Written by Michael Crawford Illustrated by Claire Gaulin-Brown
1 Coffee is perfectly tailored to those who move fast. You can grab it to go and it keeps you going. It can be a fast, simple and predictable beverage. But in such a lightning-fast world, we need to regularly take time to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. Coffee can be tailored to those who move slow as well.
2 Coffee is extremely personal. Since everyone has a different palette and our eating habits change the way we taste different foods, no two people taste coffee in the same way. Therefore, nobody can tell you which coffees or which brew methods are best. Only you can discover this by slowly and deliberately brewing and tasting different coffees.
B RE W
There are countless variables that come into play when brewing a cup of coffee. The idea is not to give an exact brew recipe but merely to push the reader in the right direction for brewing a delicious cup of joe. The guidelines developed by SCAA and WCR are outlined as the ideal jumping off point from which an endless world of experimentaion is revealed. By paying attention to the details of the brewing process, we can eliminate distractions and take the time that we need to slow down.
Here is where you get out what you put into this book. This section provides thoughtful templates for recording as much or as little about your coffee beverage as you like. Recording information about the process ensures that we can either repeat our results if we liked the taste, or that we never go down that gut-wrenching avenue ever again. While not overly scientific, these templates require just enough of our attention that we are forced to put down the phone or the newspaper and give ourselves time to dwell upon our hot cup of coffee.
T A S TE
There is no "correct" answer when tasting coffee. The goal with paying close attention to the flavours is to force us to take things slowly and draw all of our attention towards the cup and the drink it delivers. Whether you're caffeinating alone or with friends, it tends to be more fun with a given focus and the proper vocabulary to describe what we experience before, during, and after a big gulp ofcoffee.
Introduction Coffee is simultaneously one of the most personal and one of the most communal beverages on the planet. On one hand, millions of people across the globe consume coffee as part of their daily routine. It accompanies steadfast rituals day and night from large group meetings to solo study sessions. On the other hand, every coffee drinker has a specific way in which they enjoy their habitual beverage and most are unlikely to be convinced that there is a better way than their own. Being such a pivotal part of daily routines, the quality of our daily coffee can have a lasting impact on how the rest of our day plays out. Stepping outside of our comfort zone and experimenting with something so routine seems counterintuitive. If the results of our experiments turn out undrinkable at worst, it could ruin our entire day. We only get one chance to drink it right, so why toy with such a pivotal ingredient? Over the last 50 years, coffee professionals and enthusiasts around the world have experimented with the beverage at every step of the process, from the growing and processing of the coffee plants at origin all the way to how we roast, store, brew and pour the drink at home and in our favourite neighbourhood shops. Through these trials, a series of guidelines have been developed that can ensure a satisfying cup ofcoffee every time. With such a set of guidelines in place, suddenly anybody with an interest in coffee can feel free to experiment within a given arena. We can slow down from our regular routine and taste something new.
This may mean something as simple as omitting the usual cream and sugar fixings or, on a more involved level, it may mean trying a different roaster or a different brew method. For the more seasoned, it may mean tweaking the grind size or trying a different preinfusion time. Whatever parameters we decide to experiment with, as long as we remain within the following guidelines, we will always be guaranteed a hot, satisfying beverage. But in the process, we will be forced to slow down and think deeply about the way in which we're preparing our drink and the subtle changes our experiments reveal. Suddenly, a habitual, caffeinated liquid guzzled in a hurry can be transformed into a mindful, relaxing experience. Taking time to contemplate this process rewards us with a few simple minutes of much-needed time to ourselves in our fast-past, grab-and-go world.
Brew Method When water meets fresh-ground coffee during the brewing process, the coffee gives off a variety of chemical compounds which determine how the coffee smells, tastes, and feels. Some of these compounds evapourate off of the top of the coffee, while others mix with the water as oils or dissolved solids. The amount of oils and dissolved solids that remain in the final brew is mostly determined by the brewing method that is used. For example, when coffee is brewed in a French Press, a large part of the coffee's oils and dissolved solids are still present in the final cup. On the other hand, in a standard home coffee maker, many of the solids and oils do not make it past the fine paper filter. Therefore, the brewing method that we choose to use in large part determines how the final cup will taste and feel when we drink it. Varying the brew methods at our disposal can open up a world of possibility within a single bag ofbeans. There are many factors that go into choosing a brewing method. The largest factor is of course whether we enjoy the taste and feel of the final product that the method produces. But other factors include ease of use, ease of sanitation, the aesthetics of the brewer and the volume of coffee that needs to be brewed. Many brewing devices designed for home use are a fraction of the cost of a home espresso machine which makes it inexpensive to experiment with different types of brewers until we discover the ones that work best in different situations.
