By Greg Brenn
Coffee is a ubiquitous sight on Union’s campus. From the carafes at West and Upper to the Wold Atrium kiosk, each cup of coffee serves a different purpose for the consumer.
Some imbibe the black liquid to enliven their early morning classes, while others meet and reflect on life with a cup in hand. Some like it black while others take it with cream and sugar.
This past Monday, Messa House hosted a specialty coffee tasting event that introduced the slow-paced craftsmanship that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee, from the time the cherry has been picked to the final extraction.
The specialty coffee used in Monday’s event was roasted by well-known, Oakland-based coffee roaster, the Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
As one of the organizers for the event, Nick Brenn ‘14 explains, “Blue Bottle keeps their coffee preparation simple yet calculated. This company focuses on the true essence of how coffee should be prepared.” The first step towards brewing that perfect cup begins with the bean.
Beans for this event came from the farms Nyamasheke in Rwanda, Chalalacktu in Ethiopia and Tangara in Burundi. Coffee enthusiast Jeff Wettstein ‘15 is seen at the coffee event pouring over the Chemex coffee brewer, which looks like a chemistry beaker, watching carbon dioxide bubbles emanate from the coffee grounds.
“Watching the grinds blooming from the water is just epic. You can tell the coffee freshness if it explodes immediately after water hits the surface. This is what gets me up in the morning,” he said.
At first glance, preparing this coffee may look like a chemistry experiment, but as Brenn explains, there are many variables that can influence the flavors that result from brewing coffee.
“Water temperature, the amount of coffee grounds, extraction time and the size of the grounds all influence coffee taste, and we are constantly trying different combinations of these variables to understand what produces the best tasting extraction,” Wettstein said.
Stefan Hamaway ‘16 was surprised at the flavors he tasted in his coffee. “I’m so used to grabbing a cup to go from West and filling it with sugar and milk, but this event redefined my perceptions of coffee, even though my palette might not be able to pick out subtle flavors.”
The coffee for this event ranged from $20 per pound to $35 per pound, which, as Wettstein describes, is the price one has to pay for some of the top roasted coffee in the country.
“It’s a great feeling when we serve this specialty coffee to patrons and they say, ‘Wow! This actually tastes good!’” Brenn explained. “If we open the eyes of the lay coffee drinker to the scope of what goes into making that cup of excellence, we get so ecstatic.”