Food & Drink

Coffee: The Creative Cup

by Beth Kirby December 20, 2015
ReadCoffee: The Creative Cup

I met a man last winter in a coffee shop. He wore glasses and smiled incessantly. It turned out the shop was his. Then it turned out we had fallen in love. We were married five months later.  And that’s how I married coffee.Until I met my husband, Matt, I thought that I knew good coffee. I was wrong—completely wrong.

Back before I met my husband, I used to joke that there was an imaginary jerk that followed me around, poking fun at the copious amounts of cream I drowned my coffee in. In my mind, this figure was always standing there, laughing as I poured and asking “Are you gonna have some coffee with that cream?” Well, I basically married that guy. Though in all fairness, he never judges how people take their coffee. All he says is “I don’t have to drink it!

I thought to get an espresso standing at a bar in Italy was to appreciate good coffee, but the truth is, that’s an appreciation of good narrative, not coffee. That’s not to condemn Italian coffee—by all means the Italians know their espresso. But an ability to pull an espresso cannot make up for poor quality beans or a poor quality roast, both of which are globally rampant. In the end, brewing method is a matter of preference, but beans are a matter of quality.

Once I discovered great beans, I never looked back. In a world where Michelin star restaurants are still serving ground coffee from a can when there are so many specialty, craft coffees available, it’s evident how much we, as a culture, still have to learn. The exciting part is that we are, in fact, learning.

Beans are actually a fruit, a vibrant red cherry that grows high up in the mountains. There are varietals with nuances just like the nuances of different types of wine grapes. In wine grapes you have your pinot noir, merlot, and cabernet, and in coffee beans you have your catuai, pacamara, and geisha, and so many more. Each variety possesses it’s own flavor profile, and how the seeds are processed (there are washed beans, natural processed beans, and “honey” processed beans) can also have a profound effect on the final taste. The art of roasting contributes yet another layer to coaxing the natural flavor and sweetness out of the coffee beans. You won’t find many “dark” roasts in specialty coffee, because for people passionate about the coffee bean’s integrity, ordering a dark roast coffee is like going to a French patisserie and asking for a burnt croissant.

I’ve learned is that a combination of region, farm, varietal, process, roast, and brewing method that have to be considered in order to produce great coffee. As the founder, owner, importer, roaster, and champion barista behind Brash Coffee, my husband works through all these elements before pouring every cup. He travels to the farms himself and tastes the crop, sampling the different varietals (which, like wine, differ from year to year) from Ecuador to El Salvador, Panama to Honduras. After back room cuppings, he selects the best beans. When they arrive in America, he roasts them himself. Roasting is a particular art form that my husband doesn’t trust anyone else to do. Brewing coffee can be a creative art form too. So whether you prefer French Press, stovetop Espresso, or the classic Pour Over (my personal favorite for it’s clean, bright taste), we’ve written a step by step guide for you. And by we, I mean my husband told me what to do and I wrote it down. The truth is, I still rarely make my own coffee… spoiled, I know.

Pour Over Method
Tools & Ingredients:
A digital scale and thermometer
15 grams fresh coffee beans
Grinder
V60 paper filters
Pour over dripper
Kettle
Filtered water

1. Fill kettle with filtered water and bring to a boil, or using a digital thermometer bring to 195-205 degrees
2. Weigh out 15 grams of coffee on your digital scale.
3. Fold the v60 paper filter on its crease so that it fits flush inside the brewer, then place the filter inside the brewer.
4. Pour some hot filtered water over the filter to rinse paper flavor from the filter and preheat the brewer.
5. Grind the coffee on a medium fine setting, it should be the consistency of table salt.
6. Pour the coffee into the rinsed, damp filter.
7. Make sure the filtered water is at the right temperature to brew, it should be between 195-205 degrees. If you do not have a digital thermometer, simply wait a few minutes after it stops boiling.
8. Weigh out 240 ml of water from your kettle.
9. Pour the water over the top of the grounds in slow, concentric circles until the grinds are fully saturated. Then wait 30-45 seconds before pouring about half of the remaining water over the coffee slowly and in concentric circles.
10. Wait as the water drips through for a few seconds, then continue this process of pouring and waiting until all the water is used.
11. Once the dripping from the cone has slowed to a stop, enjoy your coffee.

French Press Method
Tools & Ingredients:
A digital scale and thermometer
33 grams fresh coffee beans
Grinder
French Press
Kettle
Filtered water

1. Fill kettle with filtered water and bring to a boil or using a digital thermometer bring to 195-205 degrees.
2. Weigh out 33 grams of coffee on your digital scale.
3. Grind the coffee to a medium coarse consistency.
4. Preheat the French Press by filling it with hot filtered water, waiting for about a minute, then pouring the water out.
5. Place the ground coffee into the base of the French Press.
6. Make sure the filtered water is at the right temperature to brew, it should be between 195-205 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, just wait a few minutes after it stops boiling.
7. Pour 550 ml of hot water over the top of the coffee grounds.
8. Using the French Press plunger, plunge the wet coffee grain bed several times to agitate the coffee grinds,swirling them around in the water. Make sure to leave the coffee grinds submerged under the surface of the water.
9. Allow the grinds to steep for approximately 3 to 4 minutes.
10. Plunge the grinds to the bottom of the press, pour into your favorite mug, and enjoy.

Stovetop Espresso
Tools & Ingredients:
25 grams fresh coffee beans
Grinder
Stovetop espresso maker
Filtered water

1. Grind 25 grams of coffee beans to a fine consistency.
2. Unscrew the top canister from the base of your stovetop espresso maker, remove the metal filter, and fill the base with filtered water to just below the valve on the side.
3. Fill the filter with the ground coffee place the filer back in the bas, then screw the canister back on securely.
4. Place the espresso maker directly on a burner, set to medium-low.
5. You’ll hear as the coffee starts to percolate up into the top canister. When the percolation noises slow down, lift the lid, being careful not to burn yourself, and check to see if it is full. Once it is, turn the heat off, pour into an espresso cup, and enjoy the drink as you please.

Photography and story by Beth Kirby, who journals on her website Local Milk.
Coffee instructions by Matt Ludwikowski of Brash Coffee

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