Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Coffee Lab

“Hey mate. What do you want?”

“I have no idea.”

“We’ve got a Panamanian. Smells like strawberries and cream, and the taste opens up to be fruity. Almost sweet like a candy. It isn’t one we usually have since we get different varietals in. And this one won the best coffee in Panama, so that’s something given how many farms they have growing coffee down there.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

As he prepared the coffee, he talked me through it. First he put some weird chemistry labware over a red-lamp. The water in the lower bulb slowly started to boil. While this was heating he got out a scale and measured out the beans. “While the water’s going, I grind the beans. You don’t want them ground any more than a couple minutes before you use them to brew. You always want to be consistent with the amounts. Different varieties use different amounts of course, but from cup to cup of the same bean you want to make sure you have the same amounts.” He put the beans in the grinder and put the grounds back on the scale. Using a spoon he brought the weight down to the tenth of a gram.

The water in the bulb now boiling, he put the filter funnel attachment on top. The water bubbled up into the glass filter through mesh and paper layers. He added the grounds and started the clock. “You want to brew these for about 38 seconds.”

“Oh yeah, about 38.”

“Now I’m stirring it to make sure they are evenly distributed and all brewing. You know that coffee is hydroscopic, so the temperature outside matters? Brewing this on a cold day it will taste different than brewing on a hot day. The same is true with roasting the bean. It will taste different roasted on a hot day vs. a cold day.”

He removed the siphon apparatus from the heat source. As the water stopped boiling it was sucked back down into the bulb. As the water level dropped completely out of the filter a dome of coffee remained in the middle. “You want that dome. Actually with each coffee you want a different shaped dome because with each one you should use a different shaped funnel.”

“Wow, it actually does smell like strawberries.”

As he poured it into a cup and handed it over he gave the final instructions. “Do not drink this hot. Do not even think about tasting this for the next five minutes. You don’t want it cold, but you want it sort of luke-warm. About ten minutes should be perfect.”

Having waited my five minutes, I can finally say that it does indeed smell like strawberries and cream sticking my nose in it. The color is not black but a very dark tannin. The flavor is light but it is sweet, and even a minute after the sip I can still taste the lingering sweetness on the back of my tongue. It is the sweetness of an understated strawberry, one that does linger without being too overpowering. There is just the slightest sour hint coming out as it cools down. Amazing what comes out when you buy high quality things and take the time to appreciate them.

Also amazing what your brain will convince you of when you’ve realized you’ve just paid twice as much for a cup of coffee as you did for (an albeit cheap) lunch.

One comment on “Coffee Lab

  1. Ellen Goodman
    February 3, 2012

    Aww! I want to be somewhere with amazing coffee. We were just with some Aussie’s on a hike, and all of us missed coffee. Kiwis seem to think espresso and variations of milk tinted with something brown is coffee. booooooooo

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This entry was posted on February 3, 2012 by in Australia, Victoria (Melbourne).

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