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One might wonder why is it that coffee produced by a barista at a cafe often tastes different than brewed at home with the same coffee. Or why the same is observed when you brew the same coffee as your friend whom you split the same bag of coffee with.
Given that everything is identical, water might just be the culprit.
Your coffee brew is made up of mostly water - about 90% in espresso, and 98% in filter coffee. This is why many brewing guides recommend using clean, odourless water, free from impurities.
Water also acts as a solvent during the brewing process. Its mineral composition can affect the extraction of different flavour compounds from the ground coffee beans into your cup. This means that different water can extract coffees differently, even when brewed with the same equipment and brew recipe.
Why do these variables matter?
To better understand the difference, we’re using the Water Brewing Standards from the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) as a reference. The specifications below don’t suggest that this is the perfect water for all coffees, but it certainly is a good starting point.
Water for Brewing Standards / sca.coffee
Odour and Impurities
Clean, fresh and odourless - these are the minimum requirements for the water you’re using for brewing. Off-flavour from impurities might show up in the coffee you brew.
A common substance present in tap water is Chlorine, which is used by water treatment facilities to kill bacteria and microbes. Chlorine has an oxidising effect that makes coffee more bitter, and in the case of espresso, ruins crema formation. An easy way to remove these impurities is through an Activated Carbon filter, three-stage domestic water filtration systems, or water filtration pitchers like the Brita.
With Hardness, we begin to touch on the brewing efficiency of water. Also known as General Hardness or Total Hardness, it refers to the presence of Calcium and Magnesium in the water, along with other ions. With an adequate concentration of these minerals, water becomes more effective at extracting compounds such as 2-Methyl Pyrazine (which is responsible for nutty and chocolatey flavours), and Furnaeol (which gives coffee fruity and berry-like flavours).
This is the reason that distilled water is not recommended - no minerals means less-efficient flavour extraction. However, more does not mean better as Calcium and Magnesium are responsible for limescale build-up and corrosion in metal parts of brewers such as coffee machine boilers and pouring kettles.
The SCA recommends a Hardness range of 50-175ppm, though some other resources cite 80ppm as an optimum balance of flavour and machine protection.
Author’s note: There are many units used for hardness, but for simplicity, we will stick to ppm or parts per million for this article.
Alkalinity and PH
Another aspect of water is called Alkalinity, also known as Carbonate Hardness.
This refers to the buffering capacity of water, or the ability of water to resist changes in pH. pH (or Potential Hydrogen) is a scale used to denote the acidity or alkalinity of liquids. Coffee, being a weak acid, depends on a suitable amount of Alkalinity in the water to promote good extraction.
Excessive Alkalinity will make the water very resistant to changes in pH, so a naturally bright coffee will probably taste bland when brewed. Low Alkalinity will cause acids to prevail in the brew, which may cause a sweet, balanced coffee to taste weak and sour. The SCA recommends a balanced Alkalinity of 40-70ppm.
Given that we have an idea of what numbers to look out for, how do we measure the water we have at home? The simplest, but also most accurate way is through measurement of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). A cheap TDS meter can be had for about $10, and it’s as easy as sticking the probes into the water to test.
If you are using the Morning Machine, it comes with a built-in TDS reader and will be able to show you the status of the water you put in it. You may access it via settings (holding the return and confirm buttons), scrolling through to “Machine Info” and finally to “Water Status”.
The constraint with measuring TDS is it gives a readout that includes all residue in the water, including inorganic salts and organic matter. It might be a good indicator of how hard or how soft your water is but tells you nothing about the concentration of General Hardness and Alkalinity.
A relatively more accurate method would be to get test kits that measure GH (General Hardness) and KH (Carbonate Hardness). These require more effort to use, but they give you a better idea of the brewing efficiency of your water.
The most accurate way would be to contact your water treatment plant or supplier for exact specifications of the water you have access to.
Better Water at Home
If the water in your area is a far cry from the SCA Standards or even your neighbourhood cafe’s water specifications, here are a few things you can do:
Now, go off to try making your own brew with water that matches the TDS standards we spoke about.
Words by Jon Choi @theheadbean
'Roaster on Roster' is a series where we feature our partner roasters on the MORNING marketplace and spend some time catching up with them about their projects, inspirations and also their lives outside of coffee.
This International Women's Day we interviewed Maria Pavani of Tres Marias Coffee Company. Today, with over 10 years of industry experience under her belt, Maria is leading the way for women in the coffee industry as a professional and entrepreneur.
About the roaster
Maria might be familiar to many who are part of the coffee championships circuit. As a certified sensory judge, she's often spotted slurping coffee with a clipboard in hand at many regional and world coffee competitions.
