Oh boy. Last few days have been tropical over here in Belgium. Temperatures raising close to 30° C ( 86°F). Close enough to nearly melt chocolate. So tasting/reviewing some bars is a bit out of the question, unfortunately.
So what to try instead? Coffee! For a while now I’ve been tempted to try quality coffee, preferably single origin coffee. It is like the distant cousin of chocolate. When you think about it, coffee and cacao are pretty alike. Both are beans – able to deliver stunning complex taste experiences, fermented and dried on the farm. Next they are roasted. And once more the way the farmers treat the beans and the talent of the roasters make or break the taste of the final product.
But where chocolate is the easy way for an enthusiast like me, coffee makes you take the hard road.
Let me explain. When you enjoy a nice bar of origin chocolate, you indulge yourself on a product made by gifted chocolate makers who spend hours and hours contemplating how to roast, crack, winnow, conche and temper the cacao into the taste profile they had in mind. Your taste buds enjoy the final product, preceded by countless trail and errors, hours of experimenting and pulling out hairs by these artisan chocolatiers, until finally the magic happens and all things come together in a great bar.
And then there is coffee… You buy beans. The roasters carefully selected the coffee beans and treated them in a way to allow them to develop their maximum aroma. And then it is up to you! Now you may grind the coffee to a desired particle size, exactly the weight you need for the coffee you want to brew. You start boiling water. You take it away from the heat once boiling and you wait for it to cool down a bit. The filter goes into the drip system. Rinse the filter to avoid paper taste, throw away the water used.
Now comes the tricky part. The coffee goes into the filter and you place the can + filter + coffee on a scale. Add enough water to the coffee to make it bloom, make it look like a foamy mess. CO2 escapes. After about 30 seconds, slowly and continuously add water, in circular movements. Make sure the coffee remains under water at all times. Once the required weight of water in relation to the amount of coffee is added, let it drip through the filter, but make sure the whole process takes about 3 minutes in total.
I bought a Hario V60 dripper, a Hario Skerton hand grinder and a bag of Ethiopian Kochere coffee beans. Opening the bag of coffee almost blew me away. An aroma of sweet honey, a citrus like zest and dark chocolate greeted me. How remarkable different from the bulk coffee I’m used to! Many thanks to the people of Vandekerckhove Koffiebranderij for helping me choose a first kit and some very tasteful coffee!
But turning this wonderful coffee into a great cup is challenging. The first time you are overwhelmed by everything. The water temperature, the grind size, the brewing times and amounts. All of these have an influence on the final taste. The second day around I succeeded in transferring some of the great aroma tones into my final coffee, but there is still a lot to improve and I’m looking forward to experimenting to master the techniques required.
Let me tell you something. Making coffee this way gives me a whole new level of respect for bean-to-bar chocolate makers. After all, if I mess up, I only have a bad cup of coffee. When they make a mistake, they lose a batch of what could have been glorious chocolate!
Coffee and chocolate. So different and yet so alike! Both able to surprise you with utterly complex tastes. Life is good when these two are around!