My Coffee Isekai
Published on 03/18/2023, 2097 words, 8 minutes to readduo, (1girl, green hair, hoodie, long hair, green eyes, tired, holding coffee), (kitchen counter, coffee, coffee grinder, coffee machine, espresso machine), (1guy, brown hair, very short hair), happy - Anything
Coffee is one of the most important parts of my daily ritual. Historically, I had never really drank coffee regularly; and I had never really had good coffee before. Sure, I've drank coffee from time to time, but I usually had to get it double-double and drown out the bitterness with other flavors. This did make something that was pleasant to drink, but I didn't really get to understand or appreciate the flavor of the coffee in particular.
For those of you that aren't Canadian, double-double coffee is double cream, double sugar. It's a very popular drink at Tim Hortons. It tastes great, but it's probably not the best for you.
Then I moved to Montreal and started living with the person who would become my husband.
One of the first things we got from Canadian Tire was a simple infusion coffee maker. It works by putting water in the side, ground coffee in a filter paper in the top, and then you hit the button and wait for it to fill the pot with the precious caffeine juice. This wasn't the best coffee in the world, but waking up to have something warm to get you ready for the day is a really nice thing. We had gone through a few coffee brands and variants, and had mostly settled on McCafé medium roast.
McCafé is surprisingly good. You'd think that McDonalds coffee would be kinda meh, but it's actually quite lovely. Really needs some milk to balance the taste though.
I think we messed up by not taking the pot out of the machine when it was done. The coffee was basically getting burned by the hot plate, which probably didn't help.
I thought coffee was a liquid, how can you burn a liquid?
"Burnt" is the normal word in the coffee world for this. It refers to when the coffee gets over-extracted or the grounds in the water get combusted from heat. You can't "burn" a liquid, but you can combust the grounds in it.
Then what the heck is gasoline?
We had been using this coffee machine for 2.5 years. We have made untold liters of coffee in it, and gone through god knows how many coffee filters. It was our daily vice and I had grown to appreciate it, despite the bitterness.
Then I started playing Persona 5. In Persona 5, the main character (Joker) lives above a coffee shop and there's a subplot between him and Sojiro (the coffee shop owner/parole supervisor) where Sojiro teaches Joker how to make excellent coffee. In the game they animated Joker doing a standard pour-over coffee style, and this really opened my eyes to the fact that there were other ways to make this precious morning bean juice.
Yes, I knew that there had to be other methods, but it never really seemed relevant for me.
Sometime after this, the YouTube algorithm threw James Hoffman into my feed. I'm a huge film buff and the way that James Hoffman does videos about coffee really stood out to me. There are so many subtle camerawork tricks that really just make me appreciate the hell out of his videography, and then he started to go into the taste that different brew methods can bring.
I have the cultural context to know that wine tasting is bullshit and mostly based on cultural biases, as well as what you are told about the wine before you partake in it. Based on the words that were used to describe coffee (acidic, citrus, nutty, etc.) I thought it was the same thing. I thought it was just pretentious coffee snobs and baristas making things up because it makes them sound more impressive and like they understand a hidden truth that the rest of us aren't privy to.
They aren't making this up, you can actually taste the difference lol.
I really was wondering if I could get a better-tasting bean liquid though. I had been habitually drowning the coffee in a combination of milk and maple syrup in order to get something lovely to drink. I mostly wanted to see if I could get something that would taste good by itself, and I had been told that the Aeropress was a way to get there.
At some level, I wanted to see if all of this was bullshit or not. I also could see that this was a deep, dark rabbit hole (the kind that I am prone to falling down) and I kinda forgot about it for a bit. Then I nerd-sniped my husband and we ordered an Aeropress on a lark.
The fact that I had a new DevRel coworker that was a huge coffee fan and a former barista furthered the contagion. I blame you Shayne.
One day in December, the Aeropress arrived. It arrived while I was at AWS Re:Invent, and my husband was the one to try the device out for the first time.
At some level, the Aeropress is a simple device that lets you make individual cups of coffee, not an entire carafe at once. It's got 4 basic parts: the plunger that you use to press with, the plunger body that you put water and coffee into, a stirring stick to mix water and coffee, and a filter cap that you put a paper filter on top of. To use it, you put a filter in the cap, screw the filter cap on the bottom of the plunger base, put a scoop of ground coffee on top of the filter, pour in water up to the desired number (2 or 3 makes espresso style, 4 makes normal filter style), mix it up, pop the plunger in the top, and slowly press all the liquid into your cup. The coffee is ready to drink at that point.