She wears many hats, the main one being the Founder of Três Marias Coffee Company - a roastery based in Dubai, whose name takes inspiration from the Belt of Orion. It represents their ambition to be recognisable and distinctive in the world of coffee, and they’re quickly becoming just that.
Três Marias is one of the leading coffee brands in the United Arab Emirates, they have been innovating high-quality coffee products and bringing new formats to the market - from roasting experimentally-processed coffees and launching instant specialty coffee, to producing ice coffee pops and now capsule coffee.
1. Can you share with us how your journey with coffee started and how it came to now with your business - Três Marias, in Dubai?
My first experience working as a barista was while I was living in Portugal with my mother. I was working part-time behind the bar in a busy coffee shop in Central Lisbon.
After I finished my studies, I decided to go back to Brazil and explore the opportunities there. I got a summer job at a cafe that was just starting to roast their coffee and that was my first venture into the specialty coffee world - understanding Brazil as a coffee-producing country, the processes, varieties etc.
Soon after, a friend of mine who moved to Dubai got me an offer as a head barista for a five-star hotel. I took up the offer and moved here in 2013, where the market was almost untouched with only one specialty coffee roaster then. I saw this as an opportunity to invest in my career by deeply studying coffee and understanding the whole supply chain.
In 2019, when the UAE market was already somewhat established, I decided that I wanted to have my voice on how I approach coffee, and that was how Três Marias Coffee Company was born.
2. Why did Três Marias decide to put coffees into the convenient capsule format?
Specialty coffee capsules are a new world to explore and because we (at Três Marias Coffee) strive to make specialty coffee accessible through innovation, accessibility and community; capsules as a product fit naturally with our core values as a brand.
The challenge with specialty coffee is to help people understand that coffee could have more flavours other than overpowering bitterness, and capsules are a great way to introduce that.
So I feel there is an opportunity here, and we wanted to lead the market towards it.
3. What’s been the most exciting achievement so far working in coffee?
Last year, I officially became a certified Sensory Judge for the World Barista Championships. I have been working on this project for years, and I am very happy I finally got my certification.
This will allow me to travel more to different countries to judge their national barista championship. This month I am going to Turkey and Portugal, to meet the amazing team of professionals on the world stage and choose the best barista in the world.
This makes me proud.
4. In your time as a tasting judge in many coffee competitions, was there a particular coffee you’ve tasted that left a lasting impression to this day
When we are part of competitions as sensory judges, we focus on not allowing the ‘’wow factor’’ and personal impression to affect our judging of each section on the score sheet. We try to stay true to the taste that the barista tells us to expect and what we find in the cup with our sensory skills as the measure.
But having said that, I remember tasting a coffee that I never tasted before last year at the UAE brewers' national championship, and then another outstanding coffee on the world stage in Milano!
5. Are there any issues in coffee that you think may be critically overlooked by the casual coffee consumer?
Definitely. This year we started to feel the impact of climate change a lot more with the prices of coffee going up.
This is something that we, as coffee brands and coffee professionals, should communicate about. It is important to share about the supply chain and that prices raised are from the increase of green coffee pricing and not because roasters want to increase their profits.
6. If you could have a coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I lost my grandmother during Covid so I did not get the chance to say goodbye in person.
I still remember visiting her in Lisbon just before the lockdowns happened and had the chance to bring some Três Marias Coffee to drink with her. I wish I knew that it was my last cup with her.
So, I would definitely love to relive that moment again.
7. What’s next for Três Marias as a company?
That is a very good question. I think we have done so much in the past two and a half years, that we’re now working internally as a company to understand how to grow with better procedures as a team.
For coffee products, we have two new launches this year, one which I believe will help Três Marias reach new heights. We are all super excited about it!
We see ourselves growing to other countries as well, but we’ll move step by step.
While being cooped up at home has birthed many home-brewers and baristas, nothing beats stumbling across your new favourite café while travelling. As the promise of leisure travel looms over the new year’s horizon, here’s our roundup of our favourite coffee cities and quintessential hot spots to visit on your coffee crawls.
Starting strong with a country that has exported its coffee culture to the world, Australia is home to a myriad of coffee cities, with Melbourne at the center of it. Much has been said about how Melbourne’s coffee culture is one of the most respected, with popular cafés and roasters bearing global reputation.
You could spend several days or even months exploring Melbourne and still not have enough time to visit the almost 2,000 specialty cafés in the city. What we could recommend is to start with icons like ONA, Five Senses, ST. ALi, and Proud Mary among others, but don’t let that stop you from going on your own coffee adventure.
Cold, cloudy, but quite the global city - London is littered with café gems that serve as perfect respites from the gloom when exploring the city.
