Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coffee Making Technology

For years now, I made coffee at home with a Moka pot – the little Italian ‘stove top espresso’ maker that’s been in use in Italy since the 1930s. This makes pretty decent coffee usually, but I have been known to burn it on occasion from not paying attention, and the volume of coffee produced isn’t very much.

Enter the Chemex:

(Please pardon the moving boxes etc, Mackenzie moved into my flat last weekend and we hadn’t had time to unpack her kitchen stuff when I took these pictures)

This is another old coffee technology, made from bits of laboratory glass fused together into a single, quite striking, functional piece. Making coffee is fairly simple, but there are multiple steps. This process is basically like single-cup drip from places like Philz or Blue Bottle, etc.

  1. Start boiling water.
  2. Grind your beans (unless they are preground). This is the trickiest step, I think – I’m still trying to get the right grind. I guess working with a blade grinder is not ideal, but I can’t justify a burr grinder – maybe that can be another post someday.
  3. Put a paper filter (chemex makes special ones that are ‘optimal’ for the device – I’m not sure I 100% buy into this yet, but I got some of them so, I’m using them) into your Chemex.
  4. After the kettle boils, turn off the stove. Pour a small bit of water to wet the filter (and to warm the carafe if it’s cold!) into the carafe. Pour this water out into the sink.
  5. Put your ground coffee into the filter.
  6. Put a small amount of hot water into the grounds, just enough to make them wet. Wait 30 seconds or so – this will ‘bloom’ the coffee and help the brewing process.
  7. Slowly pour the appropriate amount of the hot (no longer boiling) water over the grounds, it will filter through the grinds and the cone filter at the proper rate to ensure ‘perfect extraction’ of coffee flavors.
  8. Yes, it is a bit fidly, and it’s not a way to make a quick cup of coffee before work, but the coffee that it does produce is fantastically tasty – smooth and well-balanced. I’ll note that I am using some Kona beans that are probably no longer super fresh, and as I said before, my grinding is not really optimal, and it’s still something I’m playing with. All this being said, it is definitely the best coffee I’ve ever made at home. Plus, the Chemex pot itself just looks damn cool!

    I plan to play with some different beans this month, and my technique in general – I’ll try to post some future observations and updates as I learn more, but I welcome comments and suggestions!

posted by neil at 10:52 pm
under coffee  

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