I often find myself talking about one of my passions … coffee, or better said, how to brew a delicious cup of coffee (instead of the “brown water” cup of coffee which is way too often being served). Here I will share a collection of my favorite resources for beans, equipment, recipes, and other miscellaneous.
One of the most important ingredients, if not the most, is the beans. You cannot even hope for a tasty cup of coffee without good beans. If you are more curious about the origins of coffee, which species of coffee trees exist, or where on the globe they’re growing I would recommend reading the first part of James Hoffman’s book - The World Atlas of Coffee. There are plenty of stores or coffee shops (both online and in person) where you can buy great beans. Such beans cost more than your usual supermarket coffee however there are several advantages why you should nevertheless purchase them like the farmers getting fair pay (most often you can trace back the beans to a farm), single-origin (either from one farm or one area), quality roasting (more often than not the supermarket beans are over-roasted, burnt) and last but not least freshness (all bags will have a date of roasting which is probably not older than 1-2 weeks in the past). Just make sure you buy beans and not ground coffee.
Here are some of my favorite places to get great beans from Germany and Romania:
I would not stop there and rather be curious and always be on the lookout for new stores and coffee places. When I’m traveling to a new city I’m always checking this map for potential coffee shops to visit, and when I get to visit one I’ll most likely grab a bag of beans for home as well.
Now that you have purchased a bag of quality beans the next step is grinding them. I prefer grinding them fresh as this will best preserve the flavors. In addition, since not all beans are the same, you have the option to play with the coarseness in order to achieve the flavors you are looking for. It is important to use a decent (or even better a good) grinder. What is the difference between a cheap grinder and a decent one you ask: the uniformity of the ground coffee. Bits of coffee that are coarser than the average will lead to unwanted notes of sourness and can ruin your cup of coffee (and finer bits will lead to unwanted bitter notes). I like to group grinders into two main categories: manual and electric. Which one to get? It will depend on the quantity of coffee you are going to grind as well as what type of “relationship” you want to have with the process of brewing a cup of coffee (I often find myself using the manual one when I want to take a break from my work and focus on the process itself, whereas in the morning I would default to the electrical one as I’m lazy). Here are the two grinders I use:
There are several methods to brew a cup of coffee. Some are requiring of “fancy” equipment like an espresso machine and some don’t require more than a “piece of plastic” and a paper filter. I don’t think it’s fair to say that one is better than the other. They yield different results and are worth trying out. I started with the aeropress, continued with a Hario plastic V60 and a french press, then I started using the Bialetti mocca pot and my latest La Pavoni Europicola manual leaver espresso. I love them all!
As one might expect, there are different ways to use these instruments to brew. Here are my favorite ones: James Hoffmann’s aeropress recipe (in fact if you own, or plan to own this machine, be sure to check his whole aeropress series), James Hoffmann’s ultimate french press recipe, James Hoffmann’s V60 for 1 cup and more cups recipes, and … you guessed it, James Hoffmann’s mocca pot recipe.
The La Pavoni is a different kind of beast. Pulling espresso shots is more sensitive to the grind size (and quality), the quantity of coffee, the extraction time, and the pressure. Multiple styles of espresso machines allow the user to control some or all of the above. Here are some links which should describe the process of pulling a shot with the La Pavoni: a step-by-step guide and a video from James Hoffmann describing the whole experience.
Without going into the all differences between the types of espresso machines, the result should be roughly the same: a sweet balanced espresso, not too bitter nor too sour - check this article from Barista Hustle describing this process more in detail.