Coffee 101: A Beginners Guide to Great Coffee

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BruTang Clan - Black Mug

I first started getting into coffee when I was a waiter at a french bistro here in Halifax. It was the first time I had gone from making drip coffee to making espressos, lattes, americanos and became a full fledged coffee addict. At this point I was consuming multiple cups of espresso and high quality ground coffee everyday as I was spending a minimum of 8 hours on my feet interacting with my customers and I needed to be high energy (and it was all free).

When I went to work in start up out of university I realized just how much the tech scene centered around the brew, from offices with 10k coffee machines to the office I worked in with a 2000 dollar espresso machine, every shop was caffeinated! It was at this point that I went full hipster, our espresso machine died and I had to go back to ground coffee made in a 20 dollar drip coffee machine like some kind of barbarian! While I don’t think anyone should go full hipster I do think people should have a good understanding of coffee.

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The Light Side or The Dark Side

I will start by saying that I am biased but the fact that I love dark roast coffee and that is one of the reasons that H&G’s “Hustle Blend” is a dark roast. Now let’s assume that you don’t actually know that much about coffee, the roast of a bean is simply how long and how high a temperature the bean was roasted at.

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Fresh picked coffee beans are not what you get at home, they are often green or grey and would probably produce a terrible tasting cup of coffee. These beans will, depending on where they were grown, have their own characteristics much like wine grapes, a Merlot grown in France is going to taste different than one grown in California (and I will be drinking neither).

The same is true of coffee beans, they may have more floral scents or they might be more chocolaty these initial qualities are observed by a good roaster and dictate how the coffee should be roasted, light playful floral beans should become light roasts as it will enhance those tastes where a robust bean needs a dark roast to really shape the flavor profile into something complex and deep (my preference).

I will point out as many of our early customers have that light roast does have more caffeine, that being said we decided to go with the more complex flavor of a dark roast. If I have to drink something all day I will get an energy boost regardless of the level of caffeine but I never want to be board of my bru.

Roasting

The coffee is roasted at high temperature in specially designed roasters, this removes the water content from the beans and starts to shape the taste of the coffee. When we were selecting the coffee for HG I had the chance to visit multiple shops and talked to a few coffee roaster-masters, while there I learned about the crack, the sound that coffee beans make as they are roasted one crack tends to be around the light roast point and the other around the dark, some people say there is a 3rd crack, the roasters I talked to said that it doesn’t exist and I am not one to argue with anyone that has a title ending in master. The video below is one I took while on site, the machine is fairly loud but if you listen you can actually hear the beans cracking as they fall onto the cooling area.

When the coffee comes out of the roaster it needs to be cooled rapidly as the roasting needs to be stopped to preserve the intended flavor of that particular batch, these beans went from 400 degrees to the point where they could be handled in under a minute. Also I just want to address the smell of the roasting process….if you get the chance to see coffee roasted go for the smell alone, it was like being wrapped in a blanket of coffee, cocoa and magic.

Making A Cup

If you have been drinking drip coffee I am here to tell you that a whole other world of coffee is out there for you to drink in (oh the puns). If you are willing to give it a go you can get into this for fairly cheap but once in you will find a very deep rabbit whole, just ask the folks over at r/coffee (coffee area of reddit). I started with a cheap grinder and a french press but that being said I would point you to trying an AreoPress it is very inexpensive and produces a damn fine cup of coffee!

The Grind

This is where you gain a lot of control over your coffee as the flavor of your coffee is determined by how the water actually extracts the flavor. The grind of your coffee will determine 2 things, how much surface area the water has to interact with and how quickly the water passes through the ground coffee. A finer grind will give you more surface area and slow the water while a coarse grind will do the opposite. Depending on how you make your coffee (french press, pour over, areopress, etc) you will find that you need to play with the grind to find what you enjoy

The Beans

I know I talked a lot about beans but I need to drive this point home, when you are dealing with beans you want them to be as close to the date they were roasted on as possible: Fresh is best!

The Method

There are a lot of different types of coffee makers, I mentioned above that I prefer an AreoPress but a french press or even a pour over method is often where most people start! They all produce great coffee but they have their own differences in the process, check out the video below for a general review of all the popular methods.

Damn Good Coffee

This is just a small piece of all the information you can find about coffee and if you are like me you will never be done learning about it, for more info check out the FAQ on r/coffee. If you are like me you want fresh beans delivered to you each month which is why we created our subscription box, we send you fresh roasted coffee along with a few items selected to improve your hustle!

Attribution:
Green coffee beans, Natalia Wilson, April 18, 2011

By Harald Hoyer from Schwerin, Germany (Coffee Beans  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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