Confession: I am not entirely sure if I like coffee.
(Hides from the people who will likely throw things at me for this statement)
So why pray tell, am I doing a post about it? Because over the last few years, it has somehow percolated (bad coffee pun. I'm an embarrassing human really) into the day-to-day. For ages, I said ''no thanks'' , ''it's a little too bitter'' and all of the usual rhetoric that goes with polite dismissal. But then one day, a cleverly cheeky barista asked me what I did like and then proceeded to make the most incredible flat white. Then came the americano. It changed things and suddenly the previously unfamiliar coffee bean became the oh-so-necessary staple.
So what is it about coffee that has somehow transfixed billions of us around the world?
I asked the little pocket rocket that is Aliona Wynn to impart her wisdom. 2018 Irish Brewers Cup Championship winner, beloved barista, half of the coffee power couple that is Proper Order Coffee Co. (hi Niall!) and just genuine babe.
I feel like everyone has a coffee story. When were you introduced and how did it win you over?
It started about 4 years ago when I got my first coffee job which was in a big Irish coffee chain. I didn't know much about coffee at all but it was a foot in the door for me. In my time there I actually came into contact with two really amazing trainers who have both since moved onto bigger and better things. I feel like their knowledge, passion and love for coffee left a big impact - that was the start of it for me in my journey. I moved to Coffeeangel, which was a small company at the time and was a great place in Dublin to get really good speciality coffee experience. Once I decided to move on, I applied to The Fumbally cafe and became their head barista where I've spent the past 2 years or so. At the moment I'm taking on a new role in Proper Order that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things again.
This may not be entirely possible but can you do a coffee 101- a little basic overview of a good coffee? What exactly are the 3 T's to brewing?
There's really no right answer to this but a few things you should look out for:
Where your coffee is from - if you can know the name of the farm that's always amazing. Your coffee should always be freshly roasted, the fresher the better - within 2-3 months of when you want to drink it and when possible freshly ground is always best. There are so many things to be considered when you're brewing too - but if you start by weighing what you do at each stage you're on the right track.
The pairing of beans and brewing methods is a bit of an art form. And the water. The water is a thing- what is the thing about the water?
There's no right or wrong way to brew any particular coffee - if you enjoy it then it's right for you.
Water is a thing for sure. One thing I'm always careful about is the water I use. Tap water is a no no. You should always try to use filtered water and if possible bottled water that is quite soft. There's always a little label on the back of a bottle of water letting you know its mineral content - a rule of thumb is to aim for a mg/L of around 100 or so. Definitely don't use anything that's over 200 because your coffee will more than likely just taste brown :) By that I mean that it will almost always taste the same, a little flat and no transparency.
There are a few of my lovely friends who are keen to make a good brew at home. What do you think the biggest mistake is and how do we fix it?
The biggest mistake home brewers make at home is not having a recipe to follow, you wouldn't dream of baking a cake without a recipe, so why would you make a coffee without one? Scribble down how you make your cup of coffee, the weights of coffee and water and the amount of time you've brewed it for are all really important. If you don't like the results, next time change one of these things a little bit and see what the results are like. Small tip yet very big impact. And of course let's not forget about your water, stop using tap water!
So...Would you be at all willing to give us an idea of how to make a good home brew?
Absolutely! There are a lot of things that have already been covered by the industry standards. Your usual ratio for brewing coffee is about 60g of dry coffee per 1L of water ( 30g=500ml). Normally when I buy coffee for myself I would just go into my local speciality coffee shop and ask the Barista for advice - they will usually recommend something that they are excited about themselves, which tends to be something amazing.
If I feel a little bit lazy ( like almost every Sunday) and I need to brew coffee for a few people - then I would go for a batch brew (drip machine). If you buy a good drip machine it will just be simple and delicious, it is hard to say no to, and all you will need to do is get your measurements right and press the button.
On days when I have a little bit more time to myself I will make a pour over. The one I am brewing you here right now is called a Kalita brewer (it's a single serve). I absolutely love taking the time to brew my coffee, there is almost something therapeutic I find about brewing. I choose Kalita because it gives me a consistent and clean brew every time. To brew this one here I've used 16g of coffee to 250g of water. I normally pour in steady circles for about 90 seconds ( till you reach that 250 ml) and my total brew time is about 2 and a half minutes. I hope you enjoyed it, it's from Colombia and was roasted by Square Mile coffee roasters in London.
For the record, I loved the brew and asked a million and one questions about coffee. Ali was unbelievably patient and made me want to sign up for every brewing class with her to learn more. (Which she does!) If you haven't already fallen for her or Niall - they are the beautifully talented couple running Proper Order Coffee Co.
Thank you Ali for letting me share your words here! x