[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m addicted to trying new coffees. It’s not the coffee itself, or the caffeine. It’s that coffee has so much uniqueness to it, I can try something different every single day for the rest of my life and probably never have two coffees exactly the same.
This is part of the reason I like small manual brewing methods, and grinding my own coffee fresh at home, because they give me the ability to get the most out of the taste in my coffee, and to see the differences from one coffee to the next.
This is also why on occasion I really enjoy big shifts in the kinds of coffee I drink. I usually say I don’t like dark roasts, but on occasion, I find them super satisfying. The same for particular tastes… Usually, I like a coffee that has deep chocolate and rich fruit sugar (Yemen tends to hit the nail on the head for me) – but sometimes I find exploring earthy and woody flavors deeply satisfying.
The challenge in enjoying this kind of experience is getting your hands on all these different coffees and exploring like that. I’m at a bit of an advantage, seeing as I publish a magazine about coffee and share coffees with the world, it’s easy for me to get my hands on a wide variety.
I actually have had the privilege of knowing the guys who started BeanBox from the very beginning. They started just down the street from Conduit Coffee, and actually came on the Coffee Lovers Radio early on.
Since then they have grown significantly and provide a really fantastic experience connecting people with the best coffee from Seattle and the surrounding regions. You can really explore a good depth of coffee experience through their coffee boxes.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ced Coffee and Coldbrew are all the rage right now. I find this newfound enthusiasm for coffee to be fantastic. This is coming from the perspective of someone who wants to improve your experience and get you exploring more delicious coffee. These cold and iced brewing options bring you a different perspective on coffee. In many ways, iced coffee and cold brew in particular makes it easier to get into drinking coffee with nothing added. This is because often coffee brewed this way comes off less bitter and more sweet.
But there are some significant downsides to the ways in which you can prepare coffee cold.
Starting with Cold Brew.
This method of brewing coffee is typically done in a lengthy immersion method. You start off with (a lot of) coarse grounds, added to a large chamber, and then you proceed to add a large quantity of lukewarm or cold water. At this point, you stir the coffee and then let it sit for 12-24 hours (either on the counter or in your fridge).
The main idea here is that you aren’t using any hot water. And that’s where the main problem with cold brew originates.
In order to brew a full and proper extraction (of all the balanced flavors of a coffee), you must use heat. There are certain soluble components of roasted coffee which can only be extracted in water using heat. These are primarily acids of the coffee, responsible for the brighter and more complex flavors.
Industry professionals are critical of cold brew because of this – you aren't getting all of the coffee's flavors in your cup. Many people at the peak of quality in the coffee industry are focused on representing the farmers work to it’s fullest. It is no surprise then that you would find discontent in a brewing method which does not meet that objective.
But also, many cold brew coffees end up tasting the same, even if their hot brewed counterparts are wholly and very clearly different.
So you might then make an Iced Coffee using a hot brew.
This method is typically done using the Japanese Iced Coffee method.
This technique is only possible with pour-over and drip style brewing. In these methods, coffee is placed usually in a paper filter, and then water is poured on top. Coffee ‘drips’ through the filter into the vessel below.
To brew using the Japanese Iced Coffee method, you begin by adding ice into your vessel below the filter with coffee. You then adjust your brewing to account for the ice such that your total water and coffee ratio is still the same.I do this by taking the total water I would use brewing and placing 1/3 of it as ice into the brewing vessel. Then to compensate for pouring less water through the grounds, I’ll grind slightly finer.
The problem with this iced method? Yes you get hot water to fully extract the range of compounds. But unfortunately, because you aren’t completely brewing with all the water, your extraction balance will be off no matter what you do (even if you grind finer or add more coffee). At best, you are brewing a more concentrated pour over and then diluting and chilling it with the ice.
You might say, why not brew hot regularly, and then let it cool off and/or throw it in the fridge.
The problem with doing that is your coffee either needs to sit out and cool off over too long a period (do you really want to wait an hour for your coffee to cool?) or you have to add a hot steamy carafe to your fridge, which is very bad for everything else in there.
The solution recently presented itself…
In the form of The Coldwave.
