When I think back over the past year, it was probably my most dedicated coffee year ever.
I have learned so much during the last twelve months, which I guess is also to be expected since I have been spending almost all my time on either brewing coffee or writing about it (yes, I know, it’s a crazy life!)
A lot of these things I’ll eventually write about in-depth but there are some small (yet cool insights) I want to share with you guys in a quick post.
So yes, this is another one of those “here’s what I have been up to this year”-posts, however, I promise that it’ll be more than just navel-gazing. Stick around because there’ll be a few cool coffee-tricks in this article.
But before we get into all the coffee lessons I’ve learned in 2019, here are a few personal highlights from the recent year:
- I went to coffee farms in both Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Nothing beats seeing the cherry up-close and talking to the farmers. Read about my visit to Lake Toba here.
- I attended a quite a few coffee conferences, and also had the honor of being a sensory judge at the ASEAN Open Roastmasters Championship in Vietnam.
- Wired, Barista Hustle, Daily Coffee News, Global Coffee Report, and a few other outlets mentioned this blog!
- The blog also grew substantially in terms of traffic and is getting closer to the magical 100K visitors a month. I hope we’ll make it in 2020!
Coffee hacks and insights
I know I haven’t made that many articles about these minor coffee hacks here on the blog, but if you follow me over on Instagram, you know that I usually post smaller things over there — usually as stories. The format just seems more suitable for quick updates.
However, I thought now was the perfect time to collect some of these small ideas and thoughts into a legit post.
#1: I’m less keen on the Hario V60
When my Hario V60 broke a few months back, I didn’t replace it.
Don’t get me wrong; I still admire the Hario V60 and think it’s a great place to start your journey in specialty coffee. Saying otherwise would be heresy. However, this year I have found myself using it a lot less than previously.
The main reason is that I have been craving fuller, rounder brews with a more pronounced body and mouthfeel. This texture is difficult to achieve with the Hario V60. It favors a tea-like body, and acidity.
This year I have been experimenting with various pour over gadgets such as the Cafec Flower, the Lily, Kono Meimon, and a bunch of different Kalitas.
But the one I have used the most has been the Munieq Tetra Drip. It brews a lot slower than the Hario V60, and thus creates a fuller extraction. I often have brew times around 5 minutes with this one.
I will probably get a V60 again at some point, but for now, I’m enjoying the slow and more syrupy brews with the Tetra Drip.
Sidenote: If you worry about heat loss while brewing, then the Tetra Drip is also ideal, since it’s probably the world’s lightest brewer at 25 grams.
#2: Not all Kalitas are the same
2019 was also the year where I had the time to do some more coffee experiments.
With help from a few of my coffee friends from Instagram, we managed to compare all the Kalita Wave brewers and expose some pretty severe lacks in quality control.
It turns out that they are totally different in terms of flow rate.
Read more about the Wave-debacle here.
#3: Agitation matters — a lot!
As most pour over-connoisseurs know, it’s essential to have a gooseneck kettle so you can control the flow rate and exercise more control over your brew bed.
But this year, I started to experiment a lot more deliberately with agitation.
I’m not referring to a lack of agitation. Nor am I talking about the act of stirring the brew bed with a spoon, Rao-style.
No, I’m talking about a cohesive agitation strategy that factors in the whole brew cycle from bloom to the last pour.
For me, this has been a game-changer on par with mastering water.
I have consistently been brewing the best pour overs of my life by using this method.
The affordable, small Gabi Dripmaster B has been instrumental in this new way of brewing.
I’ll publish a longer post about my brew method very soon, so make sure to sign up to sign up to receive push notifications, if you don’t want to miss it.
#4: Specialty roasters are going darker
For a while, I have been speaking out against super light roasts – especially the ones that are flirting with underdevelopment.
Luckily, it seems that the trend is going back to more developed roasts. Many roasters who followed the ultra-light approach previously, have adjusted their philosophies slightly in 2019 and gone just a tiny-nano-bit darker.
April Coffee Roasters from Copenhagen is one example of this but there are many more. As far as I recall, Patrik Rolf even confirmed on his podcast that they have indeed started to develop their coffees a bit more than previously.
