Glorious Black Gold…

November 17, 2009

You know what I’m talking about don’t you?

It’s easily one of the most addictive (legal) substances around, and it’s in so many foods/drinks these days many of us are unintentional addicts.

Coffee.

Glorious black gold that, depending on the quality, usually decides if we have a great day, or a shitty day (for me, anyway).

To say I love coffee is one of the understatements of the century. But Im not one of those people who have 12-15 cups of instant a day… To me, that’s an addiction. My coffee love is more a passion, than an addiction (although the two do overlap at times). I dont drink the strongest coffee, or the most coffee. I do my best to drink the best coffee, in all its wonderful forms. Theres the traditional (more cafe styles with espresso machines) of short blacks, long blacks, flat whites, lattes, macchiatos, affogatos. We have plunger coffee, dripolator coffee, percolated coffee, cold-drip coffee (which I only discovered yesterday, more on that later), Vietnamese coffee (which Ive never tasted, but is definitely on my list), and turkish coffee. And no doubt there are many, many more from the different regions of the world.

I have spent a lot of money on my addiction passion, and its my belief that one’s tools are extremely important in the world of coffee. My coffee grinder, a Sunbeam EM0480 (Cafe Series), was given to me as a gift from my intended wife, which remains – to this day – one of the most thoughtful (and awesome!) gifts I have ever received. My coffee machine, a small, functional Gaggia Classic set me back a cool $520 (on special!) from Myer, as well as a Gaggia Brand Frothing Jug (a comparatively cheap $15-$20).

I did a lot of research before I bought my coffee machine. I finally settled on the Classic, as it seemed to come out on top. There were some temperature concerns, but given the correct preparation beforehand this can be averted. And I must say, when all the ingredients and methods align (sometimes with the rarity of the aligning of the various planets) the Gaggia Classic pulls a fantastic coffee. I must say, one of the most annoying things with the Classic is if you get just one thing a little bit off, the rest of the coffee falls apart and the taste is greatly degraded. But you know what they say, practice makes perfect.

Lastly, the pièce de résistance, my Greg Pullman Coffee Tamper, cost me an earth shattering $160. Expensive to say the least, especially for something that can be bought for about 8 bucks from any random kitchen shop. It’s hard to explain to someone ‘normal’, about my passion, and exactly how much money I’m willing to spend in the pursuit of this elusive passion, but I remember the first time I picked up a Greg Pullman tamper. I think I had whats called (and I could be coining the term here), a coffee-gasm. Yep, thats right, I went there.

The balance, weight and sheer quality of this diminutive piece of coffee hardware in my hand felt perfect. Absolutely perfect. I ordered it on the spot, and had to wait a few days for it to come in. The price (I must admit) made me wince, but when I got home to try it out I didnt regret it for a second.

So there we have it… all the right tools to make the perfect (espresso form) coffee. Of course, something people dont realise, is how much skill it truly take to make a decent coffee. There are so many factors to take into account; grind, dose, tamp, extraction and temperature (when steaming/frothing milk), which when are done correctly will make quite simply the most fantastic coffee possible. Even a shitty quality bean will taste half-decent if all the factors are taken into account and performed correctly.

It has taken me a long, long time to get to the skill level I’m at now. And even then I realise I still have a long way to go. I have wasted so, so much coffee in the pursuit of all of these facets of coffee (grind, dose, tamp & extraction). But I have to say it’s truly worth it. That first sip of my coffee in the morning truly does bring the light into my day. To make matters worse, I dont have a thermometer for the milk, so I need to guess the correct temperature when Im steaming my milk. Im at the point where I know its done when you touch the jug and its hot to the point where it burns, but doesnt scald (trust me, there is a difference 😛 ).

I love almost all forms of coffee. Frans parents have their coffee turkish style, and as a finisher to a meal it goes down wonderfully! I grew up around my dads percolated coffee, and still look forward to the short blacks that come out of those beautiful coffee pots (seriously, they are beautiful). When Im at work, I tend to use a plunger which gives it a completely different flavour to any other coffee, and tends to be very very smooth (almost somewhat weak), that also serves well as an after-dinner coffee. I recently got into the Nespresso machines, and their niche-style coffees. My favourites are the Indriya and Ristretto coffees, and if you have access to a machine I highly recommend them both. At my old job, I was heavily into dripolator coffee, which has a similar taste/strength to the plunger coffee. Its quite nice. Ive even tried the Robert Timms Coffee Bags, which work just like a tea bag. These can be a bit unpredictable, but the gold columbia and italian espresso versions seem to be the better tasting of the lot.

However, the one coffee which I tend to have trouble with is Instant Coffee. The ones usually provided at functions/workplaces around australia taste like death in a cup, and Ive resolved that if I ever am lucky enough to run my own business, high quality coffee will be one of my minimum requirements. Nescafe is quite simply yucky (a very scientific term, I know).

So with this in mind, Ive recently decided to start a little personal project of my own, and that is to find the best tasting instant coffee. Nescafe gold is passable, but still doesnt capture the essence of true coffee. So my mission to find the best instant coffee starts this weekend, when I do my fortnightly grocery shopping.

Stay tuned as I risk my tongue and coffee pallet on what will be a no doubt entertaining journey.