Enjoying a cup of coffee is more than just a matter of taste, or fancy latte art. All five of our senses play a big part, and I believe there are some added components that attribute to a good cup of coffee.
Experiencing all that coffee has to offer is more than just a two-way street; with the barista making the coffee, and the customer drinking the coffee. It involves the most complex understanding on how that coffee was being prepared until it reaches your lip.
I had the opportunity to visit Khairul (better known as K-Man) – the Head Barista at Sarnies Cafe – and learn more about the art of making coffee. Here are the basics on the roles in processing coffee’s rich data – starting with Blending, Roasting, Grinding, and Extraction.
This roasting process is where the flavour and aroma of coffee beans are brought to life. A medium roast gives a well-rounded, rich flavour and aroma. Temperature and time are carefully controlled, and at times, the coffee master would go for a high roast and that will result in achieving a strong, and distinctive flavour.
The roasted coffee beans are then ground into a coarse powder to facilitate the brewing process. Ground coffee deteriorates faster than roasted beans because of the greater surface area exposed to oxygen. Therefore, the beans are only grind before brewing.
The ground coffee is then put into a series of extraction cells using a coffee percolator or a filter coffee maker. The coffee flavour, aroma and colour from the coffee grounds will be extracted to the correct degree, control led by the correct time and correct temperature, until a highly concentrated liquid is produced.
There are subtle and complex ways of brewing coffee; the common methods are usually cupping, using a press pot, or vacuum brewing. The key concepts to optimise the brew coffee during the extraction process are strength and the ratio of coffee ground.
To put it simply, how much of the coffee end up in the cup, is dependent on how much coffee ground is used for a given quantity of water. This will determine if your coffee is concentrated or watery.
Water temperature is crucial during the extraction process, as it affects the proportions in which solubles are extracted. The desired temperature range is slightly below the boiling point of water between 91–94 °C, and coffee is best made with water heated to boiling point briefly.
The longer it is kept at a high temperature, the more undesirable flavours and taste it becomes. And the story doesn’t just end here.
Many will agree that making a good cup of coffee is an art within itself. Latte Art refers to the method of preparing coffee by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso and designing a pattern in the layer of foam.
Latte art requires a combination of espresso crema and micro foam. Before the milk is added, the espresso shot must have a creamy brown surface, which is what we call the ‘crema’ – an emulsion of coffee oil and brewed coffee.
HOW MICRO FOAM IS MADE FROM MILK
First, pour cold milk into the steam pitcher. Then we place the steam wand at the bottom of the pitcher. Turn on the steam, and slowly raise the wand until it is near the top of the milk.
Lower the pitcher as the milk rises so the steam wand stays away from the top of the milk.
The milk should not stretch too much nor should there be any big bubbles. This should create a smooth, velvety milk as opposed to the micro foam that sits atop most espresso drinks.
THE PERFECT CUP OF COFFEE IS…
There have been ongoing controversies within the coffee community, arguing that some baristas focus too much on the latte art, which then leads some to ignore the more important issues, like the taste of the coffee – which is the essence. While the newer baristas may have limited experience on latte art, they can still pull a good shot of espresso.
Coffee is as complex as it is, and every one react differently to the presence of these basic tastes – most commonly bitterness, acidity, and sweetness.
There is an increasing number of people who are inclined towards the superficial appearance of coffee, rather than appreciating its taste. A common misperception that most people have is that bitter coffee has probably gone bad during the extraction, but that is not true. As a rule of thumb, light roasted coffee are more acidic, while dark roasts are more bitter.
The next time you bring the coffee cup to your lips, think about how it was being prepared and experience it with all your five senses.
Learn the simple power of saying Thank You to the barista who prepares your coffee. ”A smiling customer makes a happy barista”, quotes K-Man, who seeks joy and satisfaction at work by making every customer happy and remembering their preferences.
A genuinely deep feedback to the barista, will make you a coffee rock star. Thank You K-Man and Sarnies for taking my pleasure at its lyrical best!