08:21 PM
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I noticed that in the Caribbean the coffee was incredibly good, too. I've also noticed that coffee or tea made with the water from my well is much better than the coffee made with "city" water. But -- much as I like many things about the southeastern states, they do tend to make the coffee there very weak and watery.
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Old 06-19-2003, 08:33 PM
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Based on my experience drinking coffee in Europe and the experience of Europeans I know drinking coffee in the U.S, I'd say the following factors, in order, are the most important reasons that coffee in Europe tastes better:

1. American's drink their coffee watered down. (I recall a Belgian to whom I served office coffee commenting that the coffee was the best she'd tasted in the States. All it was was just strong coffee. As a matter of fact, some of the Americans in the office wouldn't drink it.)

2. Europeans like their coffee FRESH. (For example, in the headquarters building of the World Health Organization in Geneva, the only coffee you can get is from beans ground just moments before the coffee is brewed and this is not just in the cafeteria--even the coin operated coffee machines on the floors grind beans cup by cup and only after the coins have been inserted.)

3. Euopeans generally don't burn their beans the way Starbucks and its ilk do. They usually roast the beans until they are done and then stop so that you don't get that Kingsford taste.

4. For people who like cream in their coffee, the Europeans generally have better dairy products than we do such as fresher cream.
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Old 06-20-2003, 12:06 AM
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"The Kingsford taste" - Print up some T-shirt, Yeah. Oh, that is great.

Good point about the diary, too. They have better dairy products, and they aren't so freaking cold.
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Old 06-20-2003, 12:46 AM
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I had a very interesting coffee experience in England way back in 1975. I was working for a Dutch dredging company surveying the construction of an artificial island 3 miles off the coast of England. I was exposed to both Dutch coffee which didn't agree with me and English coffee which I found indistinguishable from what was available back in Canada.

Well one day Princess Margaret arrived on our hovercraft as a guest of the East Anglian Water Authority only to be stranded on our island while the hovercraft raced off to evacuate a floating crane operator whose nose was ripped off when a cable snapped adjusting the vessel position between anchors.

I was asked to let Princess Margaret wear my brand new Wellies (I have small feet) and brew her a cup of coffee with our bunsen burner. Well all we had was Dutch coffee and I confidently asserted to my boss that Princess Margaret wouldn't like it and perhaps she would prefer tea, which in my opinion tasted the same in both countries. I was over ruled however and proceeded as requested. Well I watched as my boss proudly presented her with the cup of coffee and I observed that she sipped it only once.
A little later I observed her deftly and discretely tilt her cup inwards and poured the coffee onto the sand at her feet.
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Old 06-20-2003, 01:13 AM
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Normally I'd say it was because everything tastes better when you're waking up with a piece of Danish, but since you're on your honeymoon, it must be something else.
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Old 06-20-2003, 04:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mangetout
During my travels out there, I was told that they sometimes add salt to it - I'm not sure how widespread this is (if true), but I would agree that the coffee there is first class.
Yes. And no.
This is bordering on UL, but there is some truth in it. In the very far north, sometimes the water is too clean, typically outdoors from a brook or some such. The water will be almost destilled, so adding a pinch of salt to the coffee pot, will make it tastier. This is not done with city water, and it's not to make the coffee salty.

The coffee I've been exposed to in the U.S. is terrible; brown, hot, acid water. That whitener in powdered form doesn't help either.
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Old 06-20-2003, 08:01 AM
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Interesting! A couple of clarifications:

* First, I'm something of a coffee snob myself, but not a very good one. I often get my coffee from the superb roasters at Batdorf and Bronson in Olympia, WA, because it's so good. But because I only drink a cup or two a day, my coffee tends to go stale before I can finish a pound of beans. Nevertheless, there is a tang associated even with fresh-roasted, fresh-ground beans back home; I suspect it has something to do with drip brewing.
* Second, the coffee was very good even on Scandinavian Airlines on our way to Denmark. Unless they carry the coffee-brewing water with them from Scandinavia (instead of reloading water in DC), it's probably not the water.
* Third, and this is most damning to my coffee-snob credentials, in at least one hotel the tasty coffee was from a machine. You know, one of those machines where you choose whether you want coffee, mocha, hot chocolate, latte, etc., hit a button, and it fills your cup with one serving of hot.

