Mr Branson's Vlrgin Trains are running the former InterCity West Coast and CrossCountry networks - and he's committed to making up for 30 years of less-than-perfect service. The good news is ... `He's getting there'. Hmm. Mick and Nick reserved a couple of seats, and ordered a cup of coffee...

Well, what happened is not all bad. The trains are all quite old but he's toshed them over with a paint job and new seat covers etc. Got the picture? We sat in the dining car on the 0900 Euston to Manchester train. It left on time, which was a good omen. We were immediately offered coffee or tea and we went for coffee - a big mistake. It looked OK, but the taste was horrid. Now why was this? The breakfast was very good (especially the sausages) a reputation InterCity always had, but we don't remember the coffee always being so bad.

Is there then some secret to good coffee? We think not, so why, Mr Branson, is yours so dreadful?

Good coffee should have bags of flavour, a richness and aroma. It is, after all, one of the most stimulating drinks around and it should make a decent impression on our taste buds. Virgin's coffee had none of these qualities.

Nosh Brothers to the rescue. For a good cup of coffee you will first need to source a good qualily, well-roasted bean. The degree of roasting is important; do you want a full-on dark roast or a softer, lighter roast? Then, deciding on what bean or blend of bean is most appropriate needs a little research. Finally, the beans need to be ground to suit the method of "brewing" ie, fine for filter, medium for cafetiere etc.

Thirdly, it is most important to use the right amount of coffee. If you have the coffee measured about right you can still muck it up by putting too much water through - you will not only get weak coffee, but it will also taste bitter, because you've "over-extracted" the coffee, letting the bitter part of the bean get into the brew. The water temperature is also quite crucial. Unlike tea, which requires boiling water, coffee will "scorch" if boiling water is used, destroying the delicate aromatic oils and leaving a burnt taste. Water should be just off the boil, at about 97C.

Are you paying attention, Mr Branson? We hope so. We're sure you want to do something about it and we know the boys to talk to - Mr Torz and Mr Macatonia. In our opinion, they're this country's finest coffee roasters. For those of you that only have domestic train sets, Mr T and Mr M will mail you the best to your door if you ring them on 0171-515 7770.

The Nosh Brothers' book, `Entertaining', is available in all good bookshops or from Macmillan on 0181-324 5700. The Nosh Brothers appear regularly on Carlton Food Network. You can e-mail them on