I met a man last winter in a coffee shop. He wore glasses, smiled incessantly, and made me feel edgy. It turned out the shop was his. Then it turned out we married five months later. And that’s how I married coffee. Until I met my husband, Matt, I thought (like so many of us misguided cooks & food enthusiasts do) that I knew good coffee. I was wrong. Completely wrong.
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 it’s evident how much we, as a culture, still have to learn. The exciting part is that we are, in fact, learning. 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?” all the more infuriating for how terrible the joke was. Well, I basically married that guy. Though in all fairness, he never judges how people take their coffee. As he always 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.
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 roasting contributes yet another layer to coaxing the natural flavor & sweetness 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 akin to a French patisserie and asking for a burnt croissant.
I’ve learned is that it’s 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 far off the beaten path, he selects the best beans. When they arrive, he roasts them himself. At present there still isn’t anyone else he trusts to do his roasting. It’s that particular; roasting is an art unto itself. And so is brewing. That final step needs to be done with care in order to get the most out of the beans: the most sweetness, the most complexity, the best flavor. So whether you prefer French Press or the classic Pour Over (my personal favorite for it’s clean, bright taste), we’ve written a step by step guide for your home brewing. And by we, I mean my husband told me what to do and I wrote it down. The truth is, I still rarely if ever make my own coffee…spoiled, I know.
You can find this gorgeous brass & walnut pour over, olive wood French press, copper kettle & coffee scoop, and so much more handsome gear for home brewing over at my partner Kaufmann Mercantile. And you can find one additional guide not included here, our guide to Stovetop Espresso, on their blog Field Notes!
Pour Over Method
Tools & Ingredients:
A digital scale and thermometer
15 grams fresh coffee beans
V60 paper filters
Pour over dripper
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
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.