London is home to many great specialty coffee roasters with a focus on wholesale supply. So you can expect multi-roaster options from the likes Square Mile, Origin Coffee or Colonna Coffee when you visit.
The busy and ever-so lively streets of Tokyo never get old, from Shibuya to Harajuku, the energy is just electrifying and perfect for people-watching.
When you’ve finished going through and around the throngs of people, you'd have to take a rest stop at venerable Kissatens like Café L’Ambre, grab a to-go from About Life’s little pop-up window, or have a mix of coffees then cocktails at Fuglen. It is no wonder brands like Blue Bottle and Verve Coffee have chosen to make a presence in this happening city.
You might not think of Hong Kong as a coffee city of sorts, but if there is a sure indicator that the former crown colony has an affection for caffeine - it would be the cans of Black & White milk all around.
Local café culture has formed a city in love with its yuanyang (coffee infused with tea and milk) to naturally embrace the growing specialty coffee scene .
Visiting Sheung Wan will take you to some iconic cafés like 18 Grams and Cupping Room; while exploring Kowloon Island will lead you to homegrown favourites like Knockbox Coffee and Urban Coffee Roasters.
What’s there to say about Portland’s coffee culture that hasn’t already been said?
There is much to explore in this hotbed of specialty coffee in the Pacific Northwest, and while Seattle a bit up north may have a bit more of a name to itself as a coffee city (Starbucks, anyone?), Portland has a charm of its own that attracts coffee pilgrims the world over.
Lose yourself in the world of specialty cafés with the newly released Softer Volumes: Cafés - a luxurious coffee table book exhibiting some of the most beautifully-designed cafés around the world.
From eye-catching modern interiors to charmingly minimalistic spaces serving amazing brews, this fabric bound hardcover book features over 100 hand-picked specialty coffee shops. Discover each of them through the lens of the world’s best architecture and interior photographers. Dive into their stories and ignite your wanderlust for 2022 and beyond.
Softer Volumes: Cafés is now available on the Morning Marketplace here at S$99.
There was a scene in the film “A Film About Coffee” where Blue Bottle Founder, James Freeman shares about the first time he tried coffee. After catching a whiff of the coffee his parents were making, he wanted to try it out, and was surprised to find that it tasted bitter.
Many of us who’ve had our first cups of coffee can attest to this experience. Although there are people who have grown to love the bitterness, there definitely is more to the cup than meets the eye. Coffee doesn’t need to be bitter, but yet that descriptor is what sticks most for people.
From a scientific perspective, there will always be some element of the coffee that will contain bitterness. To keep things simple, we’ll be identifying the most common of these elements which are: Chlorogenic acid and Caffeine.
Chlorogenic acid in its original state is not bitter, but as the coffee undergoes the roasting process and depending on the roast profile, chemical changes occur.
You can probably guess - if the coffee you’re tasting is roasted on the lighter side (light roast), you’re likely to find less bitterness and more balance in that cup of coffee; whereas when roasted on the darker side, you might find that familiar lingering bitterness in your cup.
Caffeine also plays a significant role in bringing forward bitterness, coffee types with more caffeine content will be more bitter than those with less. By that association, it explains how Robusta is a naturally more bitter coffee than Arabica, and why certain instant coffee blends are made with a mix of both to try and find that balance in the flavour.
All things above considered, extraction then plays the next part in determining a coffee’s bitterness. When brewing coffee, you’re ultimately trying to extract the best of its flavours, and anything more than that will be the unpleasant elements of the coffee. When at a specialty café, you might notice that when pulling the shots of espresso, the barista takes extra care in adjusting the grind size, water temperature and timing of how long the shot is pulled, for good reason - because these variables affect coffee extraction.
These same principles apply to home-brewing:
There are a multitude of other factors that might determine the taste of your coffee, whether bitter or sour, the list goes on. The key is to find that balance in all of these variables and when you hit that sweet spot, it results in a delightful cup that extracts the intended flavours of your coffee.
It’s that time of the year again where we celebrate the most important woman in our lives (although we believe that it should be Mother’s day everyday), and we think that the best gift you can give to Mum is a handmade meal!
We’ve recently partnered with Uglisabi (@uglisabi), who had come up with a special Mother’s Day treat - Cardamom Coffee Waffles topped with Coffee Chantilly and a Coffee Syrup, all made with coffee from our Bread & Butter Capsules.
I mean, who doesn’t love waffles? And coffee?
So put on your aprons and start whipping up this treat for Mum with the Uglisabi's recipe below!
Cardamom Coffee Chantilly
Optional: Prepare some chopped almonds as toppings for that extra crunch.
Place the waffle on your fanciest plate, spoon on the Chantilly, pour the syrup around the waffles and lastly, sprinkle on some chopped almonds and you are ready to serve.
