Coffee is not just the elixir of life, the sole reason mornings are survivable and the saviour of all sleep-deprived beings; it is also an art.
At least, that’s how it seemed to us after a short session with 2018 Starbucks Barista Championship Malaysia & Brunei winner Remy Razaly.
In the hour-long session, we got to taste several types of beans brewed using different methods at the Berjaya Time Square Starbucks Reserve outlet (one of the more atas ones).
We’re not saying we are coffee connoisseurs now, but we did learn a thing or two which has helped us appreciate the drink from the gods more after the session.
Plus, we also learnt how to up our coffee game so we don’t always have to spend ridiculous amount of money at cafés.
Because we’re not stingy, we’ll share our new-found knowledge from Remy (and our trusty friend Google) with you too!
Lesson #1: It’s all in the tongue
Obviously, we taste with our tongues but how often do we pay attention to which part of ‘em our food and drinks stimulate the most?
According to Remy, the best way to taste coffee and determine its body and acidity is to slurp it.
Like when you would noisily slurp soup at home, not when you’re trying to be polite or maintain macho.
Let the coffee sort of spray to the back of your throat and coat the entire tongue. You can then swirl the coffee in your mouth to let it settle a little more.
Now, pay attention to which part of the tongue you feel the coffee has ‘settled’ the most.
If it’s the tip, it’ll be a light-bodied coffee, middle would be medium and if you taste it at the back of your tongue, it’ll be a full-bodied coffee.
The body of a cup of coffee largely depends on the way it's brewed and to a certain extent, the roast.
Another thing that you should pay attention to is the acidity of the coffee.
This is determined by the taste at the sides of your tongue. You can determine it from the sour-ish taste of the coffee.
“Can you feel like there’s juice at the sides of your mouth? That’s saliva produced because of the acidity. The more ‘juice’ there is, the higher the acidity,” Remy said.
Why do all these matter? Well, knowing the body and acidity that suits your taste the most can help you determine which is the best bean and brewing method for you.
Now you can even try your hand at making café-quality joe right at home.
Lesson #2: There’s a perfect temperate to brew coffee
Too hot; you risk burning your coffee. Not hot enough; you don’t get the optimum flavour from the beans.
Remy told us that to ensure that you get the best taste, make sure that the water you’re using to brew the coffee is between 92 and 96 degrees.
“Usually, people will boil water and immediately pour it to make coffee. You shouldn’t do that. Leave the hot water out for a few minutes and then pour it on your instant coffee or beans,” Remy said.
You also have to take into consideration the way the beans are stored. If you leave them in a refrigerator, the temperature should be closer to 96 degrees than 92.
Lesson #3: Brewing method matters
Remy introduced us to three different types of brewing methods (there are more, of course, but time only permitted a few) and each one had a distinct difference to them.
The first was ‘pour over’, which kind of explains the whole process.
You first need the equipment – a funnel-looking thing that's often called a pour-over dipper, and a paper filter (a thin one for this method).
Once you place the filter in the funnel thingy, you wet it (by pouring a little bit of hot water) and let it breath.
The purpose of this is to release the carbon dioxides that are often trapped in the coffee particles.
“You see there are like bubbles here. It means the ground is fresh and you’ll be getting a good extraction,” Remy explained.
Once the coffee stops ‘bubbling’, you can pour more water (proportionate to the weight of the coffee you use) and wait for it to drip.
For this method, Remy used finely-ground Ethiopian coffee and it was definitely one of the best coffee we’ve tasted.
Next, Remy used a Chemex coffeemaker, which is pretty much the same as pour over except its slow pour, i.e. takes longer to drip and all.
This time, he used a thicker filter paper and coarser coffee ground which resulted in a stronger tasting coffee, with nuttier flavour.
Although the method used is essentially the same, using a Chemax supposedly allows “full immersion that highlights the brighter notes in coffee and yields a clean, sweet cup.”
We could taste the difference as coffee made this way had a stronger taste and a nuttier note – which, incidentally, is also a personal preference so we might be a bit biased.
The third method Remy used was the French Press.
“This is the easiest to use and if you want to brew coffee at home fast and without fuss, it’s a good choice,” he said.
For brewing using this method, it is best to use rough-ground coffee.
First, pour in about half the amount of water you wish to add and let in sit for a bit before adding the rest of the water.
Wait for three minutes (or more if you like your coffee stronger) before pushing down the lever of the device to separate the beans from the coffee.
Pour in a mug and enjoy!
All good things in life deserve time and effort
Also, money. However, if you do decide to buy the equipment we’ve mentioned above to brew your own coffee at home, you’ll probably be saving money in the long run.
This is especially true if you spend at least RM10 on a cup of Joe often.
Even if you don’t want to get your own coffee-making equipment, you can still go to Starbucks Reserve to enjoy them.
You can also join their coffee chat session. Check out Starbuck Malaysia’s Facebook page for details.