Coffee Primer - An introduction to the process of making a cup of coffee.

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If coffee brewing sounds intimidating and you’re confused by all the terms, this article is for you. Acquainting yourself with these tips will help you along your journey of learning.

This is not an advanced guide on brewing methodology. It’s about fundamentals.

This guide can be broken down as follows:

  • Coffee brewing can be simple or as complex as you’d like it to be.
  • Coffee reacts to the brewing method
  • Coffee is multidimensional
  • Coffee is suffering

Coffee brewing can be as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be.

At the most basic level, mix coffee grounds with hot water and viola, you have coffee. In fact, in many parts of the world (eg. Bali), coffee is made with this very fundamental method.

So why all the complexity? Light roast, medium roast, dark roast, french press, v60, chemex, drip, siphon, espresso, filtered, unfiltered.

In essence, coffee is varied in flavour and no two coffees are the same. Specialty coffee producers, roasters and cafes are trying to choose the right method to bring out the best flavour they can get out of a single coffee bean.

Choosing the right method will enhance the sweetness, fruitiness, aroma, body and aftertaste. But don’t get intimidated by this. Start simple, use a french press if you’ve got one, or a v60 because it’s cheap and easy to get into.

Get a V60 kit here

Coffee reacts to the brewing method

The variables you input into the brewing process, determines the output in the cup. The more variables you play with, the more defined your cup will be.

Here are the variables you need to know about.

#1 Grinder

A grinder will determine the size of the ground coffee particles that interacts with water. A finer grind results in increased solubility, conversely a courser one will decrease solubility. The grind particle size is used to control the time it takes for water to pass through the grounds in a percolation method, or the intensity of water’s absorption of the coffee’s solubility in an immersion or espresso method.

#2 Brew method

Each type of brewing gear will lend something to your brew. Pour over bring out a lighter body and crisper acidity, whilst french press or clever dripper will result in a thicker body and more intense tasting coffee. All gear can be roughly classified into three categories of brew method.

  1. Immersion will soak the grounds,
  2. Percolation or drip will pass the water through the grounds,
  3. Espresso will use pressure to push the water through the grounds.

#3 Temperature of the water at brew and consumption

The temperature of your water when brewing too will affect the taste. Too hot? Your coffee may over extract and have bitter flavours, too cool and it’ll taste under extracted or overly sour.

It’s recommended to brew your coffee between 90C- 96C. Don’t have a thermometer? Just let it boil over and sit for 5-10 mins. It should be at the appropriate temp at that point.

Another factor is consumption temperature. Each individual coffee will have a perfect temperature to drink it and the only way to know is to try. Some coffees drink well hot and taste horrid cold. Others taste ok hot, but spectacular cool. You should try your first cup of coffee for each bag at various temperatures before choosing the right temperature to drink it.

#4 The coffee beans

Each coffee bean will have an origin and a roast level. Again, the variables you input, determine the final output of the cup.

Specialty coffee aims to maintain the ‘terroir’ of the origin. That’s hipster for the environmental factors that affects the crop, ground water, rain fall, climate, etc.

The roast level determines the fruitness, brightness or chocolate and caramelised notes you get when brewing. So if you like a sparkling light, fruity cup, choose lighter roast, or if you like a darker intense chocolate nutty flavour, get a medium to darker roast.

If you’re completely new, and you should be if you’ve read up to this far, try to keep some variables constant and see how changing one or two things affect the cup. Over time, you’ll grow in appreciation and knowledge for how each factor lends to the taste profile and change things accordingly to your preferences.

Need some freshly roasted coffee?

Coffee is multidimensional

Traditionally, a good and simple cup of coffee is aromatic with a roast caramelised flavour. Good, but flat and with nothing that stands out as special. As the coffee industry focuses its attention on better processing methods, we’ve entered a phase where farmers and producers are getting deep into the variety of coffee species that exist in the wild.

Varietals now bring blueberry, strawberry, tea like notes, a huge spectrum of natural occurring sweetness that requires no sugar or milk to neutralise the bitterness of days past coffee.

Coffee today is like taking an expedition into the world’s natural reserves and appreciating all that mother nature has in store for us.

Which brings us to…

Coffee is suffering

Through a variety of factors, the price of coffee is at its all time lowest. It cost more money for a farmer to hire workers to pick and process the coffee fruits into beans than he/she would get on the open market for a bag of coffee. This has resulted in farmers leaving their trades and burning down their farms en masse.

If this continues, pretty soon there would be no more coffee to buy and the price of coffee would sky rocket due to demand supply issues. The only way is for end consumers to buy their roasted coffee from specialty vendors that have a mission to benefit farmers directly.

Here at Round Boy Roasters, we hope to contribute to this specialty coffee cause and sell you coffee beans that are sourced by companies that are farm traceable and sold at a fair price.

If you learnt something from our website, support us and coffee farmers by buying some roasted beans for your use at home.

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