Monday, 22 April 2013

Thoughts from a Coffee Drinker

Like every other morning he reached for the grinder and pushed the  on button, spooning in several tablespoons of beans into the hopper, the grinding sound of the burrs chopping the beans was something he was used to. After a minute he scooped the grounds into a cloth filter and reached for the hot water, carefully pouring the hot liquid over the grounds. The two are married and what happens next is the most magical thing that can happen in any coffee house, the brown liquid we call ‘coffee’ is produced. From these two simple ingredients, coffee, and water. Who would have thought that such a good taste could come from so few ingredients? He takes a sip as usual, the steaming liquid swirling just a little as he brings it to his lips. He tastes it, takes a drink, and swallows. 

But something happened. It started when the coffee was roasted a little too dark. No, it wasn’t charcoal, but Starbucks would have been happy to brew the coffee I’d roasted. Sure, it was coffee, it was fresh, but it was missing what makes good coffee rounded and full. Instead of 3D it was 2D at best. Just two dimensions instead of the three which I was used to in a well roasted coffee. I drank it for several reasons, I’d brewed it and didn’t want to waste it, and I knew that given enough time I would have a headache knocking on my skull asking me why I hadn’t drunk any caffeine earlier. I didn’t enjoy it though, not like I enjoy good coffee. I was also solo drinking it, which never helps anything, as much as I’m not a social drinker (I will not drink at my church ‘cause they use Maxswill) social gatherings, usually involving extended family entices one to drink. So when I do drink it alone it has to be good, I mean really good, like me looking forward to it when I get out of bed, imagining the smell of the coffee as I open my ceramic jar, and then as I grind my beans, and then as I brew them and drink the wonderful beverage. I have to enjoy it. The following morning I had some other beans I’d roasted, which were lighter, but it didn’t taste all that great, everything but the brewed liquid was good. This happened the following day as well and I was beginning to think it was the coffee not me.

So what happened? I don’t know. I do know that I went off it for two days, switching my usual caffeine from coffee to yerba mate. Breaks are essential I think, at some point, even if you drink it everyday, three times a day, at some point you need a break. It’s human to have to take a break and just stop for a little while, even if it’s just a day or two. Next, instead of the electric grinder, this time I used my hand crank grinder, which resulted in a small arm workout, and a little extra time from whole bean to pouring water over the grounds. But it involved more of me and my time, making it mean more to me. Just like when you grow your own food, grind your own wheat, when you are more involved you enjoy it more, or you should. Instead of the typical cloth filters, which are reusable I used a paper filter, which resulted in a cleaner cup. The cloth filters add more body because they hold the coffee for just a little bit longer in contact with the grounds. Thirdly I roasted lighter. Just like if I have a weak cup of coffee it makes me want a strong cup, so having a dark roasted coffee a lot makes me want a lighter roast. 

What have I learned? Learn to take breaks, even if it’s not a break from caffeine, take a break from the same liquid. It helps you appreciate it that much more, like a three day fast from food, the food tastes better. Grind by hand if I have the extra minute on my side. Change up your roasting style, go for acidic every once in a while because that makes you appreciate the better roasts even more. And of course, use a good method for brewing, paper is my preferred method if I’m brewing into a carafe for more than 6 people, but otherwise I often use a filter. But I’ve learned to even change up that, I have about 5 brewing methods to choose from, and varying them helps keep things fresh. 

English Vintner