This coffee chiller is blindingly simple. All you need to do is brew your coffee however you wish. Then you pour it into the Coldwave carafe and add the frozen insert. In 2 minutes, freshly brewed coffee will be chilled down to 40 degrees F. Perfect iced coffee with no dilution.
Aside from the simplicity of The Coldwave (anyone can use this, it requires no special knowledge or experience), you have the added benefit of being able to chill more than just pour over / drip coffee. You can flash chill your French Press. You can flash chill even your latte (imagine a chilled latte without having to worry about ice diluting your drink).
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]o you want to make your coffee stronger?
Do you want the strongest coffee in the world? Do you think your coffee is weak?
The idea of “strong” coffee is probably the most culturally communicated desire. “How do you like your coffee?” “Strong, and black.” “I don’t care how you make the coffee as long as it’s strong!” And of course the bevy of businesses representing ‘the strongest coffee.’ It’s one of the most demanded things by coffee drinkers everywhere. Yet, there’s seemingly no consistent (or accurate) connection to reality when it comes to individuals knowing what ‘strong coffee’ really is.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he immortal Pumpkin Spice Latte – loved by many, and hated by others (mainly because this is about a tasty coffee drink, and not really the coffee itself). I love a good treat myself and prefer to make them with as many real ingredients as possible. There will be no bottled syrups here.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Sweet, rich, and tasting of our favorite fall flavor - pumpkin spice. This recipe is simple to put together and intended for use when heating milk on the stovetop. If you are using a steamer to heat your milk, a different approach is necessary (that recipe coming soon).
In a sauce pan, combine milk, pumpkin puree, and sugar
Heat milk + pumpkin + sugar until you see wisps of steam coming off the milk - stir continuously during heating
When you start seeing wisps of steam coming off the milk, remove from heat
Add vanilla extract, pumpkin spice, and coffee, and stir all together
Portion into cups and Top with whipped cream - sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on top
There are a few important things to note about this recipe. First off, this is intended specifically for those who heat milk on a stovetop. If you use a steamer to heat your milk (like that on an espresso machine), then you'll need to go an entirely different route. I intend on creating a video demonstrating how to make this pumpkin spice latte recipe with espresso and a milk steamer, but I'm still perfecting the recipe at the moment – in short, the milk must be steamed alone (though the best solution is probably going to be steaming half the milk).
On alternatives: this recipe calls for a LOT of vanilla extract. It really does taste amazing with that much vanilla extract, but unless you have access to costco or use fake vanilla extract, this recipe can get expensive, fast. I like the alternative of maple syrup to the vanilla extract and have experimented with that, though I find the taste is not quite as potent (though the added maple is pretty nice). As an alternative to sugar, it's easy to use honey here as well.
On the subject of the coffee used: I go into this a bit on the video. Picking out the coffee to use in your pumpkin spice latte doesn't have to be a major challenge. I do recommend avoiding light roasted coffees. Light roasts can often be difficult to combine with milk and have the tastes come out well – this is especially the case when adding extra strong-flavored ingredients (like everything else in the pumpkin spice latte recipe). If you find that you have a hard time getting a good ‘coffee taste' out of your PSL, then the easiest solution is to go darker with the coffee roast. Darker roasted coffees have more oils and caramelized sugars that translate well in a milk-based drink. If you want to stay with more medium roasted coffees, then in terms of the natural flavor of coffee, aim for chocolatey and nutty coffees. Central and South American coffees provide a good source of this – Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Brazil will all be a safe bet for coffee in the pumpkin spice latte.
Sweet, rich, and tasting of our favorite fall flavor – pumpkin spice. This recipe is simple to put together and intended for use when heating milk on the stovetop. If you are using a steamer to heat your milk, a different approach is necessary (that recipe coming soon).
French Press Coffee is one of my favorite brew methods. It’s a simple process – relatively easy to do, and quite forgiving. So it turns out that French Press is one of the best brew methods for those of you getting into drinking finer coffee at home.
In any case, it is often the method that I recommend for certain types of coffee. There is a caveat because the type of coffee that you wish to drink (speaking in terms of, the way the coffee is roasted, light-medium-dark, and the nature of that coffee) can and should impact the brew method that you chose. Not all brew methods are created equal.
With that being said, French Press is fantastic, so let’s dive in and check it out.
