I admit it.
I kinda like coffee. I will drink cold coffee. I will drink instant coffee. I will drink coffee at a diner that was left on the burner for two hours out of a cup that the waitress carried over in her armpit. I will drink it. Given the choice, however, I will drink hot coffee, roasted in my house and ground 2 minutes before the water hits it.
I used to self-identify as someone who KNEW coffee. Now that i spend less time worrying about how I identify and more time actually doing stuff i realize that with coffee, like everything else, knowing is always a state of flux. Just last week i met someone who has now promised to show me how coffee is properly made with clay pots. Uh… ok. Clay pots. I knew that.
I WILL drink it.
Coffee step one – get me some seeds
So uh… turns out coffee isn’t a bean. I don’t know why this affected me as much as it did, but i was so shocked that I failed to react to finding out by saying ‘I knew that’. Seems coffee is the seed of a cherry. A cherry, I have been told, that tastes a little like watermelon.
With that little tidbit of useless information out of the way, I order all my green seeds from Sweet Marias. They make a pretty serious effort to allow you to trace where the coffee came from, have met many of the producers themselves, and have been rock solid in terms of customer service. I would love to tell you that i have some kind of awesome inside information on which seeds you should pick, but i don’t. I tend to pick the most forgiving… the ones that have the widest tolerance for the fact that i have the brain of a goldfish, and can never remember that i have the roaster on. That and i don’t like to drink flowers. So i don’t pick those.
Note – There are two kinds of seeds that you can buy: arabica and robusta. Arabica is what most of us drink as a ‘cup of coffee’ and robusta is mostly used mixed in with arabica in an espresso blend, unless you’ve been to Vietnam or have gotten lucky. Robusta is a tad more rustic, something between burnt rubber and dirt… but in a good way. It also has about three times the caffeine. A full cup of robusta will make you feel like a kid smoking his first cigarette… also in a good way
I started my roasting with, I kid you not, a air-popper popcorn maker. It’s a great place to start, gives you a real hands on experience, and a nice chance of getting burnt. I heartily advise it. If you can find a way to manage the smoke that coils out of the seeds on roasting, it doesn’t freak out your cat and whomever you may live with has not threatened you with eviction, you’re ready to upgrade. I upgraded about four weeks after i started roasting to a Behmor. I will make no effort to explain to you what that is, check out the link, Sweet Marias does that better than anyone.
Making Starbucks coffee
So… in the first few weeks of roasting and playing around, my seeds caught fire. I was experimenting with roasting coffee over an open flame, in my shed, with a hand popcorn maker. Well… at least i think they caught fire, because the smoke was coming out black. It’s hard to say with all the running and the crying and the shouting. Maybe they caught fire maybe they didn’t. But they sure came out black. So black that they kinda turned to ash.
So. following my first rule (I will drink it) i ground it up and poured some hot water on it. Then i drank it. I thought… huh, that tastes familiar. And then i handed it to someone else who said “since when do you buy starbucks coffee”.
Broadly speaking, roasting coffee is pretty simple. As the seeds are heated they turn yellow, then light brown, then dark brown and then pop twice, then they burn. The trick is to stop the roasting after the first pop and before, during or just after the second pop. I’ll leave it to you as to whether you’d like to enjoy the delicious taste of burnt. The further along, the darker the roast. The darker the roast, the less the caffeine. And, as I understand it, the closer to the first ‘crack’ (and it is the seed cracking) the more the coffee retains it’s distinct flavour. The longer you roast it, the more it tastes like ‘coffee’. The different coffees really do taste different. Check out the descriptions on the link to sweet marias.
I believe the quickest way to make your coffee experience better is to get a decent coffee grinder. As i have to deal with the mistress (see below) I have a pretty good coffee grinder. All you really need is a burr grinder of some sort… I bought one for $50 for us to use at work. I think it makes a huge difference. You may not. You are probably wrong if you think that.
Press pot (french press)
97% of the coffee i drink at home i make in a press pot. See awesome instructions from coffee geek.
At work – the Clever coffee dripper
I use this pour over at work. Yes. I bring roasted seeds into work every week.
About once a month, I use my ibrik. Grind the coffee super fine, drop it in the ibrik, boil it twice on the stove. I will drink it. You may not.
Coffee step awesome – my mistress
I’ve never formally had what you would call a mistress… but I’ve always imagined that they would be very much like my espresso maker. Awkward, expensive, difficult to manage and absolutely beautiful. You could come over right now and i could make you the worst cup of espresso that you’ve ever had. I might make you some watery brown stuff. Maybe a syrupy drool of brown sludge. Or, just maybe, the best espresso you’ve ever had. That is my espresso maker.
I’ll leave my battles with her to another post. She doesn’t make me coffee as often as I’d like…