In certain (perhaps most) pursuits, getting the job 95% of the way done doesn’t mean you’re only 5% from the finish line. That last bit of a project always takes longer, turns up thornier problems, requires more effort, and often is unreachable. For these pursuits the 100% goalpost exists only as an ideal in our imagination, a thought experiment, a beacon lurking behind the horizon, or simply sits beyond the scope of the resources we can think to apply. The last mile is quite often the hardest.
Coffee brewing is not this kind of an art.
No barista champion, brewer’s cup finalist, supercomputer controlled precision-engineered coffee contraption, or Michelin starred chef is going to add any outsized transcendence to a cup of coffee that you could not also achieve with the same beans and a modest level of meticulousness. Coffee brewing is not like rocket science nor like figure skating.
This is true. IMHO, brewing coffee is similar to a druid when he is brewing his magic potion, when done right, you get a very potent magic potion, otherwise you get a less potent one. Ultimately, what you need to do is just follow the recipes.
Also, what most people tend to forget that coffee is a very subjective matter. My brighter, cleaner cup with medium body is someone else’s sour and weak cup. From my recent visit to MICE, they have a lot of poorly roasted Geisha to my taste, either that or the brewers are tired from making coffee non-stop for 3 days straight.
These experiences led me to think that for me to control and achieve my taste of coffee happens way before the brewing process, I need to jump above the brewing stage. Which the article touches upon;
Growing coffee is an art where small optimizations can lead to big rewards. The processing of coffee involves so many variables that very small changes can result in startling improvements down the line. Roasting is a craft where attention, nuance, and experience can unlock enormous potential from the bean. In these arenas of coffee, obsession can pay off with transcendence. The whole can often exceed the sum of its parts. The full depths always remain to be plumbed.
Growing, processing and roasting. The first two require me to own a farm or a plantation. Not gonna happen without some lives changing decisions (yes, lives, plural). Roasting, this I can do. So I jump up a stack, and bought myself a home roaster during MICE. I’m so glad I did. Six batches in, my espressos are sweet and silky smooth, my brewed coffees are clean and bright.
For those who are considering roasting your own, just jump in. It’ll take you about 15 minutes to roast a batch every week (maybe another 15 for cleaning up), and you’ll be a very happy coffee drinker.
Similar to brewing coffee, where in general you’re just adding hot water to coffee grounds, roasting basically just applying heat to green coffee beans. Also similar to brewing, in roasting, there are also tons of nuances during a roast that’ll affect the taste. The difference is that when you fucked up a batch, you’ll stuck with a lot of bad coffee. Generally I roast for about a week’s worth. So pro tip: don’t start with Geisha.