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?


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!

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.

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 :slight_smile:

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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?


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.

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).

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…