No matter how much coffee you drink, you never drink the same coffee twice. Coffee-drinkers understand this instinctively, even those who only drink their coffee at home using the same beans and the same brewing process day in and day out. For even in the most controlled coffee-making conditions we can achieve in our everyday lives, variations have a way of creeping in. Endless scrutiny of those variations is all in a day’s work for someone like Matt Perger, who’s come out on or near the top of several barista championships, and who founded the online coffee-education service Barista Hustle and its associated Youtube channel.
In the channel’s most popular video by far, Perger delivers an 80-minute lecture on “advanced coffee making” at Assembly Coffee in London. After covering the adjectives used to describe the flavor of coffee in general — from “weak,” “delicate,” and “tea-like” to “luscious,” “bitter,” and “overwhelming” — he moves on to the vocabulary of extraction.
The most important stage in the coffee-making process as far as the resulting taste is concerned, extraction is accomplished by putting hot water through coffee grounds, in whichever manner and with whichever device you may choose to do it. Weaker methods of extraction result in “salty” or “vegetal” tastes, and stronger methods in “astringent” or “powdery” ones.
As in so many pursuits, the most desirable outcomes lie in the middle of the spectrum. Just how to achieve that perfectly “transparent,” “nutty,” “balanced,” and even “sweet” cup of coffee constitutes the driving professional question for Perger and baristas like him. Clearly possessed of a taste for rigor, he explains the effects of everything from the design of roasters and grinders to the techniques of brewing and pouring while citing the findings of experiments and blind taste tests — and even acknowledging when pieces of expensive coffee-making gear yield no demonstrable quantitative benefit. True coffee aficionados who have an endless appetite for this kind of talk may find themselves tempted to sign up for Barista Hustle’s online courses, but even more so to brew another cup for themselves.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.