January 20, 2015

Why Do Coffee Geeks Need So Many Toys?


I’m often asked what I use to make coffee. The answer is that I have several devices I use. Then, the most common follow-up question is “why so many?”

In my kitchen, you can find a  hand grinder, an electric  grinder, some digital scales, a Hario Buono kettle, a French Press, a V60 Decanter, a Cezve, a Gino Dripper, a Clever Dripper and of course an Aeropress. Open any drawer in my kitchen and you’ll see packets of filters of various shapes and sizes

The reason I have so many brewing devices goes far beyond my desire to try as many different ways of preparing coffee as I can. Although that does play a role, the heart of the issue lies in the ritual of coffee.

Freshly brewed coffee in a cezve/ibrik

It’s a ritual.

I Often Compare Coffee Preparation to Shaving…

Both can be quick, slow, painful, enjoyable, or relaxing. If you’re not that fond of shaving then you probably use a cheap plastic razor and some generic shaving cream to get the job done as quickly as possible. If you’re a shaving aficionado however, you probably enjoy the luxury of wielding an old fashioned safety razor with a real blade, and using a brush and a decent shaving cream to whip up a wonderfully thick and fragrant lather. Your shave is much more satisfying because you are engaged in an art form full of technique that you’ve had to practice at until you got it right.

For many people, coffee is about far more than the end result. The final product is just a part of a process which begins with the growing of the coffee under exact conditions, and via the processes of picking, washing, drying, exporting and roasting, these beautiful little beans end up with us. So, the point at which we get involved can be as large or small a part of this process as we wish. We can opt to grind our beans by hand and brew them in a way that encourages us to engage all our senses and immerse ourselves in the ritual of coffee preparation for ten or fifteen minutes.

Barber shaving a customer

A close shave: I take more care with my coffee that this Guatemalteco barber.

Of course, sometimes you don’t want to spend fifteen minutes making a coffee like this. For example, rather than wrestling with a stainless steel hand grinder for five minutes you’d prefer to put your beans through an electric grinder. If time is an issue, there’s a piece of equipment and a method that exists to give you a great cup of coffee in five minutes.

A fun part of the brewing experience is finding this out for yourself what techniques and devices work best for you. That being said, here favourite methods for both quick and slow brewing.

For a Rapidito and Easy Cup:

It has to be the AeroPress. Stick the kettle on, weigh out your beans, throw them in an electric grinder, pop the two halves of the Aero together, drop your coffee in, give it a stir, wait a couple of minutes and plunge into your favourite mug. A wonderfully clean cup of tasty coffee in five minutes, and even the cleaning up afterwards should take no more than three minutes.

Other Rapidito Options:

French Press – consistently great coffee in around seven minutes flat.

Not Neutral Gino Dripper – a beautiful, smooth cup inside five minutes from a beautiful smooth device.

Milk being poured into coffee

Maybe don’t pour the milk that quick.

For a Slow and Elaborate:

A drip process, and for me, my favourite piece of drip kit is my Hario V60. Not only does the Hario produce a great coffee, but it looks superb – chic, and scientific.   For this method I’d set aside a good fifteen minutes, and savour the little processes of carefully weighing out the beans, bringing the water to the boil on the stove in my Hario kettle, and watch the process slowly take place until that cup eventually arrives.

Other Slow Options:

Ibrik / Cezve – Another stovetop device, this device comes in many designs, shapes and sizes, and is used to brew Turkish coffee. It takes a bit of practice, patience and technique to get it right, so seek out some information online before trying. The beauty of this is that the coffee is brewed with sugar (and optional spices such as cardamom and cinnamon) to give an aromatic, sweet and full-bodied coffee which results in an extremely unique flavor. It will probably take several attempte to get just right, but stick with it and you will be glad you did! Brewing time can take up to 10 minutes, less with a gas stove.

Self-brewing can sometimes result in a less than perfect cup– stale beans due to poor storage, a cheap grinder giving an uneven grind, under or over-brewing through bad timing- but when done correctly the coffee experience is ultimately enhanced for anyone who cares enough to put in a little extra time!

Is this rapid or slow? Takes him about 5 minutes.

Perfect Daily Grind.