Off topic: on coffee

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Anybody who spends any length of time in the creative industry will soon realise that it’s really coffee, not money, that fuels everything from ad campaigns to shoots to postproduction. Models don’t shun it like energy drinks because you can have it without sugar, and in small (espresso) volumes, and it’s still just as potent. It’s also legal and relatively easy to obtain when travelling, and you can bring your own without being questioned about what those pills or powders are. I’ve long been reliant on the drink (finance and consulting run on it, too) but only in the last couple of years developed more than a passing interest in it. Like the drink, think of today’s post as a little refresher/ break from the photographic content…

My preferences at the moment run to either espresso or a very fine French press called an Espro; it works the same way as the traditional French press (add coffee grinds, hot water, stir, wait, depress plunger to filter out the solids) – but does it with literally a little bit more finesse. There’s two sets of very fine stainless steel mesh screens attached to the plunger that filter out very, very fine coffee grinds. This leaves you with a cleaner brew, but also the ability to use much finer grinds to begin with – which helps with flavour extraction and avoiding only getting the stronger (and often bitter or sour) notes dominating. The first time I had coffee made in this method, it was a bit of a revelation: I’d always associated French press with being strong but a little unrefined, and the other options (espresso aside, which I’ll digress to later) as either weak or ‘masked’ (anything with milk, for instance). The Espro revealed a world of flavour I’d been missing, even from the same beans: a good cup from an Espro is like an espresso that’s been lengthened, with the same complexity and nearly the same intensity, too.

The Espro takes between 2-3 minutes to steep, depending on the fineness of your grind, preference of brew strength and water temperature – it can be longer or shorter, but I prefer to have more time to control flavour development (too long results in bitterness and overextraction, too short is typically sour, weak and lacking in body). There is of course a need to balance this with personal patience and the need to start the proverbial engine – 4-5 minutes can feel like an eternity 🙂

This is of course where the espresso comes in: I can usually be drinking within a minute or so, or perhaps 30 seconds longer if the machine is cold and I have to wait for the boiler to come up to temperature. Unfortunately, whilst my beans will grind consistently in five seconds, tamping is a few seconds more, and extraction 20-30 depending on how much liquid you want – I think pulling a consistently good shot is one of the most difficult things to do from a culinary standpoint. Flavour is affected by several factors: the bean itself; the darkness of the roast; the grind fineness, which determines how much of the aromatic oil is extracted from the bean; the tamping, which affects extraction time; the water pressure; the temperature, and the water volume. Some things counteract each other, too: you can make up for tighter packing with higher pressure, for instance – but you can’t compensate for a darker roast by looser packing or lower temperature. Theoretically, you could come up for an ideal formula to match your desired taste profile to the bean; a certain temperature, pressure, water volume, grind setting and tamping pressure – but you’d still have an inconsistent brew because coffee is of course an organic product, and no two batches of beans are the same.

If you’re thinking you can get around this by stockpiling, that of course doesn’t work, either. Oxidation means that you’ve probably got a week to two, maximum, before the flavour profile of the beans changes materially and you land up with something that’s going to require compensation to achieve the taste profile you want. Some expertise with the same varietal is required to determine both how the flavour profile changes with age, whether this is something you like, and whether you can compensate for any undesirable effects. Personally, having tried a very wide variety of both Arabica and Robusta blends, single origins and self-mixes, I’ve come to the conclusion that a particular medium-roasted, Ethiopian-sourced Yirgacheffe Red Cherry varietal is ‘the one’ that works for me. It’s roasted by a friend of mine in Penang, and yes, he ships overseas. I have a standing order for a kilo a month – anything more frequent doesn’t make sense from a posting standpoint, and anything less frequent results in the last bag being not very good.

