A coffee blogger’s life is a strange one. Imagine the scene: it’s the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve?) and you’ve got no plans. Most coffee shops are either shut or thinking of shutting. Time to put your feet up and relax before the inevitable chaos of the Coffee Spot Awards. Then your phone goes beep. It’s Luke. Do I want to attend a coffee brewing masterclass? In London. Tomorrow. Christmas Eve. Oh, go on then, you silver-tongued devil, you’ve talked me into it.
The particular Luke in question, Luke Pochron, is launching his Brewing Masterclasses, with the first one this Thursday, 28th January. What I attended was a dry run, Luke wanting to put himself through his paces with a “friendly” audience. The location was Doppio Coffee’s Warehouse in Shoreditch, an interesting combination of espresso bar, showroom and workshop on Hanbury Street, a stone’s throw from the likes of Nude Espresso.
I must confess that I approached it with a healthy dose of scepticism, considering myself pretty decent when it came to making filter coffee. An hour or so later, I left with wealth of knowledge and have since taken my coffee making up a notch or two…
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery (a number of pictures in the gallery are provided by Joel Smedley, marked [JS] in the description).
I first met Luke at Coffee Break Delirium at Leyas, but really got to know him at Beany Green in Paddington, where he works as a barista (sadly Beany’s no longer my regular since my day job came to an end). I didn’t know he was planning to do masterclasses, so his invitation came out of the blue. Part of my motivation to attend, other than being at a loose end, was the belief that you never stop learning when it comes to coffee.
Although I’ve been to a barista class (and learnt a lot from it, despite having been making espresso at home for years), I’d never been to a brewing class. Instead, I’d describe myself as largely self-taught, mostly from standing at various coffee shop brew-bars around the country, observing baristas and asking “what’ya doing?”. Although I’ve learnt a lot that way, getting each lessons for the price of a cup of coffee, the thought of spending an hour or so with Luke was appealing. So, of course, I accepted.
Luke began with some theory, starting with water, perhaps the most important ingredient after the coffee. Get the water wrong and no matter how good your coffee, it’s not going to taste right. After that, he moved onto extraction, explaining the difference between soluble/insoluble compounds and how they are extracted at different points in the brewing process. This led naturally onto Luke’s extraction graph, showing extraction against time, neatly explaining why there’s a “sweet spot”; end your extraction to early and you’ll get a sour/acidic brew, let it go too long and it’ll end up bitter.
Then Luke practical, running through some popular brewing methods. Underlying it all were some key concepts, which determine how quickly the coffee extracts:
- Water temperature: hotter water = quicker extraction
- Grind size: finer grind = quicker extraction
- Ratio: more water/less coffee = quicker extraction
By controlling these elements, you control the extraction rate and, hopefully, hit the sweet spot. As a starting point, Luke recommended the classic ratio of 60g coffee/1000ml water, at a temperature of 95⁰C (boil your kettle, leave it to stand for around 30 seconds). In common with most baristas, Luke recommends fixing as many variables as possible, then experimenting with one thing at a time. Luke also recommends timing and weighing everything (a good pair of scales is one of the best and most cost-effective investments you can make).
There were various common elements for each method:
- Rinse the filter paper (to remove any residual chemicals, etc)
- Add a small amount of water (to allow the coffee to bloom)
- Top-up for the main extraction, stirring regularly (to ensure even extraction)
I’ve always followed this basic pattern, but Luke was the first who explained the blooming process. Coffee, on first contact with water, gives off a lot of gas. During the bloom, you need to ensure that the grounds are thoroughly saturated, allowing the gasses to escape before the main extraction. If you don’t, bubbles of gas can become trapped in the grounds, leading to uneven extraction.
The precise process, including grind size, pouring technique and extraction time, depends on the particular method. Luke looked at a number of popular methods, including Chemex and V60 (which he classes as pour-over, where you continually top-up with small amounts of water) and Aeropress and Kalita Wave (immersion methods, where you top-up in one go). This surprised me, having always thought of the Kalita Wave as pour-over. However, Luke’s argument is that the Kalita Wave’s smaller holes (compared to the V60/Chemex) regulate the flow of the water, so you can fill the filter to the top, meaning that the extraction is more immersion-like.
I’d always struggled with pour-overs, never getting it right and usually over-extracting the coffee. However, after Luke’s course, I dusted off my V60 (literally) and had another go, having the confidence to experiment. What I realised is that I’d been grinding my coffee too fine, which clogged up the filter paper and stopped the flow of the water, leading to longer extraction times. Also, I’d been treating it as an immersion method, filling the filter to the top, wandering off, getting distracted, then coming back to wonder why the coffee never tasted that good.
As a result of Luke’s course, I’ve changed my grind size, now grinding as coarsely as I do for a cafetiere, and I have a lot more patience, topping the V60 up with small amounts of water and stirring between pours. Now I’m happy to say that I’ve nailed it as a technique and am consistently making decent pour-overs, having previously only really used my Aeropress at home.
I could go into a lot more detail about each method, but I’d rather you went on Luke’s course and learnt it for yourself.
I’m indebted to Luke for inviting me, free of charge and no strings attached (the idea of this write-up was mine alone) to his masterclass. I’m also grateful to the talented Joel Smedley for allowing me to use his photographs alongside mine in the gallery. All of Joel’s photos (marked [JS] in the descriptions) are copyright Joel Smedley and used with his permission. For more on Joel and his work, please check out his website.
Unfortunately, Luke is no longer running his classes, having recently started work at Volcano Coffee Works as a trainer. I can’t say I blame him: working as a trainer 9 to 5 and then running training courses in your spare time sounds like no fun at all!
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