Roaster The roaster that we choose to buy our coffee from plays a crucial role in how our coffee experience, and therefore the rest of our day, will play out. On top of making all of the creative decisions when determining how the coffee will be roasted, packaged, and transported, the coffee roaster must also taste hundreds of different coffes from plantations around the world to ensure that only the finest quality beans make it to our homes. In fact, there are so many variables under the roaster's control that even if two roasters source their unroasted coffee from the exact same plantation, the resulting roasted coffee will likely taste miles apart. Keeping in mind this wild variation from roaster to roaster, it only makes sense to try as many different coffees from as many different roasters as possible.
Origin The origin of a particular coffee bean tells us where in the world the coffee was grown. This is important because there are many different varieties of coffee plants found around the world which produce wildly different flavour qualities when they are roasted and brewed. But we can ask more about a coffee's origin beyond where it was grown. When we inquire about the origin of a coffee, we can ask about the specific farm or co-op that the coffee came from, which can tell us the elevation at which the coffee was grown or the process that was used to remove the coffee cherry's skin or to dry the beans. The natural flavours that are present in the coffee beans are exclusively determined by these questions oforigin. As examples of these origin-specific flavours, we can consider unwashed Ethiopian coffees grown above 4000 feet as compared to fully washed Guatemalan coffees grown below 4000 feet. The Ethiopian will likely taste fruity and winey when while the Guatemalan will taste mellow and chocolatey. Keeping these questions in mind when we're selecting the beans with which we begin our days can expand our notion of what we consider to a delicious cup of coffee while helping us to narrow in on the coffees that we cherish as our favourites.
Grind Experimenting with the fineness of the ground coffee used to brew a cup is one of the variables that will have the heaviest impact on the flavour of the coffee. If the grind is too coarse, the resulting cup will taste grassy and few of the natural flavours of the coffee will shine through. If the grind is too fine, the brew will taste bitter and overextracted. Finding the right grind comes as a result of brewing many cups of coffee, keeping notes about the flavours of the coffee, and adjusting the grind accordingly the next time we brew a cup until we find the happy middle ground. The correct grind size will vary widely depending on which brewer we are using. An espresso machine or Turkish-style coffee will require that the coffee is ground into a fluffy powder, while coffee ground for a French Press will be much coarser. Having the ability change the grind size of our coffee beans depending on which brew method we are experimenting with is imperative. The only way we can experiment with grind size and alter it for a given brew method is if we are grinding the coffee at home immediately before it is brewed. Although preground coffee is convenient, grinding coffee at home allows us the freedom to start our day with a perfect cup no matter how we choose to brew it. With the abundance of coffee shops popping up around the world and offering grinders and home brewing equipment, grinding coffee at home as never been more convenient and affordable.
Brew Ratio The coffee-to-water ratio used in the brewing process, also known as the brew ratio, has as much influence on the final cup has does the grind size. For a given amount ofwater, an increase or decrease in the amount ofground coffee used can result in a beverage that either tastes salty and watery or bitter and overpowering. For this reason, it is important to be as accurate as possible when measuring the amount ofcoffee that is used. Thanks again to the number ofcoffee shops sprouting up around the world, it has become increasingly easy to acquire affordable scales designed specifically for dosing out exactly the amount ofcoffee and water required for a delicious cup. As a general rule ofthumb, for a standard 12 oz (320 ml) cup ofcoffee, a recommended starting point would be about 18 g ofcoffee. However, this will vary wildly depending on the type ofcoffee, the grind size, and your personal flavour preference. Experiments can be done with each cup ofcoffee by keeping the amount ofwater constant, varying the amount ofcoffee used by 1-2 grams each time, and recording the resulting flavours in the resulting brew.
Water Temperature As a rule of thumb, coffee should be brewed with water that ranges between temperatures of 195째F and 205째F. Ideally this temperature should remain constant throughout the brewing process. Without using a thermometer, this can be achieved by bring the water to boil and allowing it to sit for about 45 seconds. However, with an inexpensive kitchen thermometer, finer temperature adjustments can be made within the range above. With a temperature closer to 205째F, different coffees could become slightly more acidic and and may have more body. On the other hand, coffees will generally become less bitter when brewed at temperatures closer to 195째F. Experimenting within this termparature range can yield highly unique and individualized flavours in the final brew.
