This is Part 2 of The Geek’s Guide to Good Coffee. You can read Part 1 here.
You can get away from bad office coffee by setting up your own little brewing station, good for quickly brewing your morning get-up-and-go mug. If your office has a well-equipped pantry, good for you. If not, you’re still good to go as long as you have a source of hot water.
Method 1: Pourover, or manual drip My current set up consists of the small manual Hario grinder and a Hario V60-02 dripper (and the corresponding cone filters). It’s essentially a manual version of the common drip machine found in most offices. I’ve seen Hario V60 drippers being sold in Craft and in a furniture store on the 4th floor of Megamall, near Max’s.
Optional stuff A long-necked hot water kettle, like the Hario Buono kettle for a better-controlled pour (experts say it makes quite a difference) and a nice mug that will keep your coffee warm for a long time, like the double-walled Bodum Bistro mug.
You can do it the quick and dirty way: Grind the beans just before you brew, get some recently boiled water that’s been left to stand for a minute or so, dump the ground coffee into the filter, and pour the hot water slowly onto the grounds.
You can also do it the arty-fartsy way: Rinse the paper filter and warm the mug first by pouring about 300 ml into a dripper with only the filter in it and then throwing the water out, then pour a little bit of water onto the grounds and wait for the coffee to “bloom”, and then pour in the rest of the water carefully over a two-minute period. Here’s a video of how some baristas do it, in case you want to impress your office mates or house guests.
The trick is to get the coffee to water ratio right (a matter of personal preference, and you have to experiment until you get a ratio that you like; mine is 18g of beans for every 300 ml of water). A digital scale comes in handy. You can get a relatively expensive one \ from a store like Gourdo’s (the 2kg model costs Php1,690), or an el cheapo one from CD-R King (Php290, and it works just fine for me). Also key is the water temperature when you pour: the water should be hot enough to extract the flavor from the grounds (if you want to be more precise, people recommend low to mid-90s, degrees centigrade, but you don’t have to be OC about this). Hot water from a cold-and-hot-water dispenser won’t do (you’l end up with a weak brew); better if you can get just-boiled water. What I do is to boil water in a lab beaker in our microwave, and let it stand for a minute or two before pouring it onto the grounds.
Method 2: the Aeropress This little coffee-making gadget is essentially a large syringe that pushes water through coffee grounds under some pressure. Think of it as a mashup of an espresso maker and a regular coffee maker. And it produces a really clean-tasting cup, which I like best. Vic also likes it a lot (read his review of the Aeropress).
You place a small round filter in the bottom piece, screw that onto the bottom of the “syringe” body, and then set it on top of your mug. You can choose to wet the filter first and warm the mug by pouring in some hot water and then throwing that away. Then you pour in the ground coffee, and pour in enough water to wet all the grounds and wait for the coffee to bloom. And then pour in the rest of the water, mix up the water and the grounds with the wide plastic stirrer that comes with the Aeropress, and let the grounds steep for a while (I let them steep for about a minute). Then you insert the plunger from the top and push down steadily and firmly, over a period of about 30 seconds, driving the coffee through the filter and into your cup or mug.
The result is an amazingly clean-tasting cup, with most of the flavors really coming out. The coffee tastes different — better — even if you use the same grounds that you use for your regular coffee maker. The Aeropress has so many fans that there’s a yearly World Aeropress Championship.
Ok, now to a couple of common myths about coffee that I learned were wrong.
Myth no. 1: Espresso has more caffeine than regular coffee Technically, it’s true, because an ounce of espresso has more caffeine (30–50mg) than an ounce of regular drip coffee (8–15mg). But given that most people will take anywhere from 6oz (regular, small coffee cup) to 12oz (tall Starbucks) of drip coffee, a person takes in more caffeine from regular coffee than he will from an espresso shot. So, when you want a pick-me-up drink, you’re better off ordering a tall Starbucks than a double shot of espresso. Coffee Chemistry has the details.
Myth no. 2: Coffee should be stored in the fridge I’ve met many people who keep cans or bags of roasted beans or ground coffee in their fridge. Which is very wrong. Coffee’s three worst enemies are air, heat, and moisture. The best way to store coffee is to keep it in an airtight container, which should be kept in a cool, dark, dry place. You may keep beans in the freezer, but you’ll have properly prepare them and do it only once. Talk About Coffee has more details on how to best store coffee.
In a possible part three, I’ll talk about the beans I like, why, and where to get them.
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