The Coffee Experience

The connection of coffee is what keeps me coming back day after day.  It’s the experience of coffee that I crave.  So many memories of my life are painted on a background of coffee. Chats with old friends and meeting new friends have all happened over coffee.  Early mornings and late nights have all had coffee as it’s companion.  It awakens all five of our senses.  The aroma of a dark rich cup of coffee can hardly be matched from its citrus and fruity top notes to its rich chocolatey and caramel end notes. The sound of the splash and flow as it enters my cup releasing even more sweet and earthy perfume.  A dark brown feast for my eyes as the iridescent bubbles dance across a freshly poured cup.  Creamer that swirls and grows.  All of its depth and flavor come to a crescendo on my tongue as I feel the warmth of the liquid and taste the floral, nutty, spice of an excellently brewed cup of coffee.

Coffee is not meant to be merely drank, but experienced.  It evokes feeling and memory.  Unfortunately not all coffee is created equal.  There are intricacies of roasting, grinding, and brewing that bring out the very best in a cup of coffee.  A lot of a coffee’s flavor is subject to where the beans are grown, but an even greater influence to a cup of coffee is how it’s been processed.  And, you don’t have to be a barista to make a great cup in your own home.  All you need is a little knowledge, a little practice, and a superiorly roasted bean.


Timing is everything when it comes to coffee.  Roasted coffee beans are just a bit rude; they are constantly releasing gas.  And, I’m sure I’ve never once heard a bean say excuse me.  They are mostly releasing carbon-dioxide gases, and it starts the minute the roasting process is finished.  The release of that gas is actually what carries the flavor.  Even more gas is released once grinding takes place, and then even more when water is added for the brewing process. 


You might be saying, “Great information, but how can I put all that together to make a great cup at home?”


Funny you should ask, because that’s just what I want to talk about.  There are three things you can control to make the best coffee at home.  One: the freshness of beans you buy.  Two: when it’s ground.  Three: how you brew the coffee. 


coffee beans and a bowl


Let’s talk about freshness.  If timing is everything in coffee, then what you buy at the grocery store does not have time on it’s side.  It has likely been on the shelf for quite a while.  Remember, the longer the beans have been roasted the more carbon dioxide it has given off.  That gas carries the flavor.  Basically that boils down to this — the longer it sits, the more flavor you lose.  So, getting beans that are roasted to order changes the home brewing game.  Those beans haven’t been sitting around waiting for you to purchase them.  You order first then they roast it.  That gives you more time to enjoy the subtle and delicious flavors. 


Once the freshness is figured out, it’s on to the daily grind.  I can remember standing in the coffee aisle at the grocery store trying to decide on whole beans or ground.  Well, we already know I wasn’t off to a good start since I was on the coffee aisle anyway.  But, for just a minute I’m going to set that aside while we talk about choosing a grind.  Eventually I would just grab something, anything, and move on because I was so overwhelmed by the choices.  But, here’s the low down on whole verses ground.  If you are getting fresh roasted beans and you only brew in a drip brewer then go with ground.  It saves time and that grinding noise in the morning that always seems to wake the cranky toddler.  However, if you are going to use different brewing methods grab the whole beans and stick around, because I’m going to talk brewing.  You may have heard before that the finer a coffee is ground the stronger it is.  That’s just not true.  The finer the grind is, the quicker it brews.  So, adjusting your grind and your brewing method can help you to produce the perfect strength and flavor for you.  If your brew is bitter, then either shorten the brewing time, or grind coarser beans.  If it tastes sour go the opposite direction.  You can either use a finer grind or let it brew longer.  


There are so many different brewing styles and systems.  How do you chose?  Do you use pods or filters?  Flat bottom drip or cone shaped?  Do you press or pour over?  Cold or hot?  So. Many. Questions.  Fear not,  I am here to help. 


When it comes to brewing, I’m of the school of thought that there isn’t just one best method.  They are all different and bring out different characteristics of the coffee.  My personal favorite is the French Press, but I’m also a big fan of pour over.  With a method like pour over you should be familiar with the coffee bloom though.  Now we’re talking blooms?  Are there flowers?  No flowers, but the bloom is important.  A coffee bloom is when you saturate the coffee grounds with a small amount of water to allow the coffee to release more gas.  Remember, more gas equals more flavor.  When you pour too much water at once over your grounds the water moves too quickly through them and doesn’t extract the most flavor.  However, when you pour slowly and in small amounts to wet all the grounds, you give time for more flavor to release into the water.  A coffee bloom is really easy to do, and the more you practice it the more you will appreciate the subtle but important differences in flavor you get. 


pour over


To bloom your coffee you use your favorite pour over method (the Chemex is highly recommended), add your coffee grounds that are a medium coarse grind. Then when you pour over your heated water start in the middle and make small circles as your work toward the outside.  What you’ll notice is that the grounds seem to grow, or bloom.  The grounds are releasing that carbon dioxide.  You will see bubbles rise to the surface.  As these bubbles moved through the grounds they make it possible for more water to touch more grounds.  The more contact with the water, the more gas that is released, and that means more flavor in your cup.  Once that water has worked its way all the way through the grounds, then you can pour the remaining water over and enjoy your expertly crafted cup of coffee.

  Coffee has become one of the daily pleasures of my life.  I don’t need it to give me a jolt to wake up in the morning.  I don’t need it to keep me from grumping and yelling at my kids.  I enjoy it because it connects me to my day.  For me coffee has become a part of my relationship with Jesus.  As a college student I went to the local coffee shop with my Bible and journal and had a Jesus date.  Nowadays, I delight in few things more than brewing a good cup of coffee and sitting down to drink it with Jesus.  I sip and read and journal and meet with him right at my dining room table.  The rich flavor mimics my deep and rich relationship with my heavenly father.  It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade and that always feels warmer with a cup of coffee in my hand.  Could I meet with Jesus without the coffee?  Sure I can.  But, coffee, like so many other things in this world, God gives us to enjoy.  And more importantly, I believe, to enjoy with him. 

So, when you are making your coffee the next time try not to just gulp it down in a rush, but experience it.  Let the aroma and taste of a flavorfully brewed cup of coffee connect you with the person you are and who you want to be.










 Jamie Harvey: Author of Sisterns blog & This Moment