Brew Time The brew time is the duration of time for which the water is in contact with the coffee. As a rule of thumb, this time frame can range from as low as three minutes all the way up to five minutes. Within this range, finding the perfect brew time comes as a result of experimenting and finding the perfect brew time for a given coffee, grind size and brew method. For certain brew methods, the brew time can tell us whether the grind size we chose was appropriate for the brew method. For example, when using a V60-style pourover, if all of the water has not passed through the coffee after five minutes, then the grind was much too fine. Conversely, if all of the water passes through the coffee in less than three minutes, then the grind was likely too coarse. The most important part is to try different brew times until you find the time that works best for your flavour preferences and brew method ofchoice.
Introduction What are we tasting when we drink coffee? Spend ten minutes in your local coffee shop and you might catch the employees behind the bar reflecting on the notes of strawberry in the daily espresso. On the other hand, someone who has never worked in the coffee industry might describe their favourite brew as "bold", "light", or "full-bodied". As a result, there is often a misunderstanding between people who have different tastes in coffee because there is no common language to describe what we taste. With the wide-spread use of a common language, anybody with an interest in coffee can begin to pinpoint the flavours that they love about a certain brew and find other coffees that also have those flavours. Coffee tasting tends to go in one of two directions. On one hand, we have the coffee's taste, which happens on the tongue, and the coffee's aroma, which happens in the nose. Together, these comprise the overall flavour of the coffee. This is where you'll often hear people shouting out random food items that they taste in the brew. But it is important to remember that most often when a coffee smells or tastes like strawberry, for example, it is usually not the exact smell or taste of strawberries but more of a faint whisper that simply reminds us of strawberries. Such specific flavour notes carry their value in giving us a general notion ofwhere the coffee will lead. On the other hand, there are many aspects other than tasting notes that can make a coffee either more or less enjoyable. Depending on factors such as origin, roasting style, and brew method, some coffees will be sweeter, more viscous, more prolonged, and overall
more enjoyable than others. Having a working vocabulary at our fingertips makes it easier to pinpoint the positive aspects of certain coffees and to seek out new coffees with those aspects in the future. Finally, a large part of the way a given coffee tastes depends on the how the coffee is brewed. Keeping in mind the guidelines above and experimenting within these guidelines can ensure that we always start our days with an amazing cup of coffee. By trying new methods and recording results, the brewing and tasting process becomes even more tailored to our own individual flavour preferences.
Flavour The flavour is a preference evaluation of the combined impression of the aroma that we smell in the nose and taste that we perceive on the tongue when we drink the coffee. An evaluation of flavour is best achieved by slurping the coffee into the mouth in order to incorporate the aroma and the taste of the coffee into a single sensory experience.
Aroma Coffee releases its aromas at three different moments during the brewing process. The dry aroma is present when coffee is freshly ground; the cup aroma is present during the brew process when water first contacts the dry coffee; and nose-derived aroma is experienced as the fresh coffee is taken into the mouth. Evaluating the intensity and the quality ofthese three aromas is a great way to determine the freshness and the quality ofthe coffee beans being used.
Sweetness Sweetness is one ofthe four fundamental taste sensations and is most commonly perceived at the front ofthe tongue. Sweetness is a good indicator that all ofthe factors offreshness, roast quality and the attention ofthe person brewing the coffee have come together to produce a successful cup ofcoffee.
Bitterness Bitterness, a flavour that can be somewhat pleasant at modest levels, is most commonly perceived towards the very back ofthe tongue. Ifa cup is overly bitter, it is a very good indication that the coffee was over-extracted during the brewing process. The bitterness in a cup can be reduced by experimenting with some combination ofa shorter brew time, a coarser grind or adding more coffee for a fixed amount ofwater.
Mouthfeel The mouthfeel of a given cup is a qualitative measurement of how a coffee feels in the mouth when we drink it. Depending on the grind size, brew method, and type of coffee, different quantities of oils and dissolved solids may be present in the final cup. Common words that can be used to describe the mouthfeel of a coffee are: thin, light, smooth, thick, buttery, heavy, and creamy.
Aftertaste Some coffees have an extremely prolonged taste which lingers long after the beverage has been swallowed. The aftertaste can carry flavours that were present in the initial flavour, or it can deliver brand new flavours that we were present nowhere else in the tasting process. A prolonged, pleasant aftertaste is usually a sign ofa high quality cup ofcoffee.
Complexity A coffee is very complex when there are several prominent attributes contributing to the sensory experience. For example, if a coffee is simultaneously very sweet with a prolonged aftertaste and a pungent aroma, then it might be labeled as a complex coffee.
Enjoyment The enjoyment ofa particular coffee is a purely subjective measurement ofhow pleasant the drink was. Sometimes, even when all ofour favourite aspects ofa coffee come together in one cup, it fails to make for an enjoyable experience. Conversely, sometimes a coffee may not appeal to us at all on paper, but in the cup it all comes together just right.