In the States, the few times I've had coffee from such machines it's been revolting, like the muddy runoff from a hazmat landfill. Here, though, it tasted fresh and strong but not sour or burnt. I watched carefully as the machine dispensed my coffee, and saw that it squirted out a bit of what looked like coffee concentrate quickly followed by hot water -- thus my guess that it was brewed according to the Dutch Concentrate/Cold Water method linked to above.

* Fourth, while the dairy there is as great as it is ubiquitous (I've never eaten so much cheese), this coffee was good black, unlike most coffee back home.

* Finally, we also had coffee sometimes from drip-brew machines; while it was generally good, it wasn't quite as novel and tasty as the stuff from the automatic machines.

Are those automatic machines pretty common in Denmark/Scandinavia? Does anyone know how they work, and whether they're different (or rather how they're different) from their US counterparts?

Daniel
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Old 06-20-2003, 08:11 AM
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I felt the same way about the coffee in Fiji, some of the best brew I've ever had.

Same for Hawai'i. Like Kinky Friedman says: The only place you get bad coffee in Hawai'i is at Starbucks.
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Old 06-20-2003, 08:21 AM
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I frequently buy Löfsbergs Lila Skånerost from Ikea.

I think this is some of the best coffee I've had, and it's cheap ($2.50 for a 250g bag, or about $5.00/pound).
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Old 06-20-2003, 09:28 AM
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Sounds like it's not so much that (_________) coffee so good, but that standard American coffee is just so bad. Overall, I think Yeah got it mostly right.

Living in a city where the stuff is growing in the hills an hour's drive away, and having been raised in a town where I could walk to where it was being picked and dried (alas, not any more), whenever I travel stateside and re-encounter "brown hot acid water" I get withdrawal headaches (but like hell I'm going to pay 4 bucks for a pint of superheated "quadruple shot" pretentiously-named beige hot acid water with flavorings).

I think I'll drive by the Yaucono processing plant with my windows open this afternoon...
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Old 06-20-2003, 09:28 AM
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Sweden has the highest per-capita consumption of coffee in the world. This generally means that you get access to "the good stuff". The same is true for Ireland and tea, we drink more than anywhere else, so we get higher quality leaves than anywhere else (in general). I don't drink Swedish tea and I don't drink Irish coffee, my life is good
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Old 06-20-2003, 09:52 AM
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Checked my facts, and before somone comes in and corrects me, I will correct myself (I believed the Swedes, that'll teach me!). Seems both Finland and Norway have higher consumption rates (2002 data). However at between 8 to 12 kilos per person per year, that is more than double the consumption rate of the US.
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Old 06-20-2003, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by JRDelirious
Sounds like it's not so much that (_________) coffee so good, but that standard American coffee is just so bad. Overall, I think Yeah got it mostly right.
Again, I know my good coffee. Though I've not been to Central America in years, I've toured coffee roasting facilities, can tell a Sumatra from a Peruvain blend, etc. etc. I'm pretty sure there's a difference in brewing techniques: the coffee didn't just taste better, it tasted different. At first I thought we were getting "Cafe Americano," a shot of espresso with hot water, but I'm trying to figure out what exactly it was.

Daniel
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Old 06-20-2003, 10:23 AM
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brew = add water to coffee

sometimes my English really passes me by

Quote:
Originally posted by DanielWithrow
Interesting! A couple of clarifications:

* Second, the coffee was very good even on Scandinavian Airlines on our way to Denmark. Unless they carry the coffee-brewing water with them from Scandinavia (instead of reloading water in DC), it's probably not the water.
* Third, and this is most damning to my coffee-snob credentials, in at least one hotel the tasty coffee was from a machine. You know, one of those machines where you choose whether you want coffee, mocha, hot chocolate, latte, etc., hit a button, and it fills your cup with one serving of hot.

Are those automatic machines pretty common in Denmark/Scandinavia? Does anyone know how they work, and whether they're different (or rather how they're different) from their US counterparts?

Daniel
First off, if you found the coffee on Scandinavian Airlines tasty, well, I think you got low standards.

Drip-brewing is definitely the common way to do it in Scandinavia. Not entirely sure about those coffee machines though. I take it you are talking about those new machines (black machines with huge brownish mosaic patterned paper cups) which have been popping up the last few years. The coffe from those machines is rather tasty actually. I did observe one guy adding more beans to such a machine once, and they didn't seem to use the Dutch method referred to above, but who knows.