Happy Mother's Day!
Recipe by Uglisabi
What’s on the label of your favourite coffee? Along with the origin, roast profile, and those useful tasting notes, coffee processing methods are crucial in forming the bean’s final flavour profile. They matter because they greatly affect your everyday brew! Here’s why.
In order to understand coffee processing, we first have to brush up on the coffee bean’s anatomy. The widely popular beverage we know and love comes from roasted coffee beans, and these beans are actually seeds of a fruit known as the coffee cherry.
The coffee cherry is composed of the following:
Skin, which surrounds the fruit.
Pulp, a fleshy layer that can be found beneath the fruit’s skin.
Mucilage, which is the inner layer of the pulp.
Parchment, a paper-like hull that envelops the seed.
Seed, in its purest form before it’s roasted, ground, and brewed!
We can think of processing as the extraction of the green coffee seed (or bean) from the coffee cherry. This means that the skin, pulp, mucilage, and parchment have to be removed in order to get to the seed. This is how coffee is processed in its most basic form, and there are many ways to go about this. How a farmer or producer chooses to process the coffee they have has a profound impact on how the coffee tastes once it is brewed. Let’s take a look at the different coffee processing methods below:
Developed in the Caribbean in the 1850s, this method became popular in Central America due to the higher volumes of coffee produced. It's a widely popular processing method due to its consistent results. In the washed process, coffee cherries are pulped and fermented in water to remove the skin, pulp, and mucilage. The beans are then dried on parchment, prior to dry milling and selling.
Flavours to expect: Floral, Bright, Citrusy, Clean
This is the oldest form of coffee processing, traditionally used in Ethiopia and in Yemen. In this process, whole coffee cherries are laid on patios or mats, where they dry under the heat of the sun. This method gained popularity in coffee-growing sites with limited access to water, and was considered a poor choice for flavour due to its tendency for inconsistency and over-fermentation.
Nowadays, producers experiment with the natural process to give coffees an intense, funky, fruited flavour profile.
Flavours to expect: Fruity, Winey, Fermented
This technique hails from Brazil, where it was referred to as ‘pseudo-natural’ processing. In this processing method, producers sort and depulp coffee, leaving the seeds in their mucilage to dry on a flat surface.
In 2008, an earthquake left washing stations in Costa Rica without water, driving coffee producers to explore a water-free alternative based on the Pulp Natural method, which they coined the “Honey Process”.
Many say that the Honey Process can mimic a Washed profile or a Natural profile, and this is achieved through differences in retained mucilage, drying time, or level of shade. White, Yellow, Red, and Black Honey processes are just a few of these subcategories.
Flavours to expect: Fruity, but also a large range of flavours
Uncommon everywhere else, but it is the de facto processing method in Indonesia.
Much like Washed and Honey processes, the wet hulled method starts with removing the cherry’s pulp, while fermentation and mucilage removal is optional. While other processing methods include a drying on parchment step, the wet hulled process involves the drying of the bare seed. With a quicker drying time, this allows farmers to sell the product faster, but increases the risk of the seed absorbing not-so-palatable flavours.
Flavours to expect: Musty, Earthy, Herb-like, Chocolatey, Full-bodied
Coffee is pulped and then placed in an airtight tank with a one-way valve. The anaerobic fermentation style takes longer than the traditional Washed style fermentation of 12-36 hours. Due to the lack of oxygen, a limited set of microbes affect the chemical reactions that take place, resulting in incredibly precise and identifiable flavour profiles.
Flavours to expect: Unique and distinct flavours such as bubblegum or whiskey
Carbonic Maceration is similar to Anaerobic Fermentation, except that the cherries are placed inside airtight tanks without depulping. In addition, the chamber is flooded with carbon dioxide, which allows an extended fermentation time that can run from days to even weeks.
Flavours to expect: Unique and distinct flavours such as bubblegum or whiskey
Coffee processing is rarely a talking point in shops or coffee websites, but it is, nevertheless, an integral part of crafting the coffee bean’s flavour and character. We don’t think there is a ‘best method’—they’re all different expressions that unlock (or enhance!) the flavour potential of coffee. Still, the next time you pick up a bag of Honey Processed Costa Rican or some Natural Ethiopian capsules, you'll hopefully have an idea of what to look forward to!
Words by Jon Choi @theheadbean
The most recent episode begins with opening credits directly inspired by the 80’s shows Growing Pains and Family Ties. The entire town of Westview seems to be caught in a throwback decade, and this week, everything looks like the 1980’s! Some magical reality-bending is afoot, and all that enters the town gets an automatic retro-makeover: A Hazmat-suit turns into a beekeeper uniform, a military drone devolves into a toy helicopter, and casual clothing transforms into a bell-bottom jumpsuit.
