The most important meal of the day is coffee

Caffeine is one of the few legal drugs left in the world, and coffee is its best delivery mechanism. I’ve been addicted to coffee since forever and it is an indispensable part of my daily routine.

I did try to quit once about 15 years ago, and I managed to last two weeks before I became so grumpy that my colleagues bought a large cappuccino and forced me to finish it in front of their eyes. Since then, I’ve quit trying to quit.

After all, caffeine is a drug, and addiction is addiction.

I have, however, managed to get my daily dose down to a healthy amount. I used to drink four or five (or six) cups a day, and whenever I got a caffeine-induced headache, I’d simply pop a Panadol and keep on chugging. Clearly that was neither healthy nor sustainable as the body ages.

These days, I’m down to just one, or sometimes two, cups a day and still manage to function as a human being.

Over time, the reduction in quantity has resulted in an increase in quality. It used to be that anything goes, as long as it was not decaf, but that has gradually progressed from kopi si siew dai to homemade espresso, then store-bought Australian-style flat whites and finally to single-origin Arabica pour over black coffee.

I have a bias for Central and South American beans from Guatemala, Costa Rica and Peru and currently buy online from Mt Whitney Coffee Roasters via iHerb, which conveniently delivers to Singapore.

Mt Whitney is interesting because it operates as a non-profit company and uses all revenue, after deducting for expenses, to build schools in Zambia to educate and feed the students there. It doesn’t hurt that the coffee also happens to taste good.

We’re currently working through our second 340 gram bag of the Organic Guatemala Adiesto and find that the flavour is quite close to how it’s described on the label. Yay for truth in advertising!

Mt Whitney stocks beans from other regions like Sumatra and Ethiopia, and I try to keep a healthy stash to cycle through. It’s especially important to hold inventory nowadays, since it’s not clear if global supply chains will continue to function properly.

Whenever I open a new bag, I particularly enjoy taking the very first whiff of the roasted beans. Toasty and complex with the anticipation of what is to come. Coffee is not just a drink, coffee is life. Especially for an addict.

The equipment needed to make pour over coffee at home is relatively simple and cheap, though it can get expensive as you try and approach those used by professional baristas.

I used to buy pre-ground coffee but invested in an entry-level burr grinder a few years ago, and that has made a world of difference. There’s a huge gap in taste since you’re drinking unadulterated coffee without any milk or sugar to distract your tongue. Freshly ground beans beat pre-ground coffee any day of the week.

The grinder I use from DeLonghi has a hopper and simple dials to allow me to choose both the amount and coarseness of the grind. The ideal setting to use for each type of bean was found by trail-and-error and tasting coffee made with different settings.

Another item that has helped to improve the flavour of our daily brew is a stainless steel re-usable filter vs paper filters. I’m using a pretty fancy KONE Coffee Filter from the Able Brewing Company, and I find that it allows more of the flavour to pass through since it doesn’t trap essential oils in the beans like how paper filters would.

Plus, of course, the added benefit of saving a few trees.

The most recent item that I bought which has resulted in better coffee was a generic gooseneck jug. I used to think that using it was mostly a barista’s trick of making brewing look fancy, and I just poured hot water straight from the kettle.

However, after using it for about a month, I found the coffee tasting noticeably better. So it seems the controlled flow does play a key role after all.

I haven’t gone down the path of using a digital scale to more precisely measure and manage the pouring rate, but it’s something to consider since it’s used by most professional baristas. But it does feel like overkill though.

Finally, the pour over stand and jug is just a standard-issue Hario V60 kit which you can find in most department stores.

Once everything is set up, the only thing left is to let turbulence and gravity do their job.

I usually make about 200ml per cup and we use Thermos double-lined stainless steel cups to keep the coffee warm for as long as possible.

For days when I feel too lazy to go through the whole coffee making process, there’s always our handy Nespresso coffee pod machine.

Ever since Nestle’s patent expired on their pod design, many coffee companies have started selling Nespresso-compatible pods at competitive prices, including the 400 pound gorilla whose name starts and ends with “S”.

While a good pourover always wins over a machine-made long black in terms of flavour, you really can’t beat the speed and convenience of simply pressing a button.

Once in a long long while, just for the fun of it, I bust out the Bialetti stovetop moka pot to make espresso the hard way. It’s noisy, messy and hard to clean, but at least I know that I can still have a cup of espresso even when there’s no electricity.

When all else fails, that’s when you fall back on *gasp* instant coffee.

We’ve found that Japanese brands like UCC and Blendy make pretty decent coffee, and we keep some lying around just in case.

Like, say, during a zombie apocalypse. Or when we’re in the mood for some ice-cold Dalgona Coffee.

And because coffee is the most important meal of the day, you always need to have backup plans to ensure a constant and steady supply.

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