SUMATRA Kayu Aro (CHOICE)
The area surrounding Mount Kerinci, and the small town of Kersik Tuo in particular, is known as a local jumping off point for ecotours for both domestic and international tourists in Indonesia. It wasn’t until relatively recently that this area has become well known for coffee production. Home to one of Southeast Asia’s largest populations of wild tigers and general feline biodiversity, the adjoining Kerinci Sablat National Park is the area’s largest draw.
These cats know how to grow coffee, too. The 140 members of the ALKO and Barokah cooperatives come together from the villages of Pelompek, Jernih Jaya, and Gunung Tujuh to learn about coffee production on a regular basis. Their coffee shrubs are intercropped with vegetables generally sold at the local market, a practice which enables the farmers to maintain a steady income throughout the year. CV Yudi Putra provides marketing and logistics for these cooperatives, and has brought us three amazing lots from them this year – a fully washed, a honey process, and this immaculate natural coffee dried on raised beds.
Dried under a canopy (since rainfall is frequent and unpredictable in this area of Sumatra), this coffee is a true rarity for Indonesia in general and Sumatra in particular. While coffee can certainly take longer to dry in these humid climes, this natural coffee exhibits the big clean fruit and intriguing floral notes of a coffee properly dried in the fruit.
You have in your hands some of the freshest roast coffee you can get, so how do you do justice to it and get the best to your cup ?
Although it can be so tempting to grind (more on that in a moment) your beans and brew up, there is some evidence to suggest that allowing your coffee to relax for about a week after the roasting date can help enhance some of the more subtle flavours, particularly in the case of those "fruity blueberry" Ethiopian varieties. It's not going to taste bad but it might taste better in a subtle way.
As with humans, too much rest can be a problem - after about thirty days from roast date your beans will start to lose some subtle characteristics. Unlike wine, if it has been resting for a year, then don't expect too much.
Yes, it can be problematic adding another piece of equipment to your already cramped counter tops but this one is worth it. You should be grinding to order as part of the coffee "ritual". Tempting though it may be to re-use a whirly blade spice grinder (often sold as dual purpose) or buy the cheapest grinder you can find, hold out for something that is at least a burr grinder (conical or flat doesn't hugely matter at this point) from a reasonable manufacturer - OXO, Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, Baratza, Eureka are some names that come to mind.
What's wrong with whirly blade grinders ? Well, as you can tell, they resemble upside down lawn mowers and their contact with the beans is going to be random at best. You are going to get larger and smaller chunks of bean depending on the quantity and grind time. That's going to be a problem when brewing as the finest will extract quickly and the coarsest not as quick, if at all. So this results in uneven extraction which can affect the overall balance of the taste. A burr grinder, like a flour mill, is more even and consistent.
Depending on your brew method, you may want to experiment with different grind settings, usually for non-espresso you are looking for something between coarse sand and table salt. For immersion methods like French Press, usually you want to be at the more coarse end of the grind.
Taste the water you are going to make coffee with. Is it off or less than palatable ? Well as coffee is 98% water, if the water tastes bad by itself, your coffee isn't going to be great either. Use either bottled water or a filter system to remove the chlorine smell/taste that is present in many municipal water supplies.
How Much Coffee:
Try and resist the urge to use the "scoop" per cup method - grab your kitchen scales or buy a cheap one which can measure to 0.1 of a gram. The problem with the scoop is it is by volume so that can change by up to 10% depending on your grind level. The average scoop is probably 10g.
A good starting ratio is 60g of coffee per liter of water. You can make your coffee stronger or weaker depending on your taste but start there and adjust the grind if your coffee is sour or bitter before changing the amount.
If the coffee seems bitter you have likely over extracted and should grind a little coarser. If sour, you under extracted and should grind a little finer.
Filter paper or metal permanent:
A number of coffee machines now come with a permanent metal filter as an alternative to using one time paper filters. Depending on your personal ecological stance, you might prefer the reuse of the metal. This will likely result in a more "bold" coffee taste as some of the coffee oils that add "body" will not be absorbed as they would with a paper filter and will find their way into your cup. This might be suitable if you like a lighter roast but may get too heavy with a darker roast. Try and avoid reaching for the sugar or creamer to compensate if a paper filter would save the day.