This made us think - what would a modern day coffee concoction turn up as if we put it through the retro ringer? How exactly was coffee enjoyed in the 80’s?
Before big chains like Starbucks hit the mainstream in the early 90’s, there was a lack of high-quality coffee in western markets due to strict export quotas and the greater ubiquity of Robusta beans. This did not mean there was no romance to coffee in this time period however, as coffee began to be marketed towards younger adults, mostly made up of new families. Most products were still instant and commonly consumed with creamer, but flavours inspired by international styles and decadent desserts had begun to emerge. Names such as Cafe Vienna, Swiss Mocha, and French Vanilla became synonymous with coffee, and this movement to attract more coffee drinkers was instrumental in the increased adoption of the beverage that continued on into the next decade.
In this Morning Renditions, we’re creating a pairing that would be right at home in 80’s Westview: Black Coffee and Creamer. And much like Wanda and Vision, we’re doing a bit of magic to give this classic duet a high-quality twist! One half of the recipe mimics unadulterated black coffee, which we will pull long from a capsule. The other half is a homemade French Vanilla creamer - a popular flavour from the time period. True to the decade is less emphasis on a composed drink. Simply add more creamer to your black coffee as you see fit!
Westview’s Coffee and Cream
French Vanilla Creamer:
25g Almonds, roughly chopped
200ml Full Cream Milk
200g Condensed Milk (about half a standard 14oz can)
1 Vanilla Bean, sliced in half and seeds scraped out
80’s-style Black Coffee:
100ml of espresso (brewed from 1 capsule, lungo-style)
Toast the almonds in a dry saucepan over low heat. Gently stir around for about 4-5 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them!
Add in the full cream milk, condensed milk, and both the vanilla bean and seeds, and whisk them all together, still over low heat.
Once the mixture begins to simmer, turn off the heat.
Strain the mixture into a jar, leaving out the vanilla pods and chopped nuts. Once cooled, you can cover and refrigerate the creamer, which can be kept for up to a week.
Pull one long shot of espresso on your capsule machine. You may have to hold the button down to get our 100ml yield per capsule - mimicking a lungo setting. The resulting liquid should be more similar to a brewed coffee than an espresso.
Simply stir some creamer into your black coffee! How much is entirely up to you, but we enjoy one part creamer to five parts coffee, which for our recipe is about 20ml of the sweet stuff.
Binge-watch back episodes, while enjoying the romance and nostalgia brought about by this classic pairing!
Happy Valentine's Day!
Recipe by Jon Choi @theheadbean
Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora, better known as Arabica and Robusta, are two household names when it comes to coffee species. A distant third is Coffea Liberica, accounting for less than 2% of commercially-grown coffee worldwide.
Indigenous to West Africa, Liberica was brought over to Southeast Asia in the 1890s to replace Arabica plants that were plagued with coffee rust disease. Liberica proved to be resistant to disease, pests, drought, and climate change. Today, it is still cultivated in some parts of Malaysia and the Philippines.
Despite its rarity, Liberica has a bad rap for its flavour profile. This can be attributed to inferior processing and roasting in the countries that cultivate it, as well as the relatively cheap price it's sold at. In the Philippines, Coffea Liberica is known as "Barako Coffee", which roughly translates to "Manly Coffee", due to its strong and bitter taste.
However, there exists a movement to change this perception. A new generation of coffee producers is determined to put Liberica on the Specialty Coffee map, and leading the change in the Philippines is Elaine Agoncillo Barrios of Plantacion Agoncillo. We had a virtual sit-down with Elaine to chat about coffee producer life, thriving through calamity, and her efforts to elevate this underappreciated species.
Jon: Hey Elaine! Tell us a little bit about your background with coffee and
Elaine: My fondness with coffee began when I was in college. But it was only back in 2012, when I resigned from my job as a biochemist extracting stuff out of dried ground plants, that I thought of researching on how to make the perfect cup of coffee. I started looking into how to brew the proper way, and how to change its [the coffee’s] taste.
My research led me to exploring different kinds of beans and eventually into roasting. I took a crash course where I met people who hooked me up with locally-sourced green coffee beans that I first pan-roasted. I used a small Teflon pan and simulated a drum by using a pot cover then shaking it around every few seconds or so.
I then got more interested in learning about green coffee, and I realized that it all boils down to the crop—while the perfect cup of coffee is rather subjective, you can’t make a good cup if you have bad beans. Since I was out of a job and my family was looking into other things, I asked if I could try to plant coffee. I got their support and so, Plantacion Agoncillo was born in 2014, and I just continued to dig deeper into the rabbit hole of the coffee world.
