Event - Brew Method Tasting

My friend, who is a Portola Coffee Lab addict, alerted me to a neat free class the place was doing one night called a Brew Method Tasting. Intrigued, I signed up because hey, who doesn't like free food classes? I sure did learn a lot, and I'd gladly impart some of the knowledge I remembered from that evening here. Portola is definitely much more than just a place to get coffee. They care deeply about their products and it shows so much in the diligence with which they brew their beans. Love it.

The first thing that our charismatic and lively teacher Jeff did was tell us about how coffee in general is even roasted. To be honest, because I usually get very sleepy after having coffee, I rarely drink the joe and so, didn't know much about it. Luckily, in a quick crash course kind of way, he explained how the beans come from a fruit and are green from the onset. Then they go into a large roaster. Portola makes sure that all of their beans are either certified organic or grown through organic methods (though not necessarily certified because it sure is an expensive process). I respected them greatly for that. Their roaster is also very environmentally safe and friendly; another roaster of its size would generate 75% more energy than theirs!


So after explaining to us about how they roast their beans to flavor and not to a roast (who likes burnt coffee? anyone?), they make sure to grind with the best grinder either finely for a greater surface area or a bit more coarsely for slower extraction, the term used for getting coffee out of the beans. The first method we got to see was the siphon. It really gave the place the feel of its name as a lab as we watched beaker-like contraptions boil and bubble. They even tested to make sure the temperature was correct on the degree. It was a quick brew but yielded a clean but heavy tasting coffee. That last picture really shows how clear the product was.


The next method was their v60 pourover, a contraption made with a conical glass with a filter over it for the grounds and ridges on the side for the water to slowly drip down into the container. This one had the longest duration of time for preparation of all the brew methods at 4 minutes. They poured 70 grams of water at a time per minute. The recommended ratio was 15.6:1 of water to grounds. I found this method to be quite delightful.

The last method was using their bon trifecta machine, an intense beast that is calibrated to different coffee types using many trials (talk about the workers being on caffeine highs). There seemed to be less acidity in this final outcome but with a toastier taste and a bit more sediment at the end. My friend said it was her favorite of the three, and I'd have to agree. I liked the toastiness.

I learned a lot that night but who knows how much I'll remember in the coming days/weeks/month. I must find more classes like this to delve into. All this talk about agitations of the grounds, blooms when water is poured in and creates a "head" akin to beer on top, oils and sediments resulting in heavier bodies, sour tastes for underextraction while bitter tastes for overextraction, and so on makes me think I need to learn more to retain it all. The coffee type we had was the Tumba Rulinda from Rwanda, a tropical coffee with a touch of chocolate. We surely did geek out that night. Thanks Portola for the awesome lesson!