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Friday, February 1, 2013


I drink at least one cup of coffee everyday. In the morning I typically make my coffee with a simple drip coffee maker or a French press. I like coffee, but I must admit I am pretty casual about the preparation. I know there are better and some more expensive ways to make coffee. However, I get lazy and never really venture down the path of professional grade coffee.

At the end of last year, my brother and sister-in-law gave me Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee as a Christmas gift. The book is written by James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Duggan. James Freeman is the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, the California coffee micro-roaster that introduced the Japanese-style siphon bar to San Francisco. In the book, Freeman asks, "Would you cook a good steak in the microwave? Why would you let a machine make your coffee?" Freeman suggests that a good cup of coffee can be had by using a simple pour-over method. The technique doesn't seem too difficult nor costly. Hence my new year resolution will be to make better coffee.

The pour-over coffee method requires a few equipment. Since I bake I already have a thermometer and a digital gram scale. All I need is to buy a coffee dripper and a swan neck kettle. The kettle is pretty easy to find as many specialty coffee stores in Taipei sell them. There are actually plenty of choices to choose from. In contrast, the coffee dripper is quite difficult because Freeman suggests using the ceramic dripper by Bonmac. The coffee stores in Taipei don't carry the Bonmac dripper, nor can I find it online. Most of the stores sell the Hario V60 dripper, a very popular model that has a bigger hole. After looking in vain I contact the local representative for the parent company of Bonmac, UCC, to see if they can help. Luckily they say they have a few drippers, only in black, in the warehouse and will sell them to me. The sales rep says the Bonmac dripper didn't sell well thus they were all taken off the shelves in the retail stores.

With everything in place, I try the pour-over technique with some freshly ground coffee. Since I am using dark-roasted coffee, I use a brewing ratio (water to coffee) of around 10 to 1 as suggested by Freeman. I use a water temperature of around 87°C. I first pour a little water, roughly the weight of the coffee, to bloom the coffee. I am unable to keep this small amount of water all absorbed in the coffee, as some drips down to the cup; I need some more practice with the technique. After the blooming time of 60 seconds (measured with my digital timer) I gradually pour more water clockwise into the filter. I manage to get the total brewing time to be around the recommended 3 minutes, which was probably based on pure luck.

The result is a very good cup of coffee. With more practice I am sure I can make the coffee even better. Now I just need to buy a better grinder. After mastering the pour-over, I might start coffee cupping. Maybe I should even start roasting the coffee beans myself. How far down does the rabbit hole go?

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