KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — People-watching in a café is a favourite pastime for many (if one doesn’t mind being one of the folks being observed in return, of course). You can tell so much about people from the drinks they order.
The hipster with the goatee, pretty tattoos and comfortable loafers always gets a ristretto made from single-origin beans, never a blend. The happy-go-lucky college girl loves her frappuccino because, really, it’s the cream she likes, not the coffee. The pakcik goes for an Americano, not too different from the Kopi-O he grew up drinking, because it’s the simple things in life he enjoys.
There’s a coffee for every palate, and then some.
Coffee beverages used to be something as basic as steeping coffee grounds in hot water. Modern-day coffee shops really got their start thanks to Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy, who was granted a patent for “New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage” in 1884.
This was the precursor to a practical espresso machine that produces a syrupy beverage by forcing hot water (88°-93°C) under high pressure (nine or more atmospheres) through finely ground and tamped-down coffee.
Variations include adding water (Americano, long black), steamed milk (café au lait, flat white), milk foam (cappuccino, caffè latte), chocolate and other syrups (caffè mocha), or simply having it as is (espresso, ristretto). Mind-boggling for some, but fun for those adventurous enough to try every drink on the menu.
Return of the brew
Of late, drip coffee is making a comeback. Also known as filtered coffee, it is made by allowing hot water to drip onto coffee grounds held in a coffee filter. The “sock” method, employing a muslin cloth bag, popular in kopitiams and old-fashioned cafés, is an example and as classic as they come.
Other popular options include the V60 dripper, Chemex Coffeemaker and the siphon; brewing using the last one is akin to a science lab experiment, and indeed requires quite a bit of skill. Entrepreneur and best-selling author Tim Ferriss recommends the cylindrical-shaped Aeropress as an easy way of brewing coffee, even on a plane!
Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the rapid-fire delivery of coffees-to-go in cardboard sleeves at ubiquitous franchise cafés everywhere. Customers and baristas alike are rediscovering the joys of brewing coffee slowly – taking minutes with certain immersion methods rather than seconds – hence the appearance of “slow coffee bars” these days.
Ice, ice, baby
Sometimes the weather is simply too sweltering for a hot cuppa. This is where iced coffee comes in: nothing more than adding ice to coffee, whether it’s espresso or drip coffee.
Cold brew coffee takes a bit more work though, for no heat is employed with this method. Instead coffee is extracted either via full immersion or a slow, steady drip, using only cool water and ice. The entire process can take anywhere between two to 24 hours.
A long wait, surely, but one is rewarded with a sweet, smooth and syrupy cup that’s unlike anything that’s brewed using heat. For the best of both worlds, try an iced double black (created by Top Brew Coffee Bar) that combines a chilled, undiluted espresso shot with an iced drip coffee for a cup that’s refreshing yet still packs a punch.
This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on October 4, 2013.