As you may know, I have been living in Jogjakarta, Indonesia for almost five months now. I was given a two week Christmas break. Some returned to America. Some went to Bali. I stayed and decided to use this time to go on a coffee binge. With only a few days left, I have already surpassed my goal of ten different coffee shops. That doesn’t include repeats, which would bring it to about seventeen, or just about two per day. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way.
1. There is no shortage of good coffee in Jogja.
Almost every shop you step into will have a selection of a few different single origin coffees from around Indonesia (and occasionally the world) and will also offer at least one method of manual brew, with V60 being the most common. Oddly enough siphon might be the second most common, although I doubt most shops can produce a good cup with it…
Sadly, this is far from the norm back in America. There was only one such shop in my area, and they only had French press and the Beehouse dripper.
Seriously, why would anyone ever buy low quality coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts in a city with so much good coffee??? And for the same price or cheaper!! This leads to my next point.
2. I can no longer drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.
Two weeks ago, I would drink DD coffee and enjoy it. After drinking so much good coffee, I returned to DD (because it’s comfortable and there are donuts) and just couldn’t do it. I didn’t set out to become a coffee snob, but once you know what good coffee is, it’s hard to drink that flat, bitter coffee…Dare I say it but my next coffee after choking that down just might have been the best cup of coffee of my life (Columbian made with Chemex). So in a strange way, DD contributed to the best coffee of my life.
3. Chemex: my favorite?
It’s not only beautiful, but it makes one heck of a cup of jo. I’ve only had it twice, but both times, it has left an impression. It just might be my favorite. Sharp but smooth. Why did I have to move to Indonesia to discover this?? America, you need to step up your coffee game!
4. Glass cup code
Almost everywhere serves your coffee in the same glass cup. Not the best for heat retention, but if you don’t like it, too bad. Find a different city.
5. Entering coffee puberty
I’m entering into coffee puberty stage, meaning I’m growing. Describing the flavor of coffee is hard, but I’ve experienced definite growth. I once made fun of taste descriptors like citrus and sweet, but now I can kind of pick them out. I understand what a sweet cup of coffee is now. How exciting!? Sometimes I can even pick a few specific flavors out like honey, tobacco, earth, nutmeg, or even cranberry. How wild!
Nothing replaces pure experimentation here. I use the AngelsCup tasting app (available for free) to help guide me through the tasting, and it also gives a comparison to what the pros say if the coffee is in the database.
Nothing is more exciting than being able to pick out the complex flavors of a coffee!
6. Methods matter
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, does the brewing method make that big a difference. YES…even between different pour-overs (i.e. Chemex and V60). Here are my brief, amateur descriptors of each:
French Press: very smooth and neutral (no highly pronounced flavors) with heavy body.
Vietnamese Drip: still smooth but with higher highs than the press but with same great body.
Siphon: sadly I cannot speak to this, for it is perhaps the most challenging method to brew with. My brew was quite bitter, but due to user error, not the siphon itself. Not recommended at coffees shops unless barista is highly experienced.
Cold brew: sweet, heavy-bodied brew, but not very complex
Aeropress: great balanced brew with complex flavor. Allows for great acidity (good high notes) and body.
V60: the best method for accenting the high notes and acidity of the coffee. Lesser body.
Chemex: good acidity and body. Similar to Aeropress in sharpness but slightly more mellow. Very well-rounded cup.
Machine: over-extracted and bitter (certainly some machines can make good drip coffee though. I’m curious to try Starbucks now…)
My Favorites: I would have to go with either the AeroPress or Chemex at this point due to their ability to draw out some of the high notes and sharpness of the coffee, while still producing a very smooth cup. For its aesthetic appeal, Chemex wins over Aeropress.
Those are just a few of the lessons I have learned from drinking quality coffee every day. Get out there and experiment for yourself one cup at a time!