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Coffees of the World, Part Three

№53 ~13 minutes

In which I conclude the coffee journey I’ve been on for quite a while.

And thuseth concludeth our journey.. eth. Or to be more accurate, I will decrease the amount of blogging about coffee. It’s been a hell of a ride these past two months and I have learned so much. Far from being done in any way I just feel like I have been pestering all of you (five people at least) with my coffee explorations. Not only have I been excessively blogging about it.. but at any possible moment I have also discussed it with friends. One friend particularly helped me a lot on what I should write for this “final” entry. Ironically he will probably never actually read it.

Now, do try to keep in mind that there are many things I don’t know yet.. I haven’t even begun to explore the world of espresso-making, so some things here will be.. opinions! Yeah, that’s right.. my very subjective opinions.. other things.. well.. I do try to be as objective as possible and in some cases I will be stating simple facts that are already established in the world of coffee connoisseurs and baristas. I’m simply retelling them.

But anyway.. here goes.. Coffees of the World, part Three.. subtitled..

So you want to make better coffee too?”

Illustrations of different coffee brewing methods. From left to right: Moka Pot, Vacuum Pot, Percolator, French Press, Electric Drip Brewer and Espresso Machine.
All illustrations courtesy of your truly.

Believe it or not but which sort of coffee brewer you decide to use affects your coffee greatly. And despite what you might think.. some are better at brewing coffee than others. Now, let’s establish one thing right away. If you like your coffee the way grandma used to make it, using and then reusing pre-ground store-bought “cheapest she could find” coffee brewed in a coffee pot.. then by all means, that is what you like. But don’t fool yourself thinking that it’s the best way to extract coffee because it isn’t. Still.. if you like it like that, then by all means.

From left to right we have: Moka Pot, Vacuum Pot, Percolator, French Press, Electric Drip Brewer and Espresso Machine.

Moka Pot, a.k.a Macchinetta [1933]

Poor man’s espresso. Technically not an espresso maker because the pressure at best is 1.5 bar when it would have to be exactly 9 bar to make it a true espresso. Can still make crema which I like and usually has a stronger brew with a more defined flavour than Drip Brew. Can’t afford a real espresso machine and still want something espresso-y? This is for you.

Vacuum Pot [1840, earliest]

Looks more complicated than it is. I have thought about buying one. Well respected for it’s clean cup and well-controlled brew. If you like a clean cup but still have the time to engage in your coffee making, this one is for you.

Percolator [late 18th century.. 1865 in USA]

Do you like your coffee bitter with plenty of acidity no matter what you do? Do you think that over-extracting by actually boiling your coffee is a good idea? Then you should continue to use your shitty percolator. Destroys a lot of flavour and oils. What can I say, I don’t like them or the coffee they make. If you like percolated coffee then I pity you.. secretly.. but by all means, do continue.

French Press [late 19th century]

Well-controlled brew. Will give you some amount of sludge, no matter what you do.. that’s just how they work. Recommendations? Buy a double walled French Press so the temperature doesn’t drop too quickly when you brew. Water and coffee is fully mixed when brewing with this, giving you flavours and essential oils that a Drip Brewer never could. Do you want a cup of coffee where you can actually notice the hints of berry or something and you don’t a bit of sludge? Then this is the machine for you.

Electric Drip Brewer [early 20th century]

Are you convenient (lazy) and like a clean cup? Then Drip is the way to go. The paper filter removes any kind of sludge but also flavours and oils. I actually brewed coffee in my French Press, then filtered it through a paper filter. It was.. disgusting to say the least. Some drip brewers brew coffee at too low temperatures (85°C instead of 93°C) making your cup into an under-extracted one. Too slow? Well then you just get a lot of bitterness. Personally, if you want a clean cup get yourself a Vacuum Pot instead, it’s better. Having said that, Technivorm Moccamasters is the way to go if you insist on an Electric Drip Brewer. They are approved by the SCAA.

Espresso Machine

A bit more tricky to learn properly. Makes a true espresso. Can you afford the time and money to make good espresso? Want to impress your friends? Then this is probably the machine for you, but I’m warning you.. if you want it good, it’s going to cost you.

Final note

Basically.. it’s like this. If you must have a good clean cup of coffee, Vacuum Pot is what you want, circa 50€ at Clas Ohlson. Don’t mind a bit of sludge in your good cup of coffee, French Press is your poison, circa 22€ at Clas Ohlson. If you think real espresso is the only kind of coffee there is then an Espresso Machine is what you should get, 200€ and more for the good stuff. Some machines will ruin whatever you put in them, some more than others.


Next we have water

A map pointing a Peru.

Does it really matter? To put it simply.. it does, get used to it, ~98% of your coffee IS water. If you think your tap water tastes like ass.. your coffee will be brewed using ass. But if you’re anything like me, proven in Nine Days Later and can’t tell the difference between Spring water and tap water, then by all mean, keep using tap water. I still do.. at least for now. I have no doubts that better water will make better coffee, but if you can’t tell the difference it’s really difficult to argue for the use of Spring water.

