CoffeeCon is a lifelong dream to give consumers a chance to see and compare different coffees and coffeemaking gear. When I first started my interest in coffee, there were few coffeemakers. Now there are many. The internet’s role in this is obvious. It’s now easy to see and read about so many methods and bean varieties. But, the internet has one limitation: It is not possible to come face to face with these methods. Like shoes, loudspeakers or other products, the missing element is undeniable and huge. I’ve ordered so many coffees and coffee brewers, only to find they did not suit me. Sometimes just a taste will tell. Other times I’ve held off, only to find by chance that a given method was perfect for me.
Well, CoffeeCon answers this need. You simply come and compare. Have you wanted to see what the Chemex fuss is all about? Wondered if the vacuum method is too complex? Will the French press give you too many leftover grounds in your cup? Now you’ll know.
There’s a second reason for CoffeeCon. I’ve met a few experts during my quest, who know things, some big, some little, about how to brew with various methods. Coffee can easily produce as complex a beverage as wine, but wine comes to us as a finished product. Chill, open and drink. Coffee does not. Coffee requires some knowledge. It is really a cooking art. Not everyone wants to become a renown coffee chef, but to be able to brew a perfect cup is not really beyond the scope of anyone, but, like riding a bicycle, baking cookies or any other worthy creation, we need to be shown once by someone who knows how to do it. I say this as a published author of two books on the subject, a producer who created a how-to coffee video and writer of countless articles on the subject. None of it is as effective as seeing it performed by an expert, and then doing it yourself with some help. Again, the web cannot really do this. CoffeeCon can.
If you stop reading and sign up for CoffeeCon here, that’s fine. But, there are a couple more reasons I think CoffeeCon’s time has come.
Consumers are a powerful force in any industry. They are not organized and never meet. We are isolated and that prevents us from having the clout we need. I think people in the coffee business will benefit from meeting us. They need to hear our concerns. They try to buy focus groups and mimic other industries, but there’s not substitute for them hearing from us just what we think. A year ago, some people in the coffee business got together to discuss some important world coffee ecology issues. The attendance was several coffee roasters, a coffee importer, a brewing manufacturer and a trade organization administrator. Like Christ at the United Nations, not a single coffee farmer was invited, nor were any consumers. CoffeeCon changes this.
The final reason is so simple I’m surprised no one has considered it before. Coffee aficionados have something in common. I’ve attended wine tastings and one of the fun aspects is meeting other red wine enthusiasts and hearing their opinions, not just about wine, but where they come from, what their best experience so far was, that kind of thing. Again, the web does not really bring us together, well it does, but only so close.
Come be a part of CoffeeCon 2012. If nothing else, I want to meet you. I want to share a cup or two. I want to show off my favorite brewing method. What is it? Come and find out.
Water is the number one subject people ask about. Water is the solvent that brings for the oil from the grounds. Without water, there’s no coffee. Learning about water and how to view it helped me enormously to brew better coffee. As in most things coffee, there are lots myths surrounding water. I want this to be short and sweet. Here’s my quick opinionated practical guide to brew great coffee.
“Hard water won’t extract because it’s already too full of minerals.”I hear it all the time. Don’t think of water as absorbing coffee oils. Think salad dressing. Oil and water don’t mix. Think of heated water being a solvent that removes coffee oil from the grounds and they get mixed into the hot water, making the beverage known as coffee. Also, when water is heated the minerals go into suspension. They are virtually unimportant during brewing. What minerals do is add taste. The reason not to use highly mineralized water is they risk adding a flavor that competes with or clashes with your coffee flavor. If that’s not reason enough, hard water suspended during heating, cools and hardens on the insides of your coffeemaker’s plumbing. It doesn’t take much to clog your coffeemaker’s arteries and interfere with the flow. This causes everything from substandard brewing temperatures, to slowing down brewing to simply halting the process. A coffeemaker manufacturer’s repairman once told me the majority of their service was simply calcium-choked coffeemakers.
If you have highly mineralized water, you should do the following: Drink some. If it tastes good, you can brew coffee with it. If the water doesn’t taste good, you shouldn’t brew with it because it will flavor your coffee, almost always it will taste bad. For bad tasting water use bottled water. For very hard water, you can choose. If you are willing to routinely be running vinegar or Urnex (a good coffeemaker cleaner) through your machine, and use fresh water (better still distilled or low-mineral bottled water) to rinse afterwards, you can continue to use hard water. But consider if your water is hard enough, you won’t save much by just switching to bottled water, compared to buying vinegar, coffeemaker cleaner and bottled water to rinse the machines.
If you use bottled water, check to see that it is low enough in minerals to make a difference. Usually it is lower simply because most bottled water manufacturers do some filtration to make their products consistent… but not always. Some bottled waters are full of minerals and not even any softer (meaning lower in mineral content) than the hardest tap water. The most reliable waters for brewing coffee are so-called drinking water, which are usually highly filtered municipal waters. Most often, they are treated with reverse osmosis filtration, which all but eliminates minerals. Then, the water bottler adds some particles in controlled amounts, just enough to add ‘normal’ flavor – water with no minerals can taste ‘flat’. There are some excellent good-tasting bottled waters, both low in minerals and with good taste that are not r/o filtered, but they take a little patience to find.
Under no circumstances should you use softened water, meaning water that’s been treated with a home water softener. Actually, there is an exception – espresso machines sometimes benefit from softened water, but these are dedicated machines and it’s a special case. I’m still not certain I fully approve of it, but at least it qualifies as a possibility – with espresso. This is not true using drip, vacuum or press pots. Softened water is especially problematic with automatic drip machines, where softened water and ground coffee can combine to make gelatinous goo that will become stuck in your brew basket.
Softened water is virtually undrinkable anyway due to its elevated sodium content. I anticipate the question of alternate softening methods. To be honest, I don’t know, nor do I know if it’s been researched by anyone. I’m eager to learn if any tests have been done.
So, there are the coffee basics you need to brew great coffee minus the myths.