For most of our relatively short coffee history, Australia has worshipped at the altar of espresso coffee. Espresso has been the base for the majority of our caffeinated beverages and will continue to be the dominant player for many years to come.
However, what we have started to see is a steady growth in cafes offering alternative brewing methods and this is a trend that is also starting to catch on in the home environment. With some really well designed devices like the Clever Coffee Dripper, as well as affordable domestic grinders like the Baratza range, there’s a whole gamut of new coffee options to explore.
There are certainly some coffees that perform best in particular brewing methods. The rules aren’t too hard and fast, that’s always dangerous territory when we are talking about something as subjective as taste, but there are some general rules that are worth following to enhance your coffee experience.
For starters, there is an assumption that espresso brewing requires a blend rather than a single origin but it’s certainly not essential. This may be a ‘myth’ worth testing with some blind tastings in a later article! A rough age guide for espresso consumption is 7-14 days from the roast date.
When consuming espresso or ristretto on its own, look for heavier bodied blends with low to moderate acidity. Brazil tends to be the obvious choice for a base here to provide the bass notes. Colombia offers nice body with a moderate acidity, and Indonesian coffees have plenty of depth with lots of complexity and a little funk to keep things interesting.
For milk drinks however, a little more acidity is required to help cut through the fat content of the milk, which in turn tends to ‘dumb down’ coffee flavours. This is where the brighter coffees from PNG, Costa and Guatemala can play a vital role in getting the flavours to shine through.
For long blacks, the brighter coffees are again recommended to give some balance and length to the drink. Heavier bodied coffees can lack balance in a long black.
When it comes to filter coffee, the fresher the roast the better! For simplicity’s sake, I’ll bundle all filter type methods together, though there are some subtle differences in the brewing methods. Wherever you can, get coffee that is roasted specifically for filter. This is usually a lighter, faster roast style.
Because filter methods have a different coffee to water ratio than espresso, there seems to be more ‘space’ in these drinks, making it easier to pick out the flavours. This is where the best East African coffees really start to shine. A great Kenyan via a Clever Coffee Dripper is a thing of true beauty; amazing flavor clarity with blackcurrant notes brimming in the cup. A really great Ethiopian (like the Nekisse) through any slow brew method can change the way you think about coffee forever – it’s that good! Think incredible sweetness and mouthfeel with ripe stone fruit and berries exploding in your mouth. I also like the newer, cleaner Indonesian coffees we have been seeing in recent years. Deep, rich mouthfeel with incredible complexity and often with interesting savoury notes and pleasant funkiness.
Don’t be afraid to let your filter coffees cool, in fact, I would recommend it. As the coffees lose heat many of the flavours become more apparent and increasingly attractive.
I hope you find this guide interesting, but don’t feel that it’s in any way prescriptive. Most origin countries have a prevailing coffee style yet there are always exceptions. Not every Brazilian coffee is flat and heavy bodied, and not every Costa Rican is bright and lively. If you like your espresso very bright the Costa may work for you, just as there are some Brazilians that can make a more than passable filter coffee. Use this guide as a rule of thumb, but ultimately let your taste buds show you the way.