A little googling revealed that those machines are using something called "Arabica-coffee", its beans are coming from Brazil, Columbia, Central-America and Kenya. Their latest model grind the beans, and "with the use of pressure" brews the coffee cup by cup.

Maybe the basic secret to good coffee is adding a little more beans to get a nice black cup, a clean coffe machine, and drink it fresh.
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Old 06-20-2003, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alien
Drip-brewing is definitely the common way to do it in Scandinavia. Not entirely sure about those coffee machines though. I take it you are talking about those new machines (black machines with huge brownish mosaic patterned paper cups) which have been popping up the last few years. The coffe from those machines is rather tasty actually. I did observe one guy adding more beans to such a machine once, and they didn't seem to use the Dutch method referred to above, but who knows.

A little googling revealed that those machines are using something called "Arabica-coffee", its beans are coming from Brazil, Columbia, Central-America and Kenya. Their latest model grind the beans, and "with the use of pressure" brews the coffee cup by cup.

Maybe the basic secret to good coffee is adding a little more beans to get a nice black cup, a clean coffe machine, and drink it fresh.
Coffee Arabica is just one type of bean; the other type, Coffee Robusta, is generally considered to be inferior. Arabica beans are what's grown primarily in Central/South America; Robusta beans are grown primarily in Africa.

Brewed with the use of pressure, huh? Interesting -- that sounds like it might be espresso after all. Maybe we really were drinking something along the lines of Cafe Americano.

As for my low standards with SAS coffee, what can I say? It was quite good, better than some of the drip-brewed coffee I had in Norway. That may have been because SAS coffee was brewed freshly, whereas the coffee I had in cafes had been sitting on the burner for awhile.

Daniel
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Old 06-20-2003, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by DanielWithrow
Coffee Arabica is just one type of bean; the other type, Coffee Robusta, is generally considered to be inferior. Arabica beans are what's grown primarily in Central/South America; Robusta beans are grown primarily in Africa.

Brewed with the use of pressure, huh? Interesting -- that sounds like it might be espresso after all. Maybe we really were drinking something along the lines of Cafe Americano.

As for my low standards with SAS coffee, what can I say? It was quite good, better than some of the drip-brewed coffee I had in Norway. That may have been because SAS coffee was brewed freshly, whereas the coffee I had in cafes had been sitting on the burner for awhile.

Daniel
Well, I think you have higher standards than me, so I guess you "got lucky" with SAS. Or they have improved, it's been a while since I travelled with them.

Anyway, a bit further googling about those coffee machines revealed a multi-national cooperation with a bunch of subsidiaries. They deliver both the machines and the coffee, and apparently you can order home, or so they say.

The main company should be Autobar at:
http://www.autobar.com

The coffee itself is manufactured in Holland by ICS, at
http://www.ics-vending.com

The coffe line brand (both the machines and the coffee) is appearently called Cafe Bar (which consists of Cafe Bar BV International, and even more subsidiaries), but you could check out the Autobar webpage above, choose Vending & Food Services - Company List - Cafe Bar, for a list of additional websites. But I think the ICS webpage is where you want to go.

Don't take that pressure thing to seriously, it turns out it was mentioned on the Norwegian webpage of an independant agent to the Cafe Bar Norway company, which is a subsidiary of Cafe Bar BV Int, which is a subsidiary of ....
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Old 06-20-2003, 02:00 PM
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Excellent, Alien! I'll poke around these sites a little more. In first glance, I can't find anything about the brewing method they use, but I'll keep looking.

Thanks!
Daniel
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Old 06-23-2003, 10:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by DanielWithrow
That may have been because SAS coffee was brewed freshly, whereas the coffee I had in cafes had been sitting on the burner for awhile.
As far as I know (having heard it from the brother in law of an SAS flight attendant) they use instant coffee.
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Old 06-23-2003, 10:54 AM
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Instant, huh? If so, it was far and away the best instant coffee I've ever tasted: instant normally tastes to me like charcoal juice. I'm pretty sure this wasn't instant, at least not in the US sense of the term (nasty powder mixed with boiling water).

Daniel
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