How Good is your Coffee?

A few weekends ago, while enjoying the wonders of Maltby Street, particularly the incredible wine bar, I got to talking to my friend Geoff (an artist, dental technician and the man behind the beautiful sounds of Sweet Bread) about his morning coffee ritual.  Now, I thought I was a coffee fanatic, but by no means am I a patch on him.  Below he talks us through how to make the perfectly delicious brew and I cannot wait to have a go.  I already have a ceramic dripper (for the pour-over method).  I have now ordered some Has Bean beans.  I just need to get myself a hand grinder and I’m on the road to what sounds to be some hugely impressive coffee.  Over to Geoff:

I adore coffee. Coffee is my spirit guide, my friend and my inspiration. I always drank a lot of coffee (my mother practically forced it on me) and always loved it, but it wasn’t until I started getting my coffee from independent roasters, grinding at home and using the correct procedures and quantities, that I really understood how amazing this drink could be. Making coffee is a surprisingly fine art – to get the most from the bean the temperature, grind size, and brew method have to be perfected. The pursuit of coffee nirvana is addictive and obsessive, but well worth the effort. Trust me.

I’m a brewed coffee man. I like the pour-over filter method because it seems to extract the most flavour from the beans. Rather than simply watering down an espresso in the Americano style, brewing coffee this way results in a full-flavoured cup that has all the complexity of a nice glass of wine. The process may seem a bit ridiculous at first, but is actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it, and the resulting flavour says it all.

The coffee I’m using here is called Mexico La Yerba. Produced by a small group of cooperative growers in the San Juan region, this is a natural processed coffee, which means that after picking on the farms, some of the fruit and mucilage on the coffee cherries is left on the bean during processing (rather than being washed off – this is what a “washed” coffee is). This causes a mild fermentation, and can produce some very bizarre, unexpected and magical flavours in the final product. I love natural coffees, they never fail to grab my attention, and they’ve helped develop my palate over the years by showing such unusual taste notes.

Anyway, let’s brew some shall we?

You will need:

  • Good whole coffee beans from a reputable supplier (see below)
  • A grinder (I recommend the Hario Skerton or Porlex hand grinders)
  • Digital scales
  • A kettle
  • Pourover/filter brewer (I’m using a Hario V60, but Chemex are the best!)
  • Filter paper
  • Mug or glass carafe etc
  1. Weigh out the coffee beans (60g per litre of water is a good ratio). 18g is a good amount for a nice mug (or 2 small cups)
  2. Set up your pourover brewer of choice by placing atop your mug and putting the filter paper in it. Place the whole lot on the scales.
  3. Boil the kettle, and when you think it’s nearly there, start grinding your beans. It’s a good idea to regularly clean your grinder by grinding some dry rice through it – this picks up all the stale coffee flavours and doesn’t leave any trace of itself in the grinder. When it comes to grind size, I recommend experimenting with each particular coffee you buy, but generally for filter style brews you want the grinds to be like coarse sand – not as chunky as French press but certainly not espresso fine. In terms of water temperature, it’s best to leave the kettle for 20-25 seconds after boiling (until it stops making little noises). Water on the boil is too hot, and will destroy much of the flavour.
  4. When the kettle has boiled and the coffee is ground, pour hot water directly into the filter and let it run through (this rinses any papery flavour out of the filter, and also warms the cup for you, which is handy.
  5. Discard the hot water from the cup and replace the pourover on top. Add the coffee grounds, zero the scales and pour just enough water to saturate the grounds (I use about 30g for 18g of coffee. Let this “bloom” for 30 seconds or so.
  6. Now slowly add the water in a thin, gentle stream, moving in a circular motion until you’ve added about 2/3 of the total amount water (don’t be tempted to rush this stage and tip the whole lot in! Seriously!). Then pour the remaining water in a slow dribble in the centre of the coffee (stay away from those edges) until the scales show the full amount of water (300g in this case).
  7. Let the coffee drain though the filter. Don’t pick it up, or agitate it, just let it do its thing. After 1-2 minutes, you should be left with a nice uniform, concave cone of coffee grounds. That means you did good.
  8.  Enjoy your delicious coffee! I’ve added a picture here to show the typical colour of brewed coffee – people are often dubious about how light it is (after a lifetime of over-roasted pitch black americanos, no doubt) but this is simply because the beans are roasted nicely, and not burnt.

This coffee has a huge dark cocoa flavour. It’s incredibly sweet – as sweet as if I’d added sugar (which proves there’s no need for these frivolous additions). There was also a light, cream-like body to it, and a fruity acidity that really, really reminded me of a chocolate cake with that delicious sour cream frosting that is popular in the USA. The “cake-ness” came from a wheat-like flavour that appears to be one of the many bizarre tastes provided by the natural processing method. The slight fermentation that occurs in natural coffee gives this a subtle cider/sherry like taste. Certainly abnormal, and certainly delicious. Not only did it catch my attention and entertain my taste buds, but also it was delicious and easy to drink, perfect Saturday morning drinking. God bless Mexico. Happy brewing!

More information: Good coffee and brewing equipment can be bought from: www.has-bean.co.uk    www.squaremilecoffee.com    www.unionroasted.com

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