December 8, 2023

No matter how much coffee you drink, you never drink the same coffee twice. Coffee drinkers understand this instinctively, even those who only drink coffee at home from the same beans and the same brewing process every day. For even in the most controlled conditions of coffee preparation that we can achieve in our daily lives, variations have a way of creeping in. Endless exploration of these variations is a day job for someone like Matt Perger, who has come out on or near the top of several barista championships and who founded the online coffee education service Barista Hustle and its associated YouTube channel.

In the channel’s most popular video to date, Perger gives an 80-minute lecture on “advanced coffee preparation” at Assembly Coffee in London. After covering the adjectives used to describe the taste of coffee in general—from “faint,” “smooth” and “tea-like” to “sweet,” “bitter” and “overwhelming”—mining turns to vocabulary.

The most important stage of the coffee-making process in terms of the resulting flavor is extraction, which is done by running hot water through the coffee grounds, using whatever method and equipment you choose. Weaker extraction methods result in “salty” or “vegetable” flavors and stronger methods “astringent” or “powdery”.

As in many other activities, the most desirable outcomes lie in the middle of the spectrum. How to achieve a perfectly “transparent”, “nutty”, “balanced” and even “sweet” cup of coffee is a professional question for Perger and baristas like him. He clearly has a sense of rigor, explaining the effects of everything from roaster and grinder design to brewing and pouring techniques, citing the results of experiments and blind taste tests—even acknowledging that expensive pieces of coffee-making equipment provide no demonstrable quantitative benefit. True coffee lovers with an endless appetite for this kind of talk may be tempted to sign up for Barista Hustle online courses, but even more so to brew themselves another cup.

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10 basic tips on how to prepare great coffee at home

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcastson cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books about cities, book The Stateless City: A Walking Tour of 21st Century Los Angeles and video series City in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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