On Saturday, I happened to stop by Aldo Coffee on Washington Road while they were holding a coffee tasting. A seat had opened up, and Rich, the co-owner, invited me to join the fun. He said they were going to do something unusual – prepare one kind of coffee six ways to see how the different brewing methods affected the resulting drink.
We used a coffee from Burundi, East Africa; it is pictured above. Pictured below are the six preparations, ranging from the common press pot to the elaborate vacuum brewer. Three of them I had never seen before.
The progression of preparations was fascinating. Rich started with methods employing thicker filters, then thinner filters, and finally filterless screens. The filters remove sediment and coffee oils, resulting in a cleaner drink. The filterless methods allow the oils and some sediment to come through, resulting in a “thicker” drink that emphasizes mouthfeel and other flavors.
All of the resulting drinks were delicious, but they were distinct. Trying them in succession allowed us to recognize and appreciate the differences, which were less subtle than I had expected.
I also came to appreciate that there was something almost sacred in some of the preparations. The vacuum pot, for example, requires holding a flame under a small vessel filled with water. The water eventually boils, but you must wait for it, until finally, under mounting pressure, it climbs a small chain into an upper vessel, where it meets ground coffee. Then the flame is extinguished, the pressure in the lower vessel drops, and the resulting vacuum draws the water from the upper vessel into its original home below. But now the water is changed: it is brewed coffee.
The experience was memorable. I had a great time, learned much, and even made some friends. Rich said that they do tastings most months. If you have the chance to attend one, take it.
Updated 2010-02-03 00:58 to clarify that tastings happen most months, not just a few times a year. —Tom
Updated 2010-02-04 00:04: For information about upcoming coffee tastings, see the list of coffee tastings at Aldo Coffee.