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Helsinki Coffee Festival ( the first of it’s kind ) opened Friday morning in Kattilahalli. The event runs all weekend and has been pitched as a meeting point where coffee lovers unite. But let’s be clear about this.. if you’re that guy hitting up the R-Kiosk in route to your bus stop each morning for a cup of coffee, maybe this isn’t for you. If however, you’re that guy who’s fascinated by the search for perfect coffee or just someone who thinks it’s a sexy drink and wants to know more, then look no further. There’s even a DJ.
The programming for Sat and Sun is loaded with information about growing, roasting, brewing and buying better coffee. The guest list is mainly domestic with a few out of town additions. After lunch on Friday I spoke briefly with Brazilian grower Felipe Croce following a short talk about the origins of coffee. Felipe’s talk focused on commodity vs. sustainable farming, biodiversity, and what it takes to run a successful coffee plantation. The farm (Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza) has been in his family since the early 1900’s, and since 2002 has been undergone plenty of changes to create a modern model of sustainable organic agriculture. For Felipe, sustainability and awareness are just as important as turning a profit. He says it’s important to educate consumers and set an example for other farmers in the region with their business model.
Aside from the lectures and brewing competitions, guests will have the opportunity to try and buy coffees from all over the world. Mosts of the booths are full of passionate staff members who want nothing more than for you to ask them about their coffees. If you’re looking to sharpen your home brewing skills or learn more about what you’re drinking, this is your chance.
So how do we make better coffee at home?
It’s really not that difficult and requires a minimal investment. Mostly what you need is good coffee, clean water, a heat source, and a little common sense but here are a couple of key steps if you’re looking to up your game:
You can start by purchasing better beans and grinding them fresh. The better the beans, the better the coffee. Don’t skimp here. Within a half hour of grinding the beans you should be brewing your coffee. You start losing flavor and aroma once you grind the beans. Oxygen is the enemy.
Secondly, check your measurements. Water boils at 212 degrees fareinheit. The ideal temperature for brewing your coffee is closer to 200. This is important so you don’t burn your coffee and produce a bitter flavor. Also the ground coffee should be about 6% of your total mixture. For example, 60g of coffee should be combined with approximately 1000g of water. The guy in your local coffee bar probably uses a scale to get this right each time but in the privacy of your own home you can come up with any method you want, as long as your consistent and accurate.
Check your equipment. If you’ve been at the festival you’ve probably seen some fascinating pieces of equipment. The good news is you don’t need them all. Some of the best coffee in the world is brewed with very simple, manual tools. While an automatic coffee machine is great for when 8 of your closest friends are joining you for brunch, that type of machine tends to brew coffee unevenly and then continues cooking the liquid as it sits in the carafe on the hot plate. For this reason, I’m suggesting something else. A press pot or pour-over dripper is probably the most affordable and accessible for most people and once you learn the basics you can apply them to other methods of brewing. You should rinse the equipment each time you use it and then wipe it with a dry paper towel to remove any residue that may have been left during your previous brew.
Lastly, you should drink the coffee right away. Coffee is at it’s best once it’s cool enough to consume. I think there’s a lot of good ( and bad ) information on the internet and would encourage anyone who’s interested in improving their coffee situation to do some research but just in case you’re feeling lazy or don’t know what to Google, here’s a link to a trusted site that local coffee connoisseur and entrepreneur ( don’t forget Finnish Barista Champion) Kalle Freese has put together called For Better Coffee. He’s the owner of Freese Coffee Co. and the mind behind the Freese Coffee Academy. The videos are in English, simple, and full of good information.
More information regarding the programming for this weekend’s festival can be found here: