5 Things I learned at CoffeeCon L.A. 2018

My hands are still shaking from sampling too much coffee today. This comes on the heels of going cold turkey on coffee right after Christmas. So, no surprise on the shaking hands.

What’s CoffeeCon?

About 25-30 artisan coffee roaster and makers were handing out samples of coffee at CoffeeCon L.A. CoffeeCon is a consumer coffee festival, in other words, an event for kids like me who love coffee. It’s an event where you can learn about coffee processing, coffee roasting, grinding, how to make latte art, how to pair your coffee with a martini or chocolate. And so much more.
The most interesting thing I learnt here was from a young couple at a stand, selling Chemex’s. As part of the demonstration, they were showing us how to clean a Chemex quickly and efficiently. I always thought they took hours to clean – but apparently not!

Things that I learned at CoffeeCon L.A. that I didn’t know before

1. Coffee Beans

A coffee bean is actually a seed. It takes about 4 years for a newly planted coffee tree to grow fruit, the coffee cherries. Usually, a coffee cherry contains two beans. Sometimes (about 5% of the time), only one seed fertilizes and only one bean develops. This bean tends to be smaller and rounder than the normal flat  bean and is called Peaberry.

2. Coffee Processing

There are 3 types of coffee processing: wet/washed, honey, and natural/dry.

With the natural or dry method, the coffee cherries are laid out – intact – on a raised surface and left to dry. This method is often used in regions with water scarcity.

As the name suggests, with the wet or washed method, the coffee cherries are first washed and sent through a pulping machine, which removes the outer skin while leaving the pulp. The pulp-covered seeds are then soaked in water and later fermented. After fermentation the beans are rinsed and dried.

The honey method lies somewhere between wet and dry and is the least used method. Just like the wet method, the coffee cherries are first washed and sent through the pulping machine, but are not soaked afterwards, but laid out to dry with the pulp still attached.

3. Coffee Roasting

Coffee roasting transforms the green coffee bean into the coffee bean that we know and brew. There is no best roast. It’s really just about what tastes best for you.

Light roasts: dry bean that is light brown in color and lighter-bodied. It has no obvious roast flavor and best to taste the original character of the coffee. The light roast has a higher concentration of caffeine than the more roasted varieties.

Medium roasts: dry bean with stronger roast flavor and less acidity than the light roast.

Dark roasts: bean with an oily surface and more bitterness in flavor. It has the least acidity. The roast flavor is more prominent and little remains from he original character of the coffee.

4. Coffee Grinding

So apparently this is a big deal. Coffee should be ground right before brewing. Ground coffee stores less well than beans. That’s why you should always buy coffee beans and grind coffee yourself.

There are different types of grinders: blade and burr, both of them need practice until you get it just right for you. Grind consistency is important, you don’t want flakes or boulders in your ground coffee. Coffee should be ground to match the brewing method:

Coarse: for French Press and Percolators

Medium: for drip coffee makers with a flat bottom filter

Fine: for drip coffee with cone-shaped filter and stove top espresso makers

Super Fine: for espresso machines

Turkish Grind: for – ahem – Turkish coffee

5. Latte Art

Well, this was a fun presentation. The key is the milk. It has to be good milk. It doesn’t matter if it’s fat-free, whole milk, soy, almond, just as long as it’s good milk. I didn’t quite get what “good milk” meant, I am assuming it means fresh.

To make it easy (or easier) use a 12oz pitcher with a beak to pour the milk. As you use a steamer to steam the milk, DO NOTHING! Don’t move the pitcher up and down or from side to side. Just let the steamer do its job.

When you pour the milk into the coffee cup, pour fast until the white of the milk comes up, then start your design (use circles to create a heart, wriggle the pitcher for a rosette). If your design is too skinny, you poured too slowly.

You know we’ll all be spending our mid-afternoon coffee breaks at work now practicing our latte art.

Read: 8 Things I Learned about Wine

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