J: How big is the plantation and what other coffee varieties or plants do you grow, if any?
E: The coffee plantation is 1.5 hectares with about 970 trees. We only planted Libericas since the land is located in Batangas. (Writer’s note: A low-elevation province in the Philippines.)
J: What do you do differently at the farm that sets your Libericas apart?
E: When we began our little farm, I had the idea of processing the Libericas somewhat like how the specialty arabicas are processed to see how it will affect taste. Until now, that’s what we do since we liked how it initially turned out. Raised drying beds, semi washed method, etc.
J: What about your Liberica’s flavour profile are you most proud of? Any signature or unique taste characteristics?
E: I think the attribute I am proudest of is that the strong jackfruit smell usually associated with Libericas isn’t there. Well, it depends. I noticed that if you roast it a certain way, it comes out but not as strong as the “normal” Barako. Also, I think it has a unique citrus rind acidity and a certain “whiskey-ness” to it.
J: We agree! When we roasted and served your coffee in the past, we called the dominant flavour note “Old Fashioned”, like the classic cocktail. Definitely a coffee to remember!
E: And thank you Jon, for seeing its potential and giving our Libericas a chance!
J: I want to talk about where we first met you. It was at a local coffee auction two years ago, where your Libericas were featured alongside some amazing local Arabicas. And they set record-breaking prices for the species! Can you talk to us about that experience?
E: That was surreal and exciting for me. I was hopeful and scared at the same time. I didn’t know how the people in the specialty coffee industry would accept the Libericas considering their bad rap especially when you compare them with the other varieties that everyone is used to. I was lucky to be surrounded by very supportive coffee friends who gave me the extra push to just do it.
J: How is the farm doing at present? The first quarter of this year has seen a volcano eruption a few kilometers from your estate, followed by country-wide lockdowns due to COVID-19. Has this impacted the coffee production in your area?
E: At first, I thought it didn’t affect our trees since not that much ash fell on the trees, but even a thin layer [of the ash] affected most of our cherries. Also, there was a shortage of water due to the eruption so we couldn’t water the trees properly. We had a few kilos of cherries harvested and dried, but mold grew on them due to improper handling. We couldn’t find people to help us work the farm and do post-processing due to the lockdown. Unfortunately, we lost our 2019-2020 crop year coffee.
J: I’m so sorry to hear that. How are you guys coping for the next crop year?
E: We just continued our routine maintenance in the farm. Most of the trees have green cherries already, so we are hoping for the best. Though there are quite a few trees that have nothing on them, which boggles me until now. I guess that’s the main challenge of farming, especially as a first-timer. It’s really trial and error, and you only know what the results will be after a year.
J: We’re happy your team is fighting for it! And I hope there is another opportunity to serve your coffee in the future. Which begs the question—where do you wish to see Plantacion Agoncillo and Philippine Liberica in the next few years?
E: I would love to have an increase in production without using too much fertilizers in our farm in the coming years. I would also love to see the Philippine Liberica being appreciated by both the local and international market.
J: What do you consider the biggest barriers to achieving this goal?
E: It is a challenge for our farm to find good help and a constant water supply. So those two are huge barriers for us now. As for the export of the Philippine Liberica, I tried sending some coffee out to interested foreign buyers, but I was asked for a lot of paperwork that, well, small farmers/producers don’t normally have. If there was a way to make it easier for us smaller players to send out our products, that would be a big help.
J: With Philippine Coffee getting a bigger spotlight year after year, I am hoping your Libericas gain even bigger prominence soon! My last question—if you were allowed to give Liberica a new local nickname other than simply “Barako”, what would it be?
E: I never thought of this, but I heard someone say before that it's "not your Lolo's Barako" or something like that *laughs*. I kind of like that. (Writer’s note: “Lolo” is Filipino for Grandfather.)
J: I like it, too! And we look forward to hearing and tasting more! Thank you for your time and for sharing your insights and experiences, Elaine! Anything else you want to share before we end the interview?
E: I’m glad more people were able to taste our coffee because of EACH! We still have some 2018-2019 harvest available for those who still want to try it. We kept a batch to age in parchment and hulled it a few months after to see the difference. I hope more people will be open and interested to try the “new” Libericas available in the market—not just ours, but other locally-farmed and processed coffees as well.
Words by Jon Choi @theheadbean
Header Photo by Asser Christensen
To say that single-serve coffee has come a long way from those tiny packets of instant coffee is an understatement.
At the present day, coffee lovers are awfully spoilt for choice when it comes to quick and easy ways to enjoy a cuppa, at the ready and in an instant—from freeze-dried coffee, drip bags, to of course, capsule coffee.
Which leads us to wonder, how did capsule coffee come to be?