First off – what is French Press Coffee? The French Press, or often simply just called a ‘press pot,’ is a pot within which you brew grounds by fully immersing them in water. After a certain period of time, you ‘press’ a handle with filter down through the coffee, forcing the grounds to the bottom, and leaving the incredibly tasty brewed coffee at the top (without 99% of the gritty coffee grounds in your drink).
This lets you get a delicious brewed, full-bodied cup of coffee which is relatively clean (depending on the quality and type of the French Press you use, as well as the quality of the grind and the coffee you brew with).
How to Brew French Press Coffee – A Simple Guide
Here is my simple to follow guide for making French Press Coffee, presuming a 32 oz (or 8 cup) pot.
2)MEASURING: there are two ways to do this. You can measure using a scale (recommended for all methods), or for French Press you could get away with using a tablespoon. Weigh out 42-56 grams of coffee, or 6-8 tablespoons. This brew method is forgiving and you will likely want to experiment to find your preferred ‘ratio' (coffee to water).
By Weight: You’ll see the term ‘ratio’ used in any proper set of brewing guidelines. Brewed coffee is created when water ‘extracts’ the soluble components of roasted coffee. A good brew is determined by factors like grind size, brewing method, and the ratio of water to coffee measured by weight. Following these guidelines provides a standardized and consistent system. For the French Press, assuming you have a proper grind size, you can start by brewing with 16 grams of water for every 1 gram of coffee. This is noted as a 16:1 brewing ratio.
By Volume: If you must brew by volume, it is prudent to weigh how much of your specific coffee is per tablespoon (or whatever unit of measurement). Not all coffee is equal by volume and the difference can be dramatic enough to make one brew excellent and the other terrible. Water can be measured by volume with this simple approximation – 1 gram of water = 1 ml of water.
3)Grind at a medium-coarse setting. I recommend starting with a grind size roughly similar to that of Kosher Salt. From there, remember the following. The coarser the grind size the longer it will take for the water to extract the coffee solids, and visa versa. If your French Press is bitter and rather assaulting on your taste buds – the grind is probably too fine, so you should make your grind coarser. If it seems too watery, make your grind finer. There are more purist ways of going about this, but that will get you started on the right path. The above troubleshooting is also dependent upon using the proper amount of coffee for the water (see Advanced Brewing).
4)After boiling your water, set the pot aside for 30-60 seconds (this is just to let it come down from the boil a little bit… a temperature of around 205 degrees F is recommended). Alternately, acquire a brew pot with a thermometer. You never want to brew with water just off the boil, as you can actually scald the grounds.
5)Add your ground coffee to the pot, add water up to the 32 oz mark (close to the top but not quite) – set a timer for 4 minutes and wait.
6)After 4 minutes, give your coffee a little stir, and then press the filter down – don't do this too fast. You might see people do this super slow, and that's not really necessary. The reason for pressing slowly is to make sure the filter doesn't let finer grinds through the sides as you press down. After stirring you likely won't feel any resistance, but the finer grinds will be agitated and may creep up the sides past the filter if you push with too much force.
7)Pour and enjoy! I recommend trying your french press coffee without anything added to it at first – this will help you learn the finer flavor elements of the coffee itself, and help you fine tune your brew process to make even better coffee.
8)WASH your French Press! Soap is not necessary, just be sure to rinse off all the grounds – especially around the filter. Every so often you will want to use soap, as the coffee oils can build up.
It is a Simple Joy
The delightful aspect of French Press is that the process is incredibly simple. You are merely brewing fully immersed coffee in a container, and then straining it. Ideally, you do this with a press pot – that is, a container made to brew coffee which can be glass, plastic, metal, etc, which has a top that contains a built-in ‘plunger’ that lets you press a filter through the container, pushing the coffee grounds to the bottom. However, the coffee you get from French Press is really all about the immersive nature of the brew, and not the pressing of the grounds to the bottom of the pot.
This means you can replicate french press style coffee without a press pot. All you need is a way to fully immerse your grounds in water during the brew time, and then remove the grounds from the brewed coffee afterward. I’ve done french press in a jar – and afterward poured it through a regular coffee filter (this actually resulted in an even smoother cup of coffee, because I used a paper filter with a much much finer mesh to it than the metal filter that typically comes in a french press). If you were of limited resources (or traveling, or camping, for example), you could brew in a pot and then strain your coffee through something like a sock (I would recommend a clean one).
