6 ways to become a coffee connoisseur
Baristocracy Coffee spills the beans on how switching to speciality beans will make you taste coffee like you’ve never tasted coffee before...
We’re so easily set in our ways and, despite our best efforts, still find ourselves grabbing a quick coffee from one of the big chains or opting for instant simply for speed.
But there’s a whole world of coffee that we’re missing out on, if we only took a little time to discover it.
Which is why, as coffee lovers ourselves, we popped down to North Shields’ speciality coffee roasters, Baristocracy Coffee, to try out their Coffee Appreciation Course and learn more. While we were there, owners Alex and Kate Hudson lifted the lid on everything that goes into making their speciality coffee and, let us tell you, it will blow your mind.
And now that we’ve woken up and smelt the speciality coffee beans for ourselves – which has left us tasting coffee like we’ve never tasted coffee before – we had to let you guys in on the good stuff, too. So, we asked Kate to share how each type of coffee gets its unique taste…
COFFEE BEAN ORIGINS
At Baristocracy Coffee, we work with a small number of green coffee importers with established connections to growers and processing stations. It’s a top priority for us that growers of exceptional coffee are paid properly for their work.
The two main varieties of coffee are Robusta and Arabica. You may see names such as Caturra, Blue Mountain or Heirloom, too – these are all types of Arabica coffee and as with wine, different varietals will flourish in different growing conditions.
You may see terms such as ‘single origin’ and ‘blend’. Single origins are coffees that are from one growing region, eg. Colombia. A blend is a mixture of two or more coffees from different regions. Neither is better than the other. Single origins, especially when high quality, can shine best when enjoyed black, whereas blends have layers of flavour that will stand up to the richness of milk.
THE PROCESSING METHODS
Processing method refers to the way in which the coffee bean is removed from the cherry. How coffee is processed imparts the most flavour in the stages before roasting. There are also many processing methods, each with their own pros and cons, both in terms of labour, taste, and sustainability. But here are two examples:
Natural process: This involves laying the cherries out in the sun so the fruit ferments on the bean before being washed off. This imparts a layer of ‘funkiness’ that’s super popular with coffee nerds!
Washed process: This is where the fruit is removed from the bean by using water, leaving the natural flavour of the coffee to shine.
THE BREWING PROCESS
How you brew your coffee will have a huge impact on the flavour. There are many different ways to brew coffee and investing in an espresso machine for home isn’t necessary. Filter methods are affordable, easy to master, don’t take up loads of room in the kitchen and allow coffees to shine.
If you usually buy espresso-based drinks from a café, it’s really worth experimenting with filter methods of brewing to help work out what you like for at home.
Top tips for filter coffee:
- Brew ratio of 60g coffee to 1L water
- Grind size should be like coarse sand
- Boil water, then leave to cool for 3-4 mins before using
3 filter methods:
- Pour over, where water is poured over the coffee grounds, filtering through to the cup or jug to give a very light coffee.
- Using a cafetiere gives a stronger coffee, as the coffee is brewed in the water and then filtered out. Perfect if you like to add milk.
- Aeropress can be used for something between filter and espresso, and is also a good option if you like to add milk.
Many people have invested in a home espresso machine during the last two years of lockdowns. However, home machines will take a bit of playing around with to find the perfect coffee for you.
Top tips for espresso coffee:
- Aim for a 1:2 ratio is a good starting point, e.g. 16g of coffee: 32g of espresso.
- If you’re dialling in a new coffee, we recommend keeping notes so you can figure out the right recipe for that coffee and your machine. Note down anything you change as you’re trying to get it right and only change one thing at a time.
- If you’re unsure of the flavour profile you’re shooting for, we suggest cupping the coffee first. This is a simple method of brewing in a cup. Use 6g of coffee to 100ml of boiled, slightly cooled water. Brew for 4 mins in the cup and taste (you may need to scoop grounds off the surface gently). This process will show the flavour of the coffee as unadulterated as possible, so if you’re finding any flavours you don’t enjoy, you can work out if it’s you or the coffee!
THE TASTE EXPERIENCE
People can get a bit evangelical about the right way to enjoy coffee. We strongly believe the right way is the way you enjoy it. We offer a variety of coffees from all over the world and with different roast profiles. We know not everyone will absolutely love every coffee that we have, and that’s fine.
Coffee tasting is very similar to wine tasting; as the temperate cools, you’re taken on a journey through different flavours. Developing your coffee vocabulary is a great way to identify the flavour notes that you enjoy and those you don’t. We hear a lot of “I like strong coffee” or “I don’t like it bitter”. There’s nothing wrong with these descriptors, but coffee varies so widely that it’s really worth experimenting to better pinpoint the flavours you love and spend your cash on a coffee that you’ll really enjoy.
SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
There’s no getting away from the fact that coffee is not grown in the UK. However, by buying from local roasteries and cafes, shops and delis that use local roasters, you’re supporting small businesses that support fellow small businesses worldwide. It is more expensive, but you pay for quality, especially when buying from a local roaster; it’s much more likely that the grower was paid fairly for their crop.
We love that we’re roasting green beans that small businesses have carefully cultivated in Ethiopia. Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea, and they’re then sold by small companies here in the UK. Many of the green coffees we buy are grown by smallholders who contribute to cooperatives. Our Colombian coffee is grown exclusively by women. The importers we work with have relationships with the farmers and support processing stations to invest in sustainable technology and innovations to effectively save water and use wastewater.
Speciality coffee is grown at high altitudes, meaning less acreage for agriculture, and is more susceptible to the changing climate. By buying higher quality, we can support farmers to grow coffees that need more care and attention but will get them a better price at the market. Supporting this industry means enjoying beautiful quality coffee, paying growers fairly for their crops, and voting with our hard-earned cash for sustainably grown produce.
If you’re a coffee lover, a beginner to the coffee world or are already a coffee connoisseur, book a spot on Baristocracy’s Coffee Appreciation Course, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new.
Baristocracy Coffee opening times: Sunday: 11am-2pm, Tuesday: 10am-2pm
Unit 2 Larch Court, West Chirton North Industrial Estate, North Shields, NE29 8SG