Brewing at home.

Every morning I make breakfast, and Jen makes the coffee. We rarely have cereal or yoghurt, but opt instead for different things with eggs. This comes from many failed attempts at committing to Paleo or more recently the Slow Carb diet. I’m quite certain that large parts of my being consist of butter, bacon and eggs, and whats more worrying is I don’t feel too bad.

This isn’t what I wanted to talk about though. The point is that Jen makes the coffee, not me. Its pretty much always a chemex, and if we’re feeling particularly groggy after a rager the night before ( read: watched three box sets in a row ), Jen’ll brew a cafe solo. The unapologetic heft from these spendy brewers is so bloody satisfying, but only when I’m in the mood for it. That 19%ish quality of Jen’s chemex’s is our default though, and its lovely.

On days when Jen’s off at zumba or cardio kickboxing or one of the other healthy things she does to combat the fat heavy diet that I’m forcing on her, I’ll brew my own coffee. Here’s when things get embarrassing. I always approach our Vario with a degree of anxiety and dread. Not because of any fault in the grinder, more that because I don’t use it enough.

See when I’m making coffee at work, I’ll use the Guat in the QC lab next to my desk. I like that grinder, and I’m pretty sure it likes me. I know what settings I like for a chemex, or a v60, or a french press. I like the height of it, and how it sort of stares me in the face with its big approachable dial. It has so many great lines and angles – to the extent that I think it would fit in perfectly in a death star canteen. The buttons are satisfying, and I always enjoy pulling that thing you pull to loosen the grounds suspended by static against the interior. I’m conscious however that the lab is the right place for this grinder, and that even if I could I wouldn’t put one in my apartment. No the vario is a fine grinder, but because I don’t use it every day, and because I don’t make coffee at home often, it is the first point of call in whats often an anxious few minutes.

I spend the entire brewing cycle dwelling ( sorry ) about variables. I wonder how much coffee should I use to purge. I wonder did I store the coffee properly, will 2 days off roast have a big impact – should I let the grounds sit a little before brewing or should I brew with hotter water? I wonder should I boil the water in the kettle, and then decant into the buono, or maybe bring all the water to a boil on the hob, I wonder how much water temperature matters anyway – I’m pretty sure Jen fills a cold buono with water 10 seconds off the boil, but her brews are always solid. Shit, what does Jen do agitation wise – why didn’t I watch her stirring technique instead of adding more butter to the scrambled eggs. I used non filtered hot water from the tap to rinse the filters, will I notice that in the cup? How good should I feel about the chemex filters breaking up the longer chains of fat and does that mean I should add some heavy cream to these eggs?

7 out of 10 times, I fuck up the brew. Its nearly always over extracted – chewy and obnoxious. I taste it and I see a dark color – kinda like maroon. Whatever sweetness and acidity I pulled into the water has been sat on by a big fat bear of carbs and blah.

What does it mean when I can only brew well in one location? Thinking back – Jen normally makes the coffee while checking Facebook on her phone. She doesn’t fuss about it, and when I drink it I don’t think about it, and its lovely. I know if I worked on it, I could hone my brewing at home skills, and reduce the margin of error – but I’m not sure which is more disconcerting; that my skills don’t copy and paste from location to location, or that not thinking about all those skills and how they manifest in the cup I’m drinking might help it taste better.

Conclusion? Slow cooked eggs made with lots of butter go really well with coffee someone else made. Also – it started snowing in Chicago today.

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19 thoughts on “Brewing at home.

  1. Love the post! This is why I have resorted to the technivorm at home. A litre of coffee, easy, repeatable, tasty, no skill required…

    The idea of an espresso machine at home completely horrifies me.

  2. Peter says:

    Stephen…I often achieve the same results at home with a press pot and an Aeropress brewer. Same goes for making espresso on an old Rancilio Silvia. Most of the time, making a batch of bacon helps.
    Cheers,
    Peter

  3. No matter how good or bad your partner is with brewing coffee, it will always end up with a better cup, I don’t think it because it’s a typically good brew but who is making it. I also think that screwing around with variables (oh I’m a sucker for variables and technical stuff) will make the brew more inconsistent.
    Of course I’m speaking about the whole experience, it can’t be consistent if you’re not interested, or am I wrong?

  4. David Walsh says:

    Popped collar on the Eva Solo?

  5. Marcus says:

    Haha! Such a true post for me. What about when the parents in law come over and you are the one to make the coffee?…spend 3 times as long as any sane person for a worse tasting brew…

  6. Ric R says:

    Empathy at every turn…although ever decreasing angst as I get older.

  7. [...] While everyone was fawning over the New Year return of James Hoffmann (guilty!) another voice quietly reemerged to the internet after nearly 20 months of silence. Like a small gift left unopened behind the Christmas tree, Stephen Morrissey—2008 World Barista Champion, Director of Marketing at Intelligentsia and a founder of Coffee Common—began 2012 with an honest post about his morning coffee routine. I spend the entire brewing cycle dwelling ( sorry ) about variables. I wonder how much coffee should I use to purge. I wonder did I store the coffee properly, will 2 days off roast have a big impact – should I let the grounds sit a little before brewing or should I brew with hotter water? I wonder should I boil the water in the kettle, and then decant into the buono, or maybe bring all the water to a boil on the hob, I wonder how much water temperature matters anyway – I’m pretty sure Jen fills a cold buono with water 10 seconds off the boil, but her brews are always solid. Shit, what does Jen do agitation wise – why didn’t I watch her stirring technique instead of adding more butter to the scrambled eggs. – Flyingthud [...]

  8. I have the same problem – I make excellent coffee in certain locations, and somehow manage to mess up even a plunger at home. I like to blame my little Hario hand-grinder, but I think it’s actually me that’s at fault.

    I try not to worry about it, though. When I jump onto an unfamiliar espresso machine, I don’t stress if the first few shots aren’t great. It’s like driving someone else’s car (or so I’m told… I can’t actually drive). I think the difference is that no one is all that likely to dump out an entire chemex and start from scratch, because it’s a much bigger hassle than just pulling another shot.

    As for high fat diets, you should check out the Weston Price Foundation website. Not all of their research can be trusted, but you might just find some medical science which justifies the extra butter and heavy cream in those eggs.

  9. Andrew Timko says:

    This makes me wonder what I would be drinking if I were not in the coffee industry, God forbid. I won’t speculate it is too scary.

  10. good post but the right way to do it is roast your own green beans at home and then grind and brew. Nothing out there beats freshly roasted coffee beans

  11. Gourmet coffee is expensive; it’s not always easy to find quality coffee at affordable prices

  12. This is some awesome inventory you’ve got there going on! :)

  13. fournines says:

    I always have someone else make my coffee=Simplifies my life

  14. Ann says:

    Hey, great post – it made me smile! I have a similar problem… when I think too much about whether i’m doing something right, it tends to backfire and go wrong. This doesn’t just apply to making coffee, but most things. So, I reckon – just don’t thing about it – be a casual coffee maker :-)

  15. long time no post, i miss your blog..

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