So let’s talk about types of coffee.
Why does the type of coffee matter? Here is a short explanation: The flavors of coffee are a result of extracting elements from the ground coffee beans with hot water. You are extracting acids and lipids. Without going into details, you can simply understand that acids are extracted faster than lipids – and acids are responsible for lighter/brighter flavors, while the lipids are responsible for deeper/richer/fuller flavors. What matters here is the speed of ‘extraction.’
When you brew a French Press coffee, you are brewing for 4 minutes, and the grounds sit within this hot water the entire time. This means that there is time for the hot water to extract the lipids as well as the acids from the coffee – and your resulting brew is full of much more rich, deep, and ‘full-bodied’ flavors (this compares to a drip coffee, where the hot water passes through and past the beans in a matter of a seconds). In short, there are much more oils apparent in French Press after brewing. In addition to this, the lack of paper filter means those oils will not be filtered out – so your cup of coffee does end up with a lot more body simply due to the oils in it.
So what coffee is best with a French Press then?
You can certainly enjoy any type of coffee in the French Press – don’t let the coffee you have available keep you from experimenting, however medium and darker roasts tend to be more enjoyable because they are balanced better in terms of flavor towards the lipid aspect of the coffee beans. You also get the benefit of more sugar caramelization in these coffees roasted deeper, and that comes out sweeter in immersion than a lighter roasted coffee.
The best part about this brew method – aside from the fantastic coffee you get – is that it is so forgiving. There are some brew methods, I find, where precision with your measurements and water pouring technique are really necessary to achieve a consistently delicious brew. In French Press, you can certainly be precise – if you find a recipe which you like the most – but you can also wing it. As an example, just the other night I made a french press with a new coffee. I did not have a scale on hand, so I simply eyeballed about 6 tablespoons worth of beans (into a 32 oz pot) and then filled the pot. The resulting coffee tasted great.
So if you haven’t jumped into the adventure that is coffee, just go grab a french press, a grinder, and have fun!
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Now that you understand the basics of the French Press operation there are is a particular advanced method which can be used to HIGHLY elevate your French Press experience.
One of the defining characteristics of French Press is that you end up with all of the oils from the coffees in your mug. This is usually one of the main things responsible for the feeling of a fuller bodied cup of coffee. HOWEVER, these can often result in undesirable flavors – so, some folks have come up with a process of brewing with French Press that removes most of this.
The differences in technique come after the brew is complete. Go through your normal French Press brewing process – grind, pour, and wait your 4 minutes. Do not cover. Be careful not to touch the French Press, or bump the table it is sitting on.
Take note that towards the end of the brew, there is sort of a foam layer on top of the brew in the French Press.
After the 4 minutes are up, take two spoons (you can do this with 1, but 2 is often easier), and very carefully scoop all the foam off the top of the brew. It is ok if you grab some of the grounds up there as well – the goal is to remove as much of the top layer as possible.
Once you have removed that layer, then you may put your lid back on, and slowly press through the coffee – and enjoy as usual.
Watch this process here:
You will discover that the brew is a bit lighter in feel and crisper in flavor. You still get all the benefits of the immersion brew – yet you remove a lot of the caustic elements which end up sitting at the top. If you have a particularly delicate, or finicky roast, this can be a great method to try out (or if you just want to experiment and have fun!).
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ellow is a company I’ve been following for some time now. They caught my eye with their beautiful kettle over a year ago, and I’ve been eyeballing it since. This past April, at SCA’s Global Coffee Expo, I ran into the folks at Fellow and they showed me their new Fellow Stagg Dripper.
Now I’d seen a little bit of these drippers before – the new version they provided me is a little bit smaller. They have quite an intriguing style and design, being very compact and well made.
My initial reaction whenever seeing a new brewer is to ask, ‘why this over any of the other great options that are available?’
The Fellow Stagg Dripper I can best describe as a sort of a cross between Kalita Wave and Chemex – in terms of the resulting coffee that you get. So in the video, I do a lot of comparison between the Stagg and those two other brewing methods.
