This article is the first in a series of four discussing the process of brewing coffee. Please enjoy!
Making a great cup of coffee is no accident. It requires at least a basic understanding of coffee, and its extraction. The great thing about this is that anyone can learn it. A lot of coffee brewing is common sense, when you really think about it. But coffee brewing is not where great coffee starts.
Having been pegged as the "coffee nut" by family and friends, I am often asked to brew coffee for this event, or that gathering, partly because people sometimes perceive what I do as some kind of mysterious alchemy, and partly because the equipment I use to brew coffee can be intimidating to the uninitiated. I know I was intimidated when I first became aware of the multiple ways one could brew a quality cup of coffee. But with the encouragement and guidance of some great "Jedi Coffee Masters", I have discovered the excitement of uncovering the nuances contained in the simple coffee bean.
...which does not mean it is not complex. The coffee bean is a marvel of God's creation. By varying the agricultural process, be it soil, water, altitude, or varietal (coffee plants are like rosebushes, they have different kinds), one can influence flavor qualities. Those flavorqualities can be further influenced by how the coffee berries (they look rather like cherries, in a cluster) are processed (washed, natural,or pulp natural). Next, the roaster will further affect the flavor profile of the coffee bean by how long he roasts the beans, and at what temperature. The last person to influence that cup of coffee in your hand is the barista in your favorite coffee shop. The barista is responsible for how the coffee bean is ground, the method in which it is brewed, the temperature at which it is brewed, and the time taken to brew the coffee. All of these elements culminate in what is in your cup and the possibilities are almost limitless!
So coffee is simple...and yet, it is complex. And that is why I never take coffee lightly. Too many people have invested their passion, skill, and dedication....their lives, really....for me to shrug this great cup of coffee off as "no big deal".
Edited for content: 7-25-2010