Photo by Flickr user Robert S. Donovan
For some reason that I donâ€™t fully understand, tech and coffee seem to attract geeks with nearly the same intensity. Maybe itâ€™s because geeks tend to consume more caffeine, but I really donâ€™t know (if you have a theory, chime in with your comments). But a lot of conversations with fellow TN editors and a few other friends over the last few months have centered on coffee, and so I decided to share what Iâ€™ve learned so far.
Good beans = a good cup of coffee. And beans go through many stages â€” harvesting, cleaning, processing, roasting â€” before they reach the point where you can brew a cup. Of course, just looking at the beans in the bin wonâ€™t let you know if they been harvested properly (just the ripe beans, not the whole bunch of coffee cherries), and cleaned and dried with care (stored in clean containers, etc.). But you can make a pretty good guess by checking (1) the cleanliness of the beans, i.e., all whole beans, no broken bits or pieces of grit or beans that show signs of pests (burrow marks), (2) the evenness of the beans, i.e., they are all roughly the same size, which means they were all ripe when harvested, and (3) evenness of the roast, i.e., all the beans are roughly the same shade of brown.
As for the roast, some batches are just lightly roasted (Starbucks’ blonde roasts, for example), or roasted to a medium degree (milk-chocolate brown), or roasted darkly (usually for espresso drinks). Which one you prefer is a matter of personal taste (Iâ€™m partial to darker roasts). What they should not be is over-roasted, i.e., very, very dark, burned, and cracked, practically charcoal-grade beans.
Photo by Flickr user puuikibeach
If you can, get freshly roasted beans (roasted within the last few days), and use them within a week or two. Places that roast beans regularly are sprouting up, and Iâ€™ve liked the beans Iâ€™ve tried from Craft Coffee Workshop in New Manila, Kuppa Roastery and Cafe at BGC, and Luca & Tosh Coffee Lab in Subic Freeport. The beans go for about Php350 to Php500 per 250g bag, depending on the source.
You can extract the most flavor from ground coffee particles that are roughly the same size. Which means you are better off using burr grinders instead of blade grinders. Burr grinders crush the beans between two gears made of metal or ceramic to produce even grounds, while blade grinders chop them up into uneven grounds. You donâ€™t have to get a burr grinder, which is usually more expensive than a blade grinder, but if you have a chance to do so, go and get one.
I use the Hario Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder, which is great when making coffee for one or two persons, at the office. Iâ€™ve seen it on sale at Craft; Iâ€™ve also seen a portable Porlex stainless steel grinder there. These are manual grinders, good for a few minutes of arm exercise, and great as a travel companion.
In part two, Iâ€™ll talk about the equipment you need for brewing small batches, and clear up a couple of common myths.
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