Next..

Pre-ground coffee or not?

A map pointing a Peru.

If you want better coffee, do yourself a huge favour and get yourself a grinder. Even if it’s a shitty blade grinder for.. you know what? Never mind, don’t get a shitty blade grinder, get a burr grinder because it’s better. In every possible way. Why should you grind your own coffee no matter what? Assuming optimal storing, which is air, light and moist free in a cool environment, but not the fridge. Ground coffee is significantly stale and shitty after 3 days.. if your taste buds are awesome, you could notice it after as little as 20 minutes. Roasted whole beans can last for 10-14 days. Green (unroasted) beans can be stored a year easily, although they prefer that air can move around, like in a burlap sack. Pre-ground is never and will never be as good as grinding it right before you need it. If you only want to change one thing about your coffee.. then never buy pre-ground again. Is the effort more? Yes, but it’s worth it.

You get what you pay for

A map pointing a Peru.

Never has it been so true as when it comes to coffee. Not to throw dirt at anyone here in particular, but when one cup of coffee will cost you ~8 cents to make and the other will cost you ~1.40€ to make. Which one do you think is better? Don’t delude yourself and think that with the right amount of skills and proper equipment you can make Juhla Mokka into “OMG! This is teh best coffee I have ever had!!?11”. You can’t, and neither can anyone else. Having said that, of course you can make a decent cup of coffee with it but a better coffee will still be a better coffee.. made using the exact same ratios/temperatures and everything else. Ironically enough, you can destroy Jamaican Blue Mountain (one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world), if you don’t know what you are doing. My advice? Do yourself a favour and buy better coffee, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive coffee in the world.. just remember that you do get what you pay for.

Cold brewed coffee and why you need to consider it

A map pointing a Peru.

Think of it this way, coffee is extracted from the ground into the water, which you then drink. Pretty simple eh? The temperature of the water simply tells you how long you extract your coffee to get all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff. What’s why an espresso is extracted in 25-30 seconds.. oh yeah right.. pressure also affects extraction time. Anyway.

You can actually try this one at home, without any extra equipment other than what you probably already own. Still with me? Good.. here’s what you do. Take a glass jar or something similar that can hold at least 500 ml of fluid. Take any random shit coffee you have at home. Measure and pour 10 tablespoons of coffee (15 ml) or in case you have a more modern coffee spoon that holds 20 ml in which case 8 coffee spoons of coffee will do fine. Now pour in 250 ml of cold water and stir with a wooden spoon or something similar. Stir a little again after 2 minutes. Put some plastic wrap over the whole thing and leave it in room temperature for 12 hours. After the 12 hours have passed, pour it through your shitty drip brewers paper filter until you’re only left with a black delicious liquid you will come to love forever. This is coffee concentrate (CC) with a ratio of 1:4.5 which I doubt you would be able to drink as is. But you can mix this with cold water and ice. As of lately the temperature around here has been wandering between 25-35°C.. drinking hot coffee is not very appealing.. but OMG Iced coffee is awesome! Of course you totally can mix it with hot water too if you for some reason feel like torturing yourself in this heat. Any questions? If not.. then what are you waiting for, start cold brewing right now.. you can thank me later.

I mixed 1 part CC with 2 parts cold water, added 1 part ice cubes, ½ part milk and a dab of DaVinci Gourmet Caramel Flavoured Syrup for my morning pick me up.

Illustrations of different coffee brewing methods. From left to right: Moka Pot, Vacuum Pot, Percolator, French Press, Electric Drip Brewer and Espresso Machine.
How to calculate your own ratios using inverse factors.

I think this is beginning to be it. This last part of my “Coffees of the World” got even longer than I at first anticipated. But hopefully you feel a little smarter. I at least feel a lot more tired. But since I had promised math as well, here’s the math stuff you need to know to be able to do your own calculations. I do all my measuring using mass instead of volume nowadays but I have made a handy conversion chart for you as well, even including a variety of standards for cup sizes in different parts of the world.. which means that even you funny people who use a less precise method of measurement can get started in making your own morning cup of glory taste a little better.

Why have I made this you might be asking yourself.. well mostly because I actually get a lot of enjoyment from making charts and math-y stuff.. but also because when I first started exploring the world of coffee I found it very difficult to find good information to get me started. Good basic information like “Do this, use this much..” etc.. Yeah, sure it’s been fun exploring things on my own. I’m sure you might want that too, but since I would have liked a point of reference I figured you might too. Obviously with that in mind.. you are free to ignore all my advices and such, to find your own way.. But maybe.. just maybe.. it won’t feel so daunting to get started now. And again.. if you have any questions related to coffee don’t hesitate to ask and I will in return do my best to answer.

And kids.. remember.. it’s totally okay to like coffee made using a Percolator.. just don’t try to give that shit to me..

Illustrations of different coffee brewing methods. From left to right: Moka Pot, Vacuum Pot, Percolator, French Press, Electric Drip Brewer and Espresso Machine.
A small preview of the handy conversion chart.

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