#5: Robusta can be delicious
Until this year, I thought that Robusta was just bad coffee no matter what.
Sure, I had heard tales of the mythical “fine Robusta”, but I thought it was a bit like an urban legend. Well, it turns out that you can find excellent Robusta.
You shouldn’t expect it to be similar to arabica in terms of sweetness and acidity, but it can still taste delicious with notes of chocolate, spices, and toffee. This kind of coffee shines when brewed as a 100% pure espresso. The crema is incredibly dense and beautiful, and the lack of acidity is honestly something I can appreciate in a straight espresso shot.
#6: Liberica is tasty
This was the year of opening up my horizon to new coffee species. However, when it came to Liberica, I was even more skeptical than with Robusta.
Like most coffee people, I just saw it as a curiosity rather than something that could stand on its own merit. Again, I’m happy to say that I was wrong.
I tried Liberica for the first time at a coffee conference in Malaysia, dedicated to this unique species, and since went to visit a Liberica farm.
This bean is so sweet and so unique. We’re only at the beginning of a new fascinating chapter of specialty coffee when it comes to this colossal coffee plant. I wrote a few articles about Liberica coffee this year.
#7: Most people don’t care about Geisha
I hosted a few cuppings this year. It’s always fun to teach a subject you know and love. However, what stuck with me is how big the divide between specialty coffee and the general population is at the moment.
Most regular people don’t know much about specialty coffee. And they certainly can’t see the appeal of Geisha coffee.
Many of them would rather take a slightly above average natural processed coffee that’s not roasted too light.
There is a significant gap in the market when it comes to making specialty coffee accessible to regular people. Most coffee shops are either very 2nd Wave or very 3rd Wave.
Something as simple as using a more narrow brew ratio (like 1:13) and a more developed roast might convert some random customers to specialty. The typical tea-like V60 with citrusy notes isn’t doing it at the moment.
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#8: Aeropress Aesir filters really help
Many people assume that I’m a big fan of the Aeropress because I have been posting a lot of hacks and tweaks about it.
Please don’t get me wrong I like it, and think it’s fun. But until this year, I have been lukewarm on its brewing capabilities. I used to believe that no matter what, it would never brew coffee quite as delicious as a pour over.
This year, however, my coffee buddy Alcheng introduced me to the thicker Aesir coffee filters, and I was blown away by the increased cup clarity. Before, I have been an advocate of using two Aeropress filters at the same time, but using the Aesir filter is even better.
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the filters make a huge difference since that’s the case with pour over. However, I was really flabbergasted that it has such a pronounced effect on the Aeropress as well.
#9: You can use the inside of the Aeropress as a Gooseneck
This is a great travel hack: If you don’t have a gooseneck kettle, just use the inside of the Aeropress plunger for pouring.
When you fill it to the brim, you have exactly 200 ml of water. It has a very solid flow rate, and offers rather good control.
For more hacks, check out my newly updated Aeropress tutorial.
#10: Coffee trends are dying
A few trends that were on the rise in 2017 and 2018 seem to have lost steam this year.
Nitro coffee was the talk of the town for a few years but it has faded into the background. I only saw nitro in a few coffee shops in 2019, and the times I tried, it was pretty unremarkable.
Cascara is on the same trajectory at the moment. I’m a big believer in cascara, but it seems that the current import restrictions in the European Union, have put a damper on the developments in this space.
11: Manual brewing keeps getting stronger
Manual brewing kept moving forward in 2019. We saw an all-time high of outstanding manual grinders from up-and-coming companies such as 1Zpresso, Kinu, Timemore, Hiku, Orphan Espresso, and Apollo. Long gone are the days of creaky grinders with dull ceramic burrs.
Manual espresso kept moving in the same direction. Especially, the new Pro-versions of the Flair Espresso Makers, and the Cafelat Robot gained a lot of attention from home-brewers all around the world.
Those were my coffee lessons of the year. If you think there’s something I have overlooked or you have any other comments, then get in touch on FB/IG, or shoot me an old-fashioned mail. Merry Chemex and happy caffeinated year!