Dawnyele called me from her friends house one night saying “Hey you need to come around here and check out Matt’s coffee setup. It looks like a science lab. He just served me a coffee made from rainbows and unicorns.”
Obviously I went. Who wouldn’t be intrigued? It turned out to be my introduction to the V60 and specialty coffee altogether. I was blown away by the fact that coffee could be made in a way that I enjoyed straight black. The panela sugar Dawnyele had put in hers was from Brazil and the bag mystically claimed it to be made from rainbows and unicorns.
When you’ve never witnessed manual brewing before all the different devices seem bizarre and complex, like some sort of magic is being woven into a cup of coffee. Or in the case of my son’s friend walking into our kitchen when I was making a syphon brew, the look on his face as he slowly backed out of the room told me he thought he’d just walked into a meth lab. “Here, buddy. Try some of this……”
Speaking of mystical coffee; brewing in a rain forest, surrounded by Lyrebirds putting on their show, and sourcing water from a waterfall is pretty wizard. I lucked out today when I bailed on a mountain bike ride due to being soft and not wanting to get cold and wet. I decided to head to La La Falls in Warburton instead to try out the new Jetboil for V60 usage. It was a great choice as the rain let up upon arrival, I had the place to myself, and the Lyrebirds were on display and didn’t seem to mind me being around.
The walk to the falls is only 1.6km and is a gentle incline the whole way. The path has been done amazingly with beautiful little stone bridges over the water crossings.
I had my whole travel case in the car as it was the best way to get all the gear plus Hario pour-over kettle around. I’d expected to brew at the car at my originally planned mountain biking start point, but now I’d be lugging it up to the falls.
I had never used the Jetboil for pour-over coffee before. I had debated attempting to use the supplied lid which has an opening to pour from as the pour-over kettle to save taking the Hario. But for purists sake and not wanting to bugger it up, I decided to take the Hario.
The thing about pour-over coffee is that you want total control over your pour to accurately dose the right amount of water over a specific amount of time, and minimise unwanted agitation to the brew bed. I had a feeling the Jetboil lid would just dump water into the V60. No doubt if you wanted to simplify while camping you could make the Jetboil spout work, but lets be honest….if you’re trying to simplify while camping you’re not going to be trying to brew on a V60 in the first place.
I love the thought of sourcing water from right where you’re brewing. I don’t think you could make the experience any more natural than that. In this case the results were amazing. I had brewed this same coffee on the V60 at home the day prior but this tasted totally different.
The coffee is a washed Pacamara from Nicaragua, roasted by Wide Open Road. Yesterday when I first brewed it I thought it had a bit of a zing. That was nothing compared to this brew. It was downright amazing and delicious. The flavours pretty much punched me in the face. It tasted like a cola fruit tingle. I don’t even know if those things exist, and I’m pretty sure Cola Fruit Tingle isn’t on the SCAA Flavour Wheel but that’s the best I can come up with.
My wife’s palette is far more refined than mine, and she doesn’t even like brewed coffee. I’ll give her something to taste and she’ll rattle off descriptors almost identical to those on the flavour profile:
“I taste red seedless grapes….and hazelnuts. No wait, Brazil nuts.”
“Dude that’s exactly what it says on the bag! So you like it?”
“No it’s horrible” 😦
I grew up with a dad that had a fire in him for the outdoors. His was a youth filled with camping trips in old Volkswagens, cave diving in Mt Gambier, bushwalking, and fishing or diving every bit of coastline from Melbourne up to Eden and beyond. I give him full credit for passing that passion on to me. His life was full of adventure and he was never short of a story. We enjoy retelling his stories to our kids, even more so now that he’s gone.
He also drank copious amounts of coffee. Not a passion he passed on to me. “International Roast” is enough to put a kid off coffee for the rest of his life. Luckily living around Melbourne you’re exposed to just how incredible good coffee can be.
In 2014 Matt Esse introduced me to specialty coffee and manual brewing. I wasn’t even aware that there was quality coffee outside of espresso. He made me a V60 with some Columbian Beans from Sensory Lab, and gave me the whole song and dance that goes along with the V60 process. He had me hooked with the words “….the science behind coffee”. I’m a stats and figures guy. If I can quantify it, graph it, and repeat it; I’m in!
So began my journey down the proverbial rabbit hole that is Specialty Coffee. Like any great interest there’s no end to the learning opportunities. From experimenting with the multitude of different devices available, to the basics of brew ratios and particle size, right up to extraction yield theory….it’s got to be one of the more delicious sciences out there.
What I love about specialty coffee is that it doesn’t treat coffee as a commodity, but focuses on the relationships surrounding it. From sourcing it directly from a remote farm, to working on improving and sustaining the lives of those producing it. Even on the consumers end; a good specialty coffee shop works to develop relationship with the end-user, imparting knowledge and wisdom to the customer. It all becomes part of the experience that is specialty coffee.
Sometimes the process of manually brewing a cup is just as, if not more, enjoyable than drinking it. So combining my passion for outdoor adventures and the experience of brewing makes perfect sense to me. Not so much to others who seem more amused as to why so much trouble is gone to for a coffee. Some convert, some don’t. But either way we’re sharing an experience which is what it’s all about.
The portability of manual brewing interests me because with minimal equipment you can technically brew fantastic coffee anywhere. Something as simple as a french press and some quality beans is enough to perk up any mediocre camping trip. With a little more effort you can set up a brilliant travel coffee case:
Excessive? Probably a little. Travel safe? Yep. It would require forces equivalent to nuclear fission to destroy it, but it also weighs a tonne. However, it has absolutely everything required brew a great cup and spin everyone out at the same time! Between the Chemex and the Aeropress you can cover all your pour over & full immersion brews. Also nicely fits scales, grinder, and goose-neck kettle!
Camping-coffee setups can be as straight forward or complex as you want them to be. But they’re not entirely practical for my big 3: mountain biking, fly fishing, and hiking. A french press isn’t likely to last in a backpack when you fly over the handlebars of a bike on a trail, nor does a Chemex fit well into my fly fishing vest.
Enter the Aeropress. One of the most practical and travel-friendly brewers on the market. As indestructible as the aforementioned coffee case, but compact enough to fit in a small backpack. Makes one hell of a cup when done right and is super simple to clean. I’ll write more on the Aeropress in future posts.
The Aeropress is the device that made outdoor brewing exciting to me. It’s all well and good if all you’re after is great coffee on the go, but that’s not what this project is all about. I want to test and document both the practical and impractical methods out on the trails.
I want the whole experience to be a combination of the brew, the location, the adventure getting there, and the people involved along the way. Hopefully it’s enjoyed by others, or at the very least provides some entertainment. I’m happy for people to laugh at me, if not with me!
If nothing else, it should give my kids some funny stories to tell long after I’m gone.