Getting clued up on your coffee
After many years of pain and sacrifice in some of the world’s toughest kitchens, I thought I was a pretty darn good cook; and until relatively recently I thought that coffee was just another ingredient. I gave all the credit to the farmers for the bean’s beauty and complexity.
To me, the concept of coffee was simple. Find, dry and roast the green bean. Then grind and press the roasted coffee through an espresso machine and if desired froth with milk. How hard can it be? I gave no kudos to the talented baristas behind the heavy metal.
These days, a little older, and a lot wiser, not to mention a self-confessed coffee fanatic that produces the stuff daily, and I’ve finally accepted that coffee was harder to master than a complex dish in one of the world’s top restaurants.
So, here in no particular order, are my top three reasons why chefs just can’t grasp coffee:
1. One ingredient is harder to cook than 10 – take a soup, with maybe 15, there is ample room for error. Coffee has zero room for it. Depending on the moisture content, the sugar content, the protein, amino acid and peptide levels within the makeup of the green bean, the roasting process will be severely affected. It’s a science.
2. Coffee is way more complex than food – when stacked against the humble grape for example, coffee has over 450 more identifiable flavours and aromatic notes than your average glass of wine.
3. Unlike cooking, where taste ranks supreme, coffee cupping predominantly relies on smell and aroma to rate the quality of each coffee origin and blend. Generally speaking, chefs just don’t have the nose for making coffee.
I’m currently in the transitional phase between chef and barista. Wish me luck.