By Simone König, Coffee Masters contender
What if you leave out the espresso machine, the grinder and the water kettle in your coffee shop? Could you still call it a coffee shop? My colleagues and I at Good Spirits set up a pop-up café just like that serving delicious coffee without the equipment.
For this café we created a cold brew coffee bar in Berlin. We wanted to test if cold brew could be considered serious coffee that is able to nail down the ‘special’ in speciality coffee, instead of just being a seasonal byproduct in cafés. We invited five roasters from all over Germany to give us their favorite coffee, roasted in their own style, so that we could feature five different tastes right next to each other. We call it the five days, five brews, five drinks experiment.
Experiment phase 1:
How do you get the greatest cold brew taste out of each of the beans? Apply five different brewing techniques, considering particle size, extraction time, dosing and also water temperature. Not so easy when you wait up to 24 hours for results. For brew recipes we had to be patient for over a week. Plus we were not aware of how heavy 150 litres of brew would be when you transport it from one part of the city to the other. It was worth it, we hit the coffees’ main character so well that we named the brew by taste, not by coffee; zesty and bright, sweet and syrupy, warm and silky, fruity and juicy, bold and elegant. Afterwards we could take the conversation deeper on what the coffee itself was all about.
Experiment phase 2:
How do you explain to some guests why drinking pure black coffee on ice is best for them? You don’t. Instead we created a signature drink menu that provided fans of foamed milk with ‘the other latte’. Cold brew based drinks were designed for each coffee, like a fruity and juicy Kenyan brew on iced coconut water, or our new favorite: warm natural Ethiopian brew (I know, it’s almost ridiculous to warm up cold brew) topped off with foamed hazelnut milk.
Experiment phase 3:
How do you break a guest’s habit of looking up at the menu board and ordering their regular favourite drink? We had no other choice but to mess around with these expectations by telling them: “with us you have got to try something new”. Not everyone is up for that much risk, but those who were have been rewarded with a new way of seeing coffee. To be honest, we were not really aware of the challenge until we were half way through. The difficulty in creating elegance in five different cold brews, the perfect pairing of signature drink ingredients that match the character of the coffee and breaking a regular habit.
But in the end I can say, I have never as a barista had so much time to explain the coffees, the origin, the recipe and the idea behind speciality coffee as in these five days. One might say there’s no more playing as a barista without the espresso machine, but for me it was a new coffee playground.
Simone is a self-employed barista trainer, co-founder and coffee consultant at Good Spirits Beverages GmbH in Berlin and will be competing in Coffee Masters.