Lucky me, I was one of the first people to be invited to learn how to brew a decent cup of coffee at home, without pump, pressure or expensive paraphernalia. Artisan, one of my local coffee shops has opened up its Ealing store to allow punters who love their coffee to experience the art of a great cup. In their ‘Home Brew Coffee Master Class’ you’re shown how different brewing methods enhance the flavour profiles of slow-brew coffee using a French press, an AeroPress and a V60.
Very much like baking a cake, you need a recipe and a little patience and very much like baking a cake if you use the wrong amount of ingredients or bake it for more time than it truly needs the results are, disappointing.
It’s only lately that coffee has started to be recognised like vineyards and coffee beans are categorised like grape varietals.
Alessandro is our tutor and he’s Artisan’s Head of Coffee. He began working with speciality coffee two years ago. He has a background in wine and has worked in some of the best restaurants in London. His role is to train the Baristas in Artisan’s three stores and is responsible for bean selection and coffee sourcing. As a member of the Specialist Coffee Association of Europe he’s well placed to be leading these classes and passing on his knowledge to the other store Baristas to take them too.
The training room is as funky as the store, oodles of reclaimed materials and some great feature lights and a quick internet search uncovers that Liqui Design are responsible. We’re in a room where an industrial workbench and stools are the feature and the wall is a panel of former house windows. Old coffee sacks act as a curtain and a DIY workbench holds the expensive grinders and Marzocco coffee machines.
We begin by watching Alessandro fill glasses with ground coffee and then hot water. Removing the grind ‘crust’ the true flavour of the coffee is revealed and we slurp our way through beakers of the brown stuff.
Coffee beans are picked and dried and two important varieties of coffee plant are Arabica and Robusta, the difference is the caffeine content with Robusta beans containing more. Brazil produces the most coffee, whilst Guatemala produces great fruit because of the volcanic soil and Kochere in Ethiopia farms the equivalent of Grand Crus Burgundy beans (in Alessandro’s opinion).
Cascara is the dried fruit from the coffee bean, husks if you like. Growers often use it as an infusion but normally it’s used to fertilise the ground. The chaff is the skin from the bean which falls off during the roasting process and can be used as compost.
Once we’ve been given a grounding (get it) in coffee, we’re let loose on the equipment. Alessandro is keen to show us how different extraction times, in the same piece of equipment, with variable grind sizes, can change the coffee taste completely.
Alessandro decants the boiled water into a small handled kettle, the swan neck allows for precise and controlled pouring.
We begin with a cafetière, using a coarser ground Lola, a Costa Rica filter from The Barn, 18g to be precise, topped off with 300g water. Just boiled water is a little too hot, which can often make the coffee taste bitter, you’re looking for a temperature between 90-95°C. As soon as you add your water, start your timer, add one-third of water and stir to make sure all the grinds are covered in water. Straight after stirring, top up with the remainder of the water, almost to the top but not quite, this allows the coffee to ‘bloom’. At 2 minutes, gently stir the coffee grinds, breaking the coffee crust. At 4 minutes, spoon out the grinds floating on the surface and plunge down gently and continuously. It’s ready to be poured and enjoyed.
Drip coffee comes in the form of a V60, so-called because of its V shape and 60 degree angles. This is ideal for single origin, lighter roast beans. It’s also recommended that this coffee is taken black to appreciate the coffee flavour. For the V60 you place a paper filter into the top and add 19g of coffee to it. Artisan use Hario Jugs to decant the coffee. Prepare 200g of hot water and start a timer. When you pour the hot water, everything needs to be wet, with just enough water to cover the coffee and move the coffee around in different directions to make sure all the grinds push towards the bottom – try to do this in 30 seconds. During the second pour, half of the remaining water needs to be added in a circular or zig zag motion to the wet grinds eliminating the dark spots, if possible. In the third and last pour, the coffee grinds will start to become dry, at around the minute mark, pour the rest of your water starting from the rim to submerge the dry grinds, continuing in a spiral motion. It’s then ready to be served.
Again, for the single origin lighter beans the Aeropress is another option, using a vacuum filter system, nothing comes into contact with the coffee except water and air, preserving its taste. It takes about 2 minutes. Wet the filter paper with hot water, to remove any unwanted bitterness. Put the Aeropress together on top of the cup you intend to use. Weigh out 15g of coffee and 240g of water. Add the coffee to the wet filter paper inside the Aeropress. Add one-third of the hot water and stir to get everything wet to make sure of even extraction. A second pour, straight after stirring, needs to go to the top, stir gently. At 2 minutes, start pressing down gently, and continuously, this should take about 30 seconds. Enjoy. It’s worth noting that different grind sizes and timings produce a different flavoured coffee and it’s a great thing to play with, flavour.
Classes run for an hour and a half (ours was more like 2) and are by appointment, the cost is £35 per person. To secure your place, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
I was a guest of Artisan Coffee School.