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How coffee got techie

There was a time when a cup of instant coffee in the morning was your daily staple. Those days have long gone; 85 per cent of us will visit a coffee shop in the next seven days and with the breadth of the Starbucks menu we’re used to ordering coffee just the way we like it.

 

So what has changed? With the ever growing infiltration of the hipster into popular culture they have brought with them their love of craftsmanship and authentic brands. Independent boutiques and coffee shops who take their time with their merchandise are having a serious ‘moment’. Where once a Peroni would do, now we want a local craft beer that has been specifically brewed for the pH balance of local water. The same has happened to the world of coffee.  Now we have to decipher endless brew methods, countries of origins and types of servings. Which can be utterly baffling. So let’s dive into the modern barista world of molecular coffee and what on earth all these new terms mean...

 

"What beans are you using? Which brew methods? If I go in a shop, I'm asking: what have you got on filter? Who's it roasted by? Where are the beans from?" says Dan Hobson of Flat White, in London's Soho.

 

"Then I'll get a bit nerdier and ask for tasting notes. I'm a real geek." – Oscar Quine, The Independent

 

Where once we used the classic cafetiere, now we use more refined techniques…

 

Aeropress

Invented in 2005, this operates a lot like a cafetiere but makes single cups and instead uses power to push hot water through the grinds. Claims to produce more flavour than a cafetiere and the same strength as an espresso.

 

Cold-drip/cold brewed

Much like a cafetiere, the grinds are left to brew and infuse the water but the water has to be room temperature or cold. This mixture is usually left for up to 12 hours, resulting in a sweet cup.

 

Vacuum pot

This is a brewer of two parts – the lower chamber is full of water and the upper is full of the grinds. As the water is heated, water evaporates and travels up to mix with the upper chamber’s grinds. Once the heat is turned off the brewed coffee travels back down. This is the process that often uses the ‘Siphon’ style equipment that reminds us of science class Bunsen burners. It can take as long as 10-15mins to make a single cup.

 

Chemex

This harks back to more continental methods that used to use paper filters (this was invented in 1941 after all). It uses paper that is made of chemically bonded paper which removes most of the coffee oils. The process involves pouring hot water over coffee rinds and allowing it to drip through the filter.

 

 

So that is how it’s made, but what to order?

 

Long black – two thirds hot water with an espresso shot added. A purist’s coffee that goes further.

 

Ristretto – A concentrated (half the size) shot of espresso. It has less bitterness and more flavour.

 

Lungo – A more watered down espresso. Many say this means the grains are ‘overused and the bitterness is drawn out.’

 

Cortado/Piccolo – Double shot of espresso with a one espresso sized dose of foamed milk on top.

 

Flat white – Double espresso shot topped up with steamed milk. This is a classic.

 

Now you can go forth and order with confidence to get just the right cup-of-joe for you.

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