CoffeeCon: It Ain’t Just Beans!

Even automatic drip brewers need the right grind and ground measurements.

Even automatic drip brewers need the right grind and ground measurements.

I was speaking to the owner of a coffeemaker company that other day. He’d called asking if we could exhibit his product at CoffeeCon. He told me he thinks brewing should be invisible in the process of delivering great coffee to us as consumers. While I was touched by his modesty, I respectfully disagree.

Brewing is the physical art and craft of extracting the flavor from the beans and putting them in proper balance in your cup. The problem with making brewing invisible is that it’s too easy to believe there’s some sort of alchemy or magic involved. Worse is the belief and expectation that there’s nothing to it, which I’ve actually seen promoted on some cooking television shows. I saw a well-known chef who measures the temperature of his serving spoon before dipping it into any other dish, boil water for a press pot and glancing at some bubbles in the water look at the camera and drying say, “Looks about right, doesn’t it?”

Brewing is 50% of your cup of coffee. The coffee industry has learned this. The emergence of the barista as a profession validates this. I met my attorney for coffee the other day and he made me wait twenty minutes until his favorite barista showed up before he ordered us coffee. “She knows how to make it just right”, he extolled.

Those in the industry who sell coffee often liken it to wine. Truthfully, although wine and coffee share the complexity of minute flavor notes numbered in the hundreds, wine as a dispensed beverage is more like soda pop. Every cup of coffee is the result of a noble chemistry experiment.

Be sure to sign up for one of CoffeeCon's brewing classes. Brewing is half the fun.

Be sure to sign up for one of CoffeeCon’s brewing classes. Brewing is half the fun.

CoffeeCon has presentations where you can learn from the greatest assemblage of experts of our age. CoffeeCon also has onsite classes where you can learn from skilled practitioners of brewing arts. The goal is for you is to demystify the so-called magic into practical steps so that you can enjoy café quality coffee at home.

We offer classes in the French press, manual pourover, vacuum, espresso, milk texturing for café latte and cappuccino. We also have exotic international classes including Viennese, Vietnamese and Turkish methods.

Let’s just take the Chemex pictured to the left of this sentence. Look at it foaming up. This is normal with freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee. How do you deal with this foaming? How long do you wait to pour in the next amount? Is it better to pour all the water in at once, or just a few ounces at a time? I’ll tell you right now that there are all kinds of little tweaks and they all make a difference.

Even automatic drip brewing requires knowledge of grounds-to-water ratios and how fine to grind. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned from years of reviewing coffeemakers is how different coffee tastes when brewed in one brewer versus another, even when you optimize each one! One reason I insist on spending at least 30 days with any brewer is to become familiar with its tweaks.

There are two ways to test what I’m saying and prove it to yourself. First, just walk into CoffeeCon and taste the same variety of coffee from a several exhibitors. Some will brew using drip methods like Aeropress, Hario or automatic drip, some steep methods such as French press, inverted Aeropress or vacuum. One of the benefits (or curses) of being a coffeemaker reviewer is the first decision I get to make each morning is which coffeemaker to use. It is not unusual to get a new coffee and find that it tastes better with a particular brewer. I suspect you will find the same thing as you walk and taste at our CoffeeCon consumer coffee festival.

Be sure to attend a brewing class. Even if you’re adept at brewing, there’s always something to learn. I pick up new techniques myself from our experts. We have the closest thing to a coffee university onsite at CoffeeCon. Their mission is to share techniques and tips.

At CoffeeCon, brewing is anything but invisible.