It may come as a surprise to learn that the idea for capsule coffee has been around for over 40 years, with the first patent being filed in 1976 by former Nestlé employee and Swiss engineer, Eric Favre. After a trip to Italy and finding inspiration from a café that was doing tremendous business selling aerated coffee, Favre got to work trying to figure out the science of how to replicate this type of coffee, which he fancied, in a simpler manner. Being an engineer, he designed a structure that would achieve the coffee output he desired; hence, the acorn-like shape of today’s ever-popular coffee capsules.
However, despite the patent filing, it would take several more years before the first commercial Nespresso machines would hit off the ground.
Beginning in 1986, Nespresso machines became commercially available, and in turn, the coffee capsules as well. The Nespresso C100 looked a lot more like a traditional single group espresso machine, and in a way, you could say it operated like one, too. Despite this breakthrough in coffee design, the business did not pick up, and the whole venture seemed to have ended even before it began.
While it seemed like hope was bleak, Jean Paul Gaillard stepped in as Commercial Director of Nespresso, and he helped turn things around. A key decision made at that time, which has impacted Nespresso until today, was to license the machine’s production to other companies, while placing its focus on the manufacturing and design of the coffee capsules.
Because of this, Nespresso was able to pick up the pace, and its popularity skyrocketed as a result. Seeing Nespresso’s success, it didn’t take long before other companies decided to get into the capsule coffee game. Keurig began offering their K-Cup system in 1998, and other coffee companies began releasing their respective capsule systems as well. Nestlé came out with the Dolce Gusto line in 2006, which provided more varied offerings that encompassed tea and chocolate-based beverages as well.
Today, the coffee capsule market has grown way beyond its humble beginnings. More and more coffee roasters and companies are looking at the capsule system as a new model for the future of coffee as most people spend more time at home nowadays.
Most coffee consumers may not necessarily have the patience to take the longer route of brewing coffee, which is why there are now millions that own a coffee capsule brewing machine at home or in the office—and we’re only talking about personal machine owners here. With a market that only keeps growing, it’s a gold mine of opportunity for coffee roasters around the world to tap into.
This can only mean exciting times ahead.
Of the many movies to enjoy during Christmastime, Elf happens to top our list. This 2003 flick follows Will Ferrell as Buddy, an adopted elf who heads to the city to find his father and spreads Christmas cheer in the process.
“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.” - Buddy sure likes them sweet, including his coffee. In our favourite scene, he accidentally adds copious amounts of alcohol to his mug, mistaking the flask for syrup. Hilarity ensues, complete with a tickle fight and a table jig.
Buddy’s little mailroom accident inspired us to create our take on an Irish Coffee, made sweeter and more in tune with the Holidays. We’re calling this very special Christmastime recipe Buddy’s Elfish Coffee.
Maple Whipped Cream:
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Recipe by Jon Choi @theheadbean
Coffee drinkers are a diverse bunch, and it can sometimes be intimidating to figure out what they like. Some find happiness in the art of drinking, while others geek out over controlling the many variables of a brew. But fret not, we’ve got you covered! Skip the mug and gift certificates this year, and instead, read through our list of gifts that are perfect for the coffee lover of every persuasion!
Kurasu Coffee Subscription
Perfect for: The Coffee Collector
Japan is one of Asia’s best destinations for a coffee crawl, with established giants like Blue Bottle Coffee and Verve setting up shop among homegrown specialty coffee bars and traditional kissatens. With the pandemic severely limiting international travel, Kurasu can send you the best the country has to offer! Their monthly Coffee Subscription ships worldwide, and you can choose how much coffee you receive from Kurasu’s offerings, or a combined set with their Partner Roaster of the month. The latter option features the best roasters in all of Japan, including Onibus Coffee, Lilo Coffee Roasters, Trunk Coffee Bar, and many more.
The World Atlas of Coffee (2nd Edition)
Perfect for: The Bibliophile Barista
Comprehensive yet easy to read, The World Atlas of Coffee is the quintessential coffee book that should be in every coffee-lover’s collection. From coffee origin, terroir and flavour, roasting process, to brewing dynamics, there’s something to be picked up by both beginners and enthusiasts alike. The author is current Internet coffee darling, James Hoffmann, who is also a former World Barista Champion. The same signature approach used in his YouTube videos and barista routines are evident in this publication, with his trademark style of breaking down even the most intimidating topics into useful and easy-to-understand tidbits of information.
Aeropress by Aerobie
Perfect for: The Budding Brewer
Looking to gift someone with their very first brewer? There might be no better option than an Aeropress! This oldie-but-goodie is popular with coffee enthusiasts worldwide, with mile-high clubs and world competitions created to celebrate this versatile brewer. It’s affordable, easy to brew with, and near-indestructible—we have team members at Morning still using Aeropresses that are nearly a decade old!
