The Incomparable Lightness of the Perfect Brew

It’s hard being a geek.

I mean what with the taped up glasses, daily fashion faux pas and awkward social timing. If that wasn’t bad enough, there exists the burning keenness.

It is a whole world of contagious, let me tell you, ‘cause you’re like really, really into this thing and the ten to the power of nine variations and details and subtleties that said interest has, all compounded by a gear fetish riding sidecar.

The combination of being so far down the rabbit hole in this particular area (let’s say coffee for example) it’s like you’re a horse with blinders on. You can’t fathom that other people might not care about coffee (could be anything of course) in the same way you do. Sure you will be afforded the cursory attention of those who keep polite company but you can tell within six seconds of sharing, they’re not feeling it in their loins like you do. Worse, all your bluster might actually be pissing them off. Oh the tragic comedy of it all.

Now I can barely stand myself sometimes so who’s to say someone else should have to either, but hear me on this-have you ever had a really, really f*!%ing fine cup of coffee?

It’s a yes or no answer. There is no glancing up and to the left in an effort to recall. If you have, you’ll know it.

My guess is that most folks are firmly in the “have not” column-and that is ok. A trifle sad, but ok. Most importantly there is hope….there is also faith and love, with love being the greatest of the three but for now we’re just going to cling to the hope.

When you read about coffee in the media at large it has all the excitement of a communion wafer. Worse than stripping coffee entirely of its passion is that often what is written is just flat out wrong. The only consistent exception is the work of Oliver Strand at the New York Times and his “Ristretto” column. His writing is so damn good and able to capture the purity of the current coffee zeitgeist; he could be the Devil himself.

The aforementioned hope comes not from anything in the media, but from much closer to home, in the form of your friendly neighbourhood coffee lunatic (professional) who may or may not be foaming at the mouth while enthusiastically espousing about coffee. Are they touched? If you lend them your ear you will quickly realize that they are in fact pretty harmless but perhaps just a trifle annoying.

This enthusiasm comes from a pure and genuine place. It comes from that place when we coffee professionals recall that off the hook coffee we’ve all had that makes you exhale, shake your head and dedicate your life to the Perfect Brew.

These remarkable cups have thankfully become more frequent in recent years in large part to the magic wand like powers of the VST MOJO and those who use them. It is a refractometer, software, state of mind that has been effective at getting better cups of coffee to the people and isn’t that what we all want?

Yes. Yes it is, and it’s what many of us in Specialty Coffee think about all day, every day, which goes a long way to explaining the shared desire of the community to deliver that “ah-ha” moment when you wrap your lips around a brew made from the finest coffees on earth.

The catch is that you need to care a little bit more than you have been.

I (and others) often come to the blog table, cap in hand, apologetic with some “suggestions” that I think will “help” you brew a better cup of coffee. But I’m doing you a disservice.

I could of course re-phrase things more emphatically, as words to live by and insist that you must do exactly as I tell you to and…see; I lost you there didn’t I?

The needle we must thread is how to be truthful and still encouraging when it comes to speaking about the best way to brew….

Fact is, special coffee, memorable coffee requires careful adherence to specifics and a bit more effort. Above and beyond clean equipment and pure water one needs the accurate measure of their coffee, water and time.

If the above criteria are unconsidered it won’t work. Period.

If you’re sloppy, or using a brewer/grinder that you bought from Consumers Distributing or some pseudo coffee equipment purveyor it is, impossible to brew a sensational cup. Impossible.

The craziest part is that although it might seem overwrought, incredibly complicated and an exhaustive effort for a cup of coffee the reward is handsome indeed.

By comparison, the simplest of recipes to duplicate a dish from say the French Laundry or Alinea cookbook would require days of prep simmering, searing and saucing. A world-class cup of coffee that realizes as much of the potential the beans possess as possible? Tack on an additional three minutes and you’re there.

You have already been introduced to the Aeropress and my enthusiasm for it. Out of the box it is excellent. To light the tires up and dump the clutch with an Aeropress, get yourself one of these: The Able Brewing DISK.

The sexiness of the packaging alone is enough to make you want to take your clothes off. But don’t, just in case you’re reading this at work.

Do give the included instructions a try. They are specific: get a scale, get a thermometer, maybe a lab coat.

I thought the result was remarkable.

There is a plushness and profundity to the cup that I can only guess comes from the unimpeded transfer of oils which shimmer on the surface like so much sun dappled light, glinting off the Med on a Vernazza afternoon. The flavour is pristine and gratuitous. Come to Mama.

Brewing a cup of coffee naively is a-ok of course but doesn’t a small voice inside you ask if there could be something more, something better? Now you know there is. You just need to roll up your sleeves to get there.

 

2 Responses to The Incomparable Lightness of the Perfect Brew

  1. Brenda Davis says:

    I’m in love with your brain. Can’t wait to check out your ideas.

  2. Aaron says:

    Brenda, thanks for reading and for your kind words. Good luck with your brewing-may your results be spectacular. 🙂

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