Coffee College: Everything You Wanted to Know about Coffee Making in One Lecture

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.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Every­thing You Want­ed to Know About Cof­fee in Three Min­utes

How to Make Cof­fee in the Bialet­ti Moka Pot: The “Ulti­mate Techique”

The Birth of Espres­so: The Sto­ry Behind the Cof­fee Shots That Fuel Mod­ern Life

Your Burn­ing Ques­tions About Cof­fee Answered by James Hoff­mann

10 Essen­tial Tips for Mak­ing Great Cof­fee at Home

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.

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