You’ll see my conclusion isn’t to call this dripper better or worse than any other – in fact, I think it’s a blessing to say that the brewed experience it creates is unique compared to the other options. You can, therefore, make such statements as if you really enjoy the Kalita wave but wish your cup was just a little bit smoother, then the Stagg may be perfect for you.
The physical qualities of the brewer could be more than enough to make it just right all on their own. Given that you can create a delicious and properly extracted coffee with the brewer – as you can with the Kalita, the Chemex, the Aeropress, etc – if you aren’t picky about the unique nature of the brew but would rather have something super compact, very well made, and extremely durable, the Stagg may be just right for you.
I actually really like the compact and durable nature of this brewer, along with some of the built-in features like the measuring/drip tray, and mini funnel for getting grounds into the filter.
The only real ‘drawback’ of this brewer is the price, at $60. They do give you two options. The smaller one I demonstrated is more suitable to a continuous pour drip method, whereas the larger one can produce some more immersion style brewing along with the drip. Since there are other brewing methods that make a fantastic cup of coffee at a lower price, you just need to take that out of the equation – that is, if the price is an object, look somewhere else (like a Kalita, or V60, or even an Aeropress).
You might consider the need to get their custom filters a drawback, but this is the case for most coffee brewers.
[dropcap]K[/dropcap]latch Coffee Roasters has been well known in specialty circles for many years. Established in 1993, they are coming up on their 25 year anniversary – now regularly winning awards for their coffee and their service. I’ve had the pleasure to see Klatch compete (and win) in the (no longer being held) America’s Best Coffeehouse competitions of Coffeefest (an industry-focused coffee convention). I’m a bit sad to see these competitions go, as they were incredibly fun and enlightening to watch and experience – basically each ‘cafe’ would perform a cafe service in a mock cafe space (everyone had the same space), showing off their service and drinks.Perhaps that sort of thing would be a good fit for a consumer-focused show in the future…
This episode of Coffee Lovers TV is all about Klatch Coffee Roasters FTO Ethiopia Gedeb coffee, a 2017 Good Food Awards winner.
I was both curious to investigate what makes a ‘Good Food Awards Winner’ and to see what Klatch is roasting up these days.
I realized after recording that I didn’t make any remarks on the idea of what makes a Good Food Awards winner in coffee – or what makes an award-winning coffee at all.In this episode I found myself a little stumped for words – this coffee, while absolutely delicious, I found my words in describing it to be a little elusive.
Sometimes it is challenging for me to put adequate words to delicate coffees. I always try to paint a picture of my experience which is relatable regardless of your level of experience with coffee. I am acutely aware of how off-putting it can be to have someone talk to you about the tastes in coffee when it all sounds ridiculous.
My short summary of this coffee is that it is a delicious and solid representation of Gedeb Ethiopia coffee.
But…it’s not remarkable.
I feel like that response comes off very negative too. We kind of live in a world right now where coffee roasters everywhere are foisting superlatives upon their coffees to no end. How many times can you have a rare and amazing coffee before that starts to loose its meaning – and also starts to diminish the value/quality of coffee which is simply ‘quite good.’
I even feel like I need to put qualifiers in front of it now – ‘just’ good.
I’ll probably have to do a Cup of Joe where I rant and ramble a bit about this phenomenon. Maybe it’s mostly just me, as I live in this world 24/7.
But to add on to that a little bit, I think this coffee is the perfect example of an award winner. Judges for coffee are looking at a wide range of qualities good and bad to make their assessment, and this coffee has – so far as I can tell – no bad to it, and plenty of good. It’s well-sourced and well roasted, and it’s fairly easy to brew a great cup at home. These, of course, aren’t the technical guidelines judges in competitions use, but it is I think my fair outside assessment that anyone can agree with.
You might make the argument that great / very interesting coffees should have some kind of flaw – after all, natural beauty is often imperfect. Perhaps this is again a personal view of mine as lately I’ve found great enjoyment in exploring coffees that have remarkable specific character traits alongside notable flaws. This might also be somewhat related to my dissatisfaction with the typical symmetrical latte art pours of rosettas, hearts and the like. Give me asymmetry! Give me some shadow to define the light.
Ok, I’m getting way off track.If you are looking for a good Ethiopian coffee, check out my thoughts and grab a bag if it sounds tasty. You won’t be disappointed.