I remember that my first cup of Aeropress coffee was a lot less bitter. Almost as if it wasn't burnt anymore. It took me a few sips to really notice the flavour as the coffee cooled down enough for me to taste something other than just hot liquid.
I loved the coffee we made at first. It was so much more flavorful and rich. I didn't need to add any sweetener to enjoy it, just a bit of milk.
It wasn't perfect though. One of the main problems we ran into was the fact that when you put the water on top of the coffee, sometimes the water would fall through the filter before it could be mixed. This made rather weak coffee that wasn't really pleasant to drink. This was made worse with a metal filter we picked up off of Amazon, it made all the water fall through almost instantly, leaving you with the kind of coffee you would expect from a homeopath clinic.
We ended up having to experiment with different ways of using paper filters (including using multiple filters at once) until we found a technique on a James Hoffman video called the "inverted brew" method.
The inverted brew method
Normally when using an Aeropress, the coffee cup is the "base" of the setup. In the inverted brew setup, the plunger becomes the base of the setup. You turn the plunger upside down, move the plunger up to the number 4 on the device, and then you fill the device with coffee and water as normal.
The main difference with this setup is that it looks terrifying, and if you're not careful you can easily spill hot water everywhere. It's stable, but if you are prone to knocking things over it's probably not the best overall life decision. Once you are ready to pour it into the cup, you upend the device and press it out as normal.
When I was using the inverted brew method, I couldn't rely on the fill numbers for the water levels anymore. If I pushed the piston to the same distance every time, I could keep things somewhat consistent.
However, this eliminated all the problems we had with the coffee falling through the filter cap. It was so effective that we actually started over-extracting the coffee by accident. I don't know if it was the amount of time we used for making the coffee in general or the action of upending the aeropress to serve the coffee, but it came out weird a lot of the time.
I swear though, the Aeropress coffee at its worst comes out way better than that coffee maker ever did at its best.
Around the end of December, we got our hands on a device called the Prismo. It's a replacement filter and filter cap for the Aeropress that lets you get way more consistent results out of the device. They claim it lets you make Aeropress coffee "espresso style", but in general I've found that it stops the water from falling through the filter altogether. This has allowed me to really get to taste the coffee I make with the Aeropress. I am happy to report that you can in fact taste the flavors that the bags and coffee review websites say you can.
In my defense, a lot of coffee descriptions read like weed strain descriptions, IE:
Blissful, long-lasting euphoria blankets the mind while physical relaxation rids the body of pain, sleeplessness, and stress.
It's easy to read things like this:
A flavourful and bright coffee with enough soul and body to justify another cup.
And think that it's basically the same thing. It's not. They're actually accurate in this case. It's not just frontloading to comfort people looking for the information they want. I also don't tell my husband what the flavor profile notes of coffee are and he usually gets the same descriptions as the coffee bags have, so that's a single-blind confirmation on anecdotal evidence for you.
I didn't have to add anything to the coffee in order to enjoy drinking it. When I have Aeropress coffee with the Prismo, I drink it black. It's lovely.
When you use the Aeropress, you can't really get to the same levels of pressure needed to make espresso (about 12-15 bar). Instead, you have to let your coffee steep a little bit longer than usual to really extract out the flavour. It's not quite the same thing as actual espresso, but it's close enough.
If you want to make coffee like we do with an Aeropress and the Prismo attachment, here's our recipe:
- Set your coffee grinder to about 3000 microns as the average particle size (on a Baratza Encore electric burr grinder, this is setting number 12). Be sure to grind the coffee beans the same day that you consume the coffee.
- Heat your water in an electric kettle to about 80 degrees Celsius.
- Put one Aeropress scoop (about 12-14 grams) of ground coffee into the device.
- Fill the Aeropress with water up to number 4 (normal cup of infusion brew strength).
- Stir it gently back and forth (not in a swirling motion), counting about 30 collisions between the stirring stick and the plunger wall.
- Remove the stirring stick and rinse it off, letting the coffee grounds settle to the bottom. This should take about 30 seconds, during which your coffee will steep.
- Press the coffee through slowly.
- Enjoy without adding anything else.
If the Prismo produces coffee that's a bit too silty for you (a hazard of the metal filter design), layer a paper filter on top of the metal filter so that the paper filter is in direct contact with the ground coffee.
This article has been a long time coming and I hope it helps you with your coffee journey! Stay tuned for part 2 as we just got an espresso machine.
Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.
Tags: coffee, dangerousForWallet