This particular bean seems to be surprisingly consistent with little flavour degradation over time; peak is about a week to two, and it’s still good after four if kept in an airtight container after roasting. The flavour profile varies quite a bit depending on method of preparation: I’ve had it as a relatively low temperature pourover that yielded something dark, fruity and not that dissimilar in complexity to a good red wine; very slightly tannic with stone fruit top notes and chocolate base notes. If brewed as an espresso, the chocolate intensifies and becomes dark; there’s less stone fruit and a hint of nuts and honey. In the Espro, it’s somewhere between – lots of dark chocolate, and a bit of the rest to keep things interesting. I personally like it best as either espresso or Espro, and with a little more coffee than is traditionally recommended (12-13g for a single ‘unit’, one espresso or ~150mL of Espro). Yes, it makes the body heavier, but I’m also a huge fan of dark chocolate. Towards the end of the bean’s life, you lose the fruit and tend towards more chocolate. Despite the increased darkness/weight/heaviness, this seems to make for a better espresso, though it gets harder to hit that ideal peak between sourness and bitterness. It’s also good as a 50-50 espresso-water mix. Interestingly, an equally big change in flavour profile happens with temperature: it’s good piping hot, but improves to optimum somewhere just below the point of ‘just cool enough to drink’ with falloff fairly soon afterwards. I haven’t seen this kind of behaviour in other beans, which (personally) tend to be better served hotter.

Unexpectedly, I’m going to end this with a photographic analogy: much like image-making, coffee making is one of those equipment-heavy pursuits; just as you cannot make an image without some form of camera (even if it’s a box with a hole and some film), you cannot make coffee without some form of apparatus – even if it’s just a pot and wooden spoon (don’t use a metal one, they can react in a horrible-tasting way). Again, like photography, I think it’s very easy to go overboard and land up with a 3-group Marzocco, new plumbing, more coffee club bean subscriptions than you can drink, and a second mortgage – it become so much of a hassle to actually make a cup of coffee that it’s no longer enjoyable to do so; in the end you go to Starbucks or just use Nescafe. I’m glad I didn’t go down that route, and I’m deliberately holding off buying a ‘better’ machine – because what I’ve got works perfectly to deliver the taste that I want.

But here’s the thing: there was one piece of equipment that turned out to be far more important than you might think: the grinder. I think of this as the coffee analog to a tripod; it’s not very sexy, but without a good one, you’re not going to be consistently able to extract the most from your scene (or beans). Having a good grinder expands your brewing envelope dramatically – mine will do everything from the near-dust required for Turkish coffee to coarse bits you might drop into a chocolate truffle for some extra zing. But it will do it consistently, and quickly: this is important because you don’t want a grinder that outputs particles of varying size at the same setting (you can’t adequately tamp, nor can you filter out all of the bits from your French press or cold brew), and your don’t want the first bits of freshly ground coffee to oxidise whilst you’re still grinding. There have been (quasi?) scientific studies which have shown that fresh coffee goes off-peak within as little as 30 seconds to a minute – my own unscientific tests suggests this is highly possible. It’s not surprising given that the aromatic oils are already evaporating the minute you crack the bean, and the only way to retain that flavour is to dissolve it as quickly as possible – the faster you can get between grinds and pour or shot pull, the better. And on that note, I need my afternoon shot… MT

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Comments

  1. A topic I’m passionate about 😉 My local roaster has a specific recipe for each coffee they have running for the week. Pre-infusion time, temperature, brew time and then of course, a grind size that goes with it. They’ve also now brought in one of those automated tampers which basically sets the same pressure on each tamp. So as much as they can, they are locking down as many variables as possible. All for the sake of consistency. I’m sure there’s some parallels with photographic workflow (if consistency is something one values of course).

    Grind size can change, of course with changes in humidity, the amount of beans in the grinder hopper, the density of the bean, the roast…which in my opinion can also change even though you use the same profile and beans each roast.

    This roaster now has a diagram on the back of their coffee bags, showing the relationship between grind size, dosage, flavour profile and water temperature so you can tweak the grind, dose or water temperature to nudge the flavour in a certain direction. i.e. less sour, brighter..or whatever you’re after. The one way valve on the bag is important too as it doesn’t let air in but lets the beans de-gas.