Ode Brew Grinder by Fellow
Perfect for: The Fan of Freshness
Give the gift of fresh coffee to that friend who still buys pre-ground beans! This burr grinder from Fellow uses café-quality components in a sleek, countertop-friendly package. Huge 64mm burrs mean quick and quiet grinding, and a single-dosing hopper on top encourages the user to grind only what they need.
Flair NEO Espresso Maker
Perfect for: The Espresso Enthusiast
While manual filter brewing has become a popular hobby for coffee enthusiasts, espresso is still mostly a café drink due to its complexity and larger equipment investment. Flair Espresso aims to change that, with their line of home-friendly espresso makers. The NEO is their most affordable offering, which combines the ingenious design of their older models, with its sheer ease of use. According to the company, the NEO will work with “any grinder you have—from high end burr grinders to less expensive bladed grinders.”
Nanofoamer by Subminimal
Perfect for: The Latte Lover
While there are a number of capable home espresso makers, well-textured milk still seems to be possible only with commercial espresso machines. The newly-funded Nanofoamer builds on the cheap handheld milk frother, with a durable build and fancy modular screen technology that allows you to make any level of froth and texture that you wish—from creamy cappuccinos to silky flat whites, complete with latte art on top!
The Morning Machine
Perfect for: The Tech-savvy Tinkerer
Capsule machines are the kings of fuss-free espresso-brewing. The Morning Machine gives you that, and much, much more. The one-touch “Quick Brew” allows you to brew using pre-set recipes on the machine, or should you want to geek out, you can set the brew temperature, pressure profile, and target output weight with the companion app to achieve that perfect flavour profile. And in case that wasn’t enough, you can update your device over-the-air and get cool future features such as using the spout to brew into a single-serve drip bag! This truly is the ultimate capsule brewer, and possibly also the perfect gift for the coffee person who already has everything.
In what has turned out to be an exciting 2020 NBA Finals, the L.A. Lakers made history by winning their 17th NBA Championship. The person who was closest to making sure that wouldn’t happen was Jimmy “Buckets” Butler, shooting guard of the Miami Heat.
As it turns out, he is also an aspiring barista and owner of a caffeinated venture called Big Face Coffee.
Not satisfied with the coffee being offered inside the bubble, and realizing that he was surrounded by very well-to-do individuals in need of some caffeine, Butler opened his “café” from the comfort of his hotel room.
Each cup sells for $20, regardless of coffee size or variety. Small pour-over? $20. Large cappuccino? $20. The price point, in the context of your average neighborhood café, probably sounds quite absurd and obscene, but when hustle mixes with basic economic principles, the end results can be quite interesting.
Let’s take a look at the menu of Big Face Coffee, and see what has helped fuel the bubble.
Pour-Over – The pour-over is commonly associated with specialty cafés and home brewers, so the presence of such an option at Big Face provides some indication of the quality they aim to achieve. Based on a recent Instagram post, Jimmy seems to be using a Hario V60 02.
Espresso – A good shot of espresso can go a long way in providing a nice kick, and given the declared brewers being used at Big Face, it is most likely made with a French Press.
Americano – Basically an espresso shot with some added hot water to help get it closer to tasting like a drip coffee but with a slightly stronger kick.
Red Eye – A cup of drip coffee mixed with a shot of espresso, the Red Eye is the penultimate drink for the caffeine-deprived.
Latte and Cappuccino – Sibling coffee beverages with a mere difference in their construction. Both start with an espresso base, with the cappuccino having equal parts steamed milk then foam topped, while a latte would have a thicker layer of steamed milk and a thin/light layer of foam.
Thinking of just how much work it would entail to prepare this, I do hope that Jimmy Butler had more than one French Press in his hotel room so that one can be used to make the espresso shot, while the other one can be for the milk prep.
Mocha – Essentially a latte but with chocolate mixed in, added in either before or after the shot, but not after the milk. Chocolate syrup would be the preferred choice for mixing, so the possibility of Jimmy Butler requesting chocolate from the hotel is quite an interesting prospect.
Macchiato – An espresso shot with a splash of steamed milk. Think of it as a mini latte with a much stronger flavor profile thanks to the espresso being much more dominant.
Café au Lait – Drip coffee with milk added, a nice, light coffee to have.
Although Jimmy Butler’s performance in the NBA Finals will surely be the stuff of legends, it was probably his caffeine-fuelled business that generated him the most amount of publicity. For $20 a cup, or basically, the price of a bag or two of coffee, you can have yourself a cup of Big Face Coffee, Butler’s coffee business powered by his French press, pour-over, coffee grinder, and passion for the beverage.