    For my equipment, I’ve worked out that 17 grams of coffee, brewed at 93-4 degrees and at a certain grind size (give or take a notch)gives me a 30ml espresso in 25-30 seconds. My machine has an electronic display so I can see how long the shot has run for and I can set the water temperature. I also use a gram accurate scale when opening a new bag of beans to set the initial grind size.

    Sounds like a lot of work for something that takes a few sips haha. But the process is as enjoyable as the outcome 🙂

    • That’s impressive – more so because they probably had to try out a lot of variables within that space of possibilities to determine ‘best’!

      • Being a roaster and a shop front, they’ve got enough beans to play around with to perfect their recipe for each new bean. I know shops that get their coffee supplied from another roaster might only be given 500gm to 1kg for free and they use that to ‘dial in’ their settings…which can change daily or moreso, depending on the climate!

        I will tweet you a photo of the extraction diagram on the back of their bags.

        Having taken an interest in shooting film, it’s funny to see a similar amount of variables that can exist (rating films at different speeds, pushing/pulling or neither, different chemicals used in processing, how you agitate, what scanner you use etc).

        • It’s not the quantity, it’s the amount of caffeine and taste bud saturation that’s going to take place before finding the ‘ideal’…that, is admirable!

          Yes, I agree there is a lot of similarity in film developing and coffee extraction…

          • I’ve tried some experiments with creating a recipe based on different dosage and temperatures etc…let’s just say I’m buzzing from the caffeine by the end of it!

            Enjoy your weekend 🙂

  2. Robert Aisenberg says:

    A temperature controlled kettle is a big help. Extraction changes with water temperature. The Aeropress likes a lower temp, for example.

  3. William Fung says:

    Enjoy reading this “off topic” article very much. If you would like to try Nespresso on the go, you may take a look at : https://www.wacaco.com/

  4. I’m surprised no one’s brought up Caffenol development yet where you use a combination of instant coffee, vitamin C, and a few other things to develop black and white film. I guess the chemistry is similar to Kodak XTOL, and is generally considered safe and environmentally friendly, if pretty foul-smelling.

    • I remember trying it once, but must have messed up somewhere because it didn’t work. I suppose as a bonus, you can drink it whilst waiting for your film to fix 😛

  5. Thanks for the tip with the Espro device. I might give it a try, currently my french press is a standard bodum-style from IKEA. ^^ It only gets used if there is the need of more then one or two cups.
    But for the lazy mornings where there is time and relaxation I prefer my Bialetti moka pot which gives exactly one cup of coffee from the “6-cup size”. (seems they meassured in espresso size)

    What machine are you using for espresso?

    By the way since you seemed to like the german word ‘Wimmelbild’ here is the germen word for french press: Pressstempelkanne! 😀 But even most germans don’t know this. We also usually call it french press or bodum.

    • 6-espresso equivalent out of a Bialetti…!

      Used to use one of those myself, I have a cheap Krups thing now – not sure what the model is, but basically the lowest level one that takes a portafilter. Surprisingly decent if you work within its limitations (not enough heat capacity for more than one or two shots, etc.)

  6. Ming
    More comments for an article on your coffee than your review of Salgado coffee book!
    What is that saying about us?
    Thanks

  7. Loved the article and wanted to leave a comment about Aeropress. Noticed many people already talking about it here already. I also use Aeropress and you can keep fiddling with the process for a long time to find the best one that suits your taste (apart from picking up beans). It does get you pulled in the process, just like a manual camera. 🙂

  8. Have you tried a Chemex? German design that uses thicker filters to keep out the bitterness, http://www.chemexcoffeemaker.com/

    • I’ve had coffee brewed in one, but I can’t say that it was any less bitter than what I can get out of the Espro, correct temperature and grind. That, and I’m personally avoiding filters and consumables because they have a habit of being expensive and difficult to obtain after a while…

  9. Junaid Rahim says:

    Espro is new to me – will give it a try. I tend to prefer a longer coffee in the morning and agree a french press lacks the refinement. As a consequence I’ve moved onto a good black tea at the moment, which is not bad, but will be happy to get back onto coffee for first thing.

    Are you still using the Krups machine or have you ‘graduated’ to something else for the espresso?

    • Still on the Krups machine – every machine has a learning curve, and I think I’ve mastered this one (or at least I’m happy with the results) so I’m rather loathe to change…

  10. Ha! That was an enjoyable read. Similar taste:
    Camera, car, coffee. As for a small handgrinder, this is the best I found http://www.comandantegrinder.com

    • Sadly, the car thing completely doesn’t work in a country where traffic is the order of the day…all day, every day…

    • So, does the hand grinder work with small volumes? I am not crazy about the Krups grinder, it makes a graded size of particles, smaller the longer you operate it, but there’s still a lot of variability in particle size. The one thing it does do well is it can grind beans for two cups. (The other thing that Krups grinders are good for is chopping dried cinnamon and other hard dried spices for curry, as long as you don’t chop for more than a few sec. One grinder for the coffee, a second grinder for the spices.)

  11. Taildraggin says:

    Pharos & Lido hand grinders: http://www.oehandgrinders.com/OE-Manual-Coffee-Grinders_c_1.html

    The pharos is best at finer grinds (espresso, wonderful turk/arabic/greek grinds) and the Lidos are more portable and will great at espresso grinds, they are finest at brew grinds.

    This water coffee is deep and dark: http://www.home-barista.com/home-roasting/configuring-artisan-pid-t32351.html

    • Thanks for the tips – recoding one’s grinder does seem unnecessarily masochistic (almost like rewriting your own camera firmware… 😛 )

      • Taildraggin says:

        The bottom link is a home coffee roaster. Automated, it can save different roasting profiles for different beans (all open source code) using an arduino, in the black box. The roaster itself is a 1970’s popcorn popper with a tin stovepipe chimney. If you don’t have a local roaster, it’s the way to some great coffee.

        With all respect to Europe and other spots for their historic coffee culture, the US is a big center of coffee innovation today, mostly with the young and hip. While North America does float on watered down “diner coffee,” with hundreds of millions who drinking it, no where else is there such a deep, dynamic and diverse a community of local roasters, beans, methods, extraction tools (mostly european) and drinkers. In my village, we have 2 small coffee shops (and a Starbucks for the confused) in walking distance, both of which roast diverse beans each day. And, the cities have more!

        If you’re serious, here are the sites to start in the US:
        Green beans: http://www.sweetmarias.com
        Equipment: http://www.seattlecoffeegear.com
        Community: http://www.home-barista.com

        • Thanks for the tips – though admittedly of limited use personally as I live in Malaysia 🙂

          • Taildraggin says:

            There is some *great* full bodied coffees across the Strait. Or, a local ipoh. We only get a glimpse here in the US and I bet you could show Salgado a thing or two with a personal coffee grow project. I’d love to see what the grower’s scene is like there.

            • Ipoh coffees get their beans everywhere else – the difference is in roasting with butter and sometimes sugar…

              As for the personal project – needs time; a corporate one needs a local corporate client who cares about quality over bare minimum cost-quantity ratio, which hasn’t existed for a long time here 🙂

        • Michael Demeyer says:

          Want to second the Sweet Maria’s recommendation. Great people, products, and service.

          Michael

  12. René-François says:

    I do not know if you subscribe to the New York time regular column on coffee. They should definitely hire you for giving more accurate sense of flavor than they do.

  13. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Aah!
    Ming, that was really nice!
    And many thanks for the tips!

    But after reading the comments, I think I’ll try the Aeropress first (on my prewarmed steel thermos cup).
    ( I never really enjoyed French press coffee, so – not knowing about this – continued to pourover, or occasionally make a Turkish coffee or espresso.)
    – – –

    Coffee …
    We Swedes are coffee drinkers..
    Traditionally coffee was boiled. Course ground coffee plus water boiled till it stops foaming, wait, wait, pour. Or put to the boil thrice, or…
    Outdoors up north at least one has a sooty kettle in his rucksack to hang over the fire on a stick.
    In the high country some take salt instead of suger – I’ve tried it, interesting taste. (Sugar used to be a luxury, especially there. And the water in the brooks there lacks minerals, so your body needs additional salt.)
    Urban people mostly pourover, nowadays with coffee machines.
    – – –

    1972 I moved to Germany (now back in S.).
    The coffee? Mostly with a taste of Ersatz, and only condensed milk to drown that taste – it took years before you could count on good coffee in cafés.
    My first really good foreign coffee? In Austria!

    Once I had forgotten to get my coffee ground in the shop.
    And a friend came visiting…
    His eyes widened as I spread a couple of sheets of newspaper, spread coffee beans over, topped with another couple of sheets and started do roll (heavily) an empty wine bottle over until the crushing sound stopped.
    ( It was of course​ not fine enough to pourover.)
    He had never tasted boiled coffee before, but he liked it.

    • I never liked French Press either, til the Espro – the double filters mean you can use a much, much finer grind than normal which gives better extraction and far less sediment.

      Pass on the salt, I’ll take it black 🙂

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Black, me too.
        Yes, I got that, but from what I read I guess the Aeropress comes close?
        And what about brewing a single cup in the Espro and have it still hot in your cup, don”t you have to prewarm the Espro first?

        • I think the Aeropress does come close if you know what you’re doing (I don’t!). As for prewarming – I’ve found that the ideal consumption temperature isn’t that high anyway, and for whatever physiological or chemical reason, coffee tastes better in a fairly specific window – so it hasn’t personally been an issue. 🙂

  14. Being a tea man myself, matcha and the meditative ritual of its traditional preparation can be more spiritual.

    • Actually, I do both, but play the long game with the various pu-erh and oolong varieties; one pot of leaves has been known to give enjoyment for up to four hours…

      Matcha: one of the most enjoyable experiences I had involved gyokuro and matcha at a place called Sakurai in Omotesando – highly recommended if you’re ever in Tokyo.

      • How long can you leave the leaves in the pot before it goes stale? I’m a tea drinker and I do severeal infusions, but they’re almost always in “rapid succession” (i.e. I brew for one cup, then rebrew once I’ve finished, up to a couple of times depending on the tea) and I’ve never tried to make a pot last several hours (I guess due to fear of it turning bad or something) Any teas you’d reccommend in the Oolong variety?

        I’ve heard that Sakurai is a pretty sweet spot, and that the guy serving is pretty skilled in his craft (unfortunately I missed it when I was in Tokyo last year)

        • No, I do the same – a pot of leaves may last several hours, but only the final brews go to 10min or so; the early infusions may literally be pour in pour out fast.

          Oolong: varies by plantation/picker etc., but generally my favourites are anything from the Wuyi region, especially the Da Hong Pao types.

          Sakurai lives up to its reputation 🙂

  15. Nice post! Actually, in Italian you don’t “drink” a coffee but “take” a coffee, so I guess it is like a drug. I enjoy my espresso daily, but when a full cup is desired then I also rely on the Espro. I find there are different moods for the different types of brewing – press coffee in a mug is for sitting and sipping, but I always “take” my espresso standing at the machine. The grinder is indeed the most important – this will make a huge difference, especially for espresso. Actually the grinder I have now cost significantly more than my first espresso machine many years ago. Coffee like photography can quickly degenerate to G.A.S. 🙂 The freshness of the beans is also a big deal as you pointed out. I have beans sent to me weekly, the day they are roasted. I definitely notice a difference in the shot (visibly and taste) after 1 week. On the weekends I do the latte variation but I still am lousy at latte art 😦

    JM

  16. Richard P. says:

    Ming, once again a wonderfully enjoyable article. A nice treat to get yet another glimpse into the man behind the camera. Reading about your enjoyed attention to detail in all your passions reminded me of one of Ian Fleming’s famous characters – James Bond – from the novels – not the movies. So just out of curiosity … What do you think of the Nespresso pod machines? And have you ever drank a double-double from Tim Horton’s? 😉
    All the best,
    Richard

    • Thanks – Bond had a much higher hit rate (and pay scale, one imagines). Not much glamor in photography these days!

      Nespresso: it’s a consistent standard which is decent but not amazing. If they ever do a portable travel machine, I’m in – one of those tradeoff things, and I’m sure there must be one blend that suits closely enough.

      Tim Horton’s – can’t say I’ve had the pleasure 🙂

      • Richard P. says:

        Tim Horton is very popular​ here in Canada – at least in my province they managed to knock out Dunkin Donuts and are doing well against the onslaught of Starbucks. You may find the coffee weak given your described tastes, but if I can, I’ll send a tin your way. You won’t have to review, just enjoy. 😋

        • Weak flavour is never the problem, actually – usually it’s poor extraction or dilution in places that taste off. But I won’t say no to trying something different – thank you! 🙂

  17. liramusic says:

    I saw a sexy tripod once. It had wooden, oak legs and this retro vibe. It was a totally sexy tripod.

  18. Have you tried using the Aeropress? If so, how do you rate it over the Espro?

  19. liramusic says:

    Fabulous narrative. Strong finish. I wonder if gas-station coffee can be liken to … hmm. not sure yet.

    • I was going to say gas station cameras, but I suppose those would be film disposables. That said, gas station coffee doesn’t really have redeeming qualities and film disposables don’t corrode your stomach lining with zero flavour return…

  20. I love how this article is just unequivocally you 🙂 This has the same tune as when you talk about let’s say tweaking and comparing the color profile of different cameras.

  21. PS the analogy between a good grinder and a good tripod is perfect and so true! (Mazzer = Gitzo, again for the same outlay!)

  22. I’m not at all surprised by this post, Ming!!

    Within a small domestic setting I have a Mazzer mini grinder and a La Pavoni professional manual machine. I imagine that generating the best results from this combo – and the effort that goes into that – can be analogized with the experience of shooting perfect slide-film exposures on a Hasselblad V-series, and for roughly about the same expense!

  23. gregorylent says:

    i have felt so much better, with far more energy, since i gave up coffee, tea, caffeine in any form … plus am free of the entire drama around acquiring coffee when i have run out, all the preparation time, completely free of it .. water? all the energy i need is in water .. a year had gone by, don’t miss it at all .. i just remember it as a strong and abusive chemical, taking far more from me than it ever gave me .. that need to amp up, or the desire to change something, all gone .. grateful for this

    • Heheh, you have transcended above us mere coffee drinking mortals. For me as much as I dislike the cost, hassle and mess of good coffee, I love the mellow feel good factor of a complex, flavourful, smooth espresso and the taste; which nothing else compares to.

    • Gregory, I agree completely. It’s taken a month off of coffee to get to the point of having more energy.
      It’s a vicious cycle, exhausted from the coffee; but desperately needing it to get going in the morning.
      And this on from 1-2 cups per day. But, all this from getting into the coffee brewing at home.
      Drinking coffee, bought on the road doesn’t seem to quite have the same impact.
      Having gotten into the coffee brewing, I agree that the grinder is a big deal.
      And, yes, grind the coffee just before brewing, like within 15 -30 seconds.
      And, always use a digital scale for measuring, the only reliable way to measure.
      Add on a digital thermometer to get the water temperature right.
      Of the pour over devices, (collected them like cameras and lenses)
      I found that I had the best results with the smaller, glass/plastic Kalita, not the larger,
      if you’re looking to make a single cup. It’s easy to think that buying the larger,
      you are better able to make more or less. And, of course, you can, but not as good
      if you are wanting just a single cup. Of course, that’s based on my tasting.
      For American tastes in coffee, the Columbian coffees are a good place to start.
      Some of the more complex coffees may not be as enjoyable, if you want coffee
      to just taste like “coffee”. Seems like a lot of fuss, but a relaxing morning ritual.

      • Good point about ritual. If anything, I tend not to bother with coffee these days if I don’t have time to do it properly and enjoy it – seems wasted otherwise.

    • I also enjoy the ritual, and the “sitting by the fireplace” feeling I get in drinking a good cup of coffee, but, I just visited my daughter on the west coast (U.S.) and she reported nearly the exact same thing as Gregory and Kadi about experiencing an increase in energy level after getting off of coffee for a month or so. I’m not sure I’m ready to go there yet, because I really drink for the enjoyment, not the caffeine. In fact, I don’t think the caffeine does much for me…I can drink a strong dark roast at night and be sound asleep in my bed 2 hours later. However, if I heard definitive evidence stating coffee was unhealthy with known long-term side effects, I’d stop drinking it tomorrow, but like many things, done in moderation, I don’t think it does much harm.

      • I’m not surprised – it’s conditioning, like anything; once we get off it, energy levels increase, and then stabilise. If you have another cup three months after quitting, you’ll be bouncing off walls. I personally went from 12-15 cups a day during the heights of consulting misery about ten years ago, but then cut back to a couple thereafter, and nothing for several years. No real difference in energy levels. My somewhat irregular consumption pattern now probably means I never managed to get acclimatised again – I can start a day with or without (and as noted in another comment, actually prefer not to if I’m in a rush and don’t have time to enjoy it).

        • Wow, 12-15 cups a day! I’d have to place the coffee maker very close to the bathroom with that kind of consumption! 🙂

          I think you are right about conditioning though, and expect I would feel quite different if I stopped drinking for some period of time and then had a cup. And I hope your new vocation, specifically your latest appointment, makes the “consulting misery” years seem like a very distant memory…

      • Joe, dark roast coffees have lower caffeine. Even so, I found that I could do the same, drink late and sleep well.
        But, would be tired in the morning and need a cup to get started. I quit cold turkey and after a couple days all I wanted
        to do is sleep for about a week.

        • Thanks Kadi, that’s a good point about the caffeine and probably a factor. Interesting about your body’s response to quitting cold turkey. Maybe part of the caffeine detox process? I suspect that I will give it a try one of these days to see how different I feel, but for now I still have some fresh beans to enjoy!

  24. “…think of today’s post as a little refresher/ break from the photographic content…”

    Nice try Ming. That Espro coffee maker you mention…it’s made of Schott glass. And according to Wikipedia, all shares of Schott AG are owned by the Carl Zeiss foundation. Admit it, you’re caught in the “photographic dimension” where everything is connected! ;^)

    Thanks for this. A very good read. I also enjoy a good cup of fresh ground coffee (or two) each morning. I prefer using an Aeropress for singles and Technivorm Moccamaster (very consistent heat) for multiple cups. I buy beans from a local roaster and have settled on a very pleasant French Roast that works for me. I also agree on the importance of a good (conical burr) grinder and on the value of good dark chocolate (a square a day!). Cheers.

    • Ah, darn! Well, if I use my espresso machine…nope, I got Zeiss souvenir espresso cups last time I was at the factory…no such luck!

      Dark chocolate is a whole other universe – one thankfully I stay out of (but my wife does not).

      • Haha…caught in a web! I’m lucky to be enjoying some dark chocolate that my wife just brought back from a trip to Belgium last week and I must say it is delicious. I’m not a connoisseur (in either coffee or chocolate), but I know what I like and man, this is really good chocolate!

    • Jon, you might be thinking of the Breville glass kettles, which are indeed made of Schott glass, and very nice, if expensive, kettles. The Espro is mostly stainless steel, and has no glass. It’s a very good press pot because in addition to the double filters, it’s also double-walled vacuum insulated so it doesn’t lose heat as it steeps, so the extraction can be more consistent.

  25. Ming, this may sound barbaric, but if I’m feeling a little lazy or in a hurry, I will make coffee with nothing but a mug. I simply put the kettle on to boil, and when it does, remove it from the heat. While it’s cooling several degrees, I put some finely ground dark roast in the mug, add the water, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. This will bring it to sipping temperature and all the coffee grounds will sink to the bottom. It’s a surprisingly decent tasting brew.
    (If I want more zing, I will occasionally add several grams of D-76, which helps it develop a bit more flavour).

    • I’ve done that before too. But usually it’s Nescafe, and DDX just doesn’t have the same zing 😉

      • L. Ron Hubbard says:

        There are times when instant coffee is required and in these cases I go with UCC brew #117. I stumbled onto this coffee while in Kyoto. The hotel room had a few instant cups next to the kettle and I tried it. WOW!! Absolutely AMAZING flavor from an instant coffee. I was astonished and became in “instant” fan of UCC. Now I import 117 from Japan into the US via Amazon at very high cost but I dont care. For good instant coffee flavor you simply have to try UCC #117. There are many other blends of UCC coffee but I’ve never found any that come even close to #117. Sadly, that’s the most expensive blend too.

  26. Michael Demeyer says:

    Ming,

    Ah… a shared passion. Also partial to the Ethiopian varieties, particularly the Yirgacheffe’s, but probably bias toward somewhat lighter roasts to preserve the floral characters.

    I don’t know how your supply of green (unroasted) beans is there, but we have taken to home roasting which provides another level of involvement with the coffee process, the ability to inventory a wider selection of beans (they keep very well when green), cost savings (green beans cost half or less then roasted beans), and, of course, the opportunity to own more equipment. 😉

    We usually roast on Saturday mornings for the week. The house snells wonderful and you always have fresh beans (after about 48 hours of rest after roasting).

    For travel, a Kyocera CM-45f ceramic hand burr grinder and an Aeropress make great companions.

    Michael

    PS. Congrats on the new role with Hasselblad!

    • Thanks. Self-roasting sounds awesome, but I don’t have space for the roaster or easy access to green beans – that and I’m sure (I hope at, any rate) I don’t drink enough coffee to justify it! 🙂

      • Michael Demeyer says:

        Actually, a small roaster is no bigger than a coffee pot and does 125g per batch so perfect for lesser consumption quantities. About 10-12 minutes start to finish. We like the Fresh Roast series for these small batches. Very much like a vertical forced air popcorn popper.

        Savings is beans will pay for the roaster is a few months. You do, however, need a good exhaust fan or risk setting off the smoke alarms!

        • Useful to know – I always thought they were significantly larger…how long can you keep green beans?

          • Michael Demeyer says:

            At least 3-6 months, probably longer if stored in a cool, dry place. In our house we usually consume 0.5 to 0.75 Kg per week and buy a nice variety (perhaps 7-10 types) of beans about quarterly. We enjoy having a variety rather than settling on a single bean/roast, but I’ll admit there is also something to be said for the comfort of being greeted each day by the thing you know you love.

            My wife is a Sommelier so we probably treat coffee a bit like wine. Both being sourced from agricultural crops, the variety of tastes – even from the same plantation year-to-year – is quite interesting.

            • That’s a lot longer than expected. I wonder if we’d have issues with humidity and mould/rot in the tropics…

              Agreed on variation – I’ve been drinking the same varietal for a good half a year or so, from the same roaster, and you definitely notice the variation. Eventually…you either get accustomed to it and want something different, which means an inevitable switch, or you switch anyway because it starts